Tag Archives: Snow

Vaile Mansion, Decorated for Christmas

Vaile Mansion, Independence, Missouri, in Snow Poster

Vaile Mansion, Independence, Missouri.

Each Christmas season, the Vaile Mansion in Independence, Missouri, is lavishly decorated for Christmas in a Victorian style. I recently toured the beautiful mansion with a friend, who had visited the mansion when it was decorated for a previous Christmas season. Each Christmas season’s decor is different, based on a Victorian theme. This year was a Victorian Christmas Romance. Some of the themed rooms, all decorated by different designers, were Phantom of the Opera, Sunflowers and Music, coordinated by the Vaile Victorian Society. Mother Nature added her own touch with a blanket of snow on the lawn. It was all gorgeous!

The Vaile Mansion in Independence, Missouri, is decorated every Christmas season, coordinated by the Vaile Victorian Society, with a Victorian theme and is open for tours.


The follow information about the Vaile Mansion is from three separate sources, which I have linked at the bottom:

Built by Colonel and Mrs. Harvey M. Vaile in 1881, the Vaile Mansion was “the most princely house and the most comfortable home in the entire west,” the Kansas City Times reported in 1882. Situated on North Liberty Street, a mile north of the historic Independence Square, according to the Vaile Mansion’s website.

The three-story Gothic-like mansion includes 31 rooms, 9 marble fireplaces, spectacular painted ceilings, flushing toilets. This mansion is one of the best examples of Second Empire style architecture in the United States. The Vaile Mansion was designed by Kansas City architect Asa Beebe Cross (1826–1894) in the Second Empire style; its design was reportedly inspired by a large house visited by Vaile and his wife Sophie in Normandy. The mansion is constructed of hand-pressed red brick, partially trimmed with white limestone.

Servant gossip and a local newspaper reporter’s description in 1882 of the mural on the ceiling over Colonel Vaile’s bed caused tongues to wag in Independence, Missouri. An Italian artist painted the mural titled “Innocence” of a woman rising from a bed. Part of her anatomy is revealed, which was the cause of the scandalous talk.

The mansion features thirty-one rooms with fourteen-feet-high ceilings decorated by French, German, and Italian artists. All of the original furniture was auctioned off when the estate left the Vaile family (the house was refurnished by the Vaile Victorian Society after 1983); however, the interiors still boast much of the original paintwork, nine marble fireplaces (one of which cost $1,500), and two of the three original chandeliers, originally intended for the White House (Harvey Vaile was able to purchase them for $800 while he was in Washington, D.C., because there was some flaw in them). State-of-the-art amenities original to the house include speaking tubes, gasoliers, indoor running hot and cold water, and flush toilets; equipped with a built-in 6,000 gallon water tank, the Vaile Mansion was the first house in Jackson County with indoor plumbing.

This chandelier — or upside down — Christmas tree hangs in the entry of the Vaile Mansion in Independence, Missouri.

The mansion was originally surrounded by a 630-acre estate (now reduced to 5.6 acres), which included a grape vineyard and an apple orchard. Vaile had a wine processing plant on his property, as well as a wine cellar capable of holding 48,000 gallons.

A “strong supporter of the abolitionism movement” with a passion for politics, Vaile was among the founders of the Republican Party in Jackson County. Vaile built his wealth by investing in several business ventures, primarily interests in the construction of the Erie Canal; he was also part-owner and operator of Star Mail routes, with rights for the route to Santa Fe.

Sophie Vaile died in 1883. Her husband lived in the house for 12 years afterward. The Vailes were childless, and Colonel Vaile bequeathed the mansion to a college. Relatives contested the will. The mansion turned into a retirement home until it was purchased after the owner’s death by Roger and Mary Mildred Dewitt, who gifted the mansion to the city of Independence in 1983. That year neighbors formed the Vaile Victorian Society, and they’ve been meticulously restoring, decorating and caring for the house ever since.

Vaile Victorian Mansion Official Website.

About the Vaile Mansion.

Mansion Visitors Have Themselves a Scandalous Victorian Christmas.

Scenes from the 2018 Vaile Mansion Victorian Christmas Romance. Each room is decorated, even the bathrooms.

 

 

The Ladies’ Parlor features one of a pair of chandeliers, original to the mansion, that were intended for the White House. The White House staff rejected the chandeliers, because they didn’t match. Vaile was able to purchase them for $800 while on a visit to Washington, D.C.

Click on any photo below to see a large size.

 

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Filed under Architecture, Christmas, History, Holidays, Kansas City, Photography

Birds on a Snowy Day

 Whenever it snows, birds of all kinds flock to our bird feeder.  Most of the birds wait on the nearby trees for a spot on the feeder. Our two cats love the snow, because it's excellent bird-watching.  They seem to know that there's no chance of catching any birds, but they are vigilant anyway.

Whenever it snows, birds of all kinds flock to our bird feeder. Most of the birds wait on the nearby trees for a spot on the feeder. Our two cats love the snow, because it’s excellent bird-watching. They seem to know that there’s no chance of catching any birds, but they are vigilant anyway.

I hate snow, but our cats love it.  It’s great for bird watching.  We got about a foot of snow today in the Kansas City area, and the forecast calls for more.  The crowds at the bird feeder were huge today. I saw five pairs of cardinals, black-capped chickadees, blue jays, doves, nuthatches, a red-bellied woodpeckers and some birds I didn’t recognize. Click on the photos for a better view.

When the snow was falling hard, birds mobbed the feeder and filled the nearby trees as they waited their turn.  When the snow stopped, the traffic thinned out.  In the bottom photo, a cardinal leisurely eats his meal.

When the snow was falling hard, birds mobbed the feeder and filled the nearby trees as they waited their turn. When the snow stopped, the traffic thinned out. In the bottom photo, a cardinal leisurely eats his meal.

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Filed under Animals, Bird-watching, Birds, Photography

Nuthatch in the Snow

Nuthatch in the Snow Postcard postcard

“Hey, look at these huge sunflakes coming down in the sunshine,” my husband called to me as I was hunched over my keyboard (Where else?) “It might make a good picture.”

I grabbed my camera.  I soon spotted this nuthatch waiting on a tree branch for his turn at the bird feeder. After a few minutes, the snowflakes stopped falling. We’ve been lucky so far not to get any accumulated snowfall. Last year, we suffered here in Kansas City from lots and lots of snow! In fact, we had the third snowiest winter and tied for the 11th coldest winter in the 122 years of record-keeping in Kansas City.  On Dec. 24, 2009, a blizzard hit us, extending even into Texas, where my sister said they got more snow on one day than they’d had altogether in the nine years they’d lived in Texas.

I should knock on wood at our good fortune so far this season. The winter is still young.

The National Weather Service Summary from NOAA of the winter of 2009-2010 in Kansas City is below.

Winter 2009-2010 temperatures were below average in Kansas City, with slightly below average precipitation and much above average snowfall

The average temperature at the Kansas City International Airport for the winter 2009-2010 season (December-February) was 26.5 degrees, which is 3.9 degrees below the 30-year average. Based on the longer term historical 122 year record from various Kansas City observation points, winter 2009-2010 has tied for the 11th coldest on record. The average high temperature for the season was 33.8 degrees, which is 5.7 degrees below normal, while the average low temperature was 19.3 degrees, which is 1.9 degrees below normal. The highest temperature of season was 59 degrees recorded on December 1st, and the lowest temperature of 5 degrees below zero occurred on January 2nd.

The total precipitation at the Kansas City International Airport for the winter 2009-2010 season (December-February) was 3.45 inches, which is 0.65 inches below the 30-year average. This would rank winter 2009-2010 as the 49th driest winter season in the longer term 122 year record in Kansas City. Snowfall was measured at 34.3 inches, which is 19.2 inches above the 30-year average of 15.1 inches for the winter season. This places the winter of 2009-2010 as the 3rd snowiest winter in the 122 year history of Kansas City observations.

National Weather Service Summary for Kansas City Winter 2009-2010.

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Filed under Bird-watching, Birds, Kansas City, Life, Photography

Cardinal on Christmas Morning

Cardinal in a Snowstorm print
Cardinal in a Snowstorm by catherinesherman
This male cardinal waited for his chance at our bird feeder on Christmas morning.  Eight inches of snow covered the ground, making food difficult to find, so there was a lot of bird traffic in line for a meal.  Below is a high resolution version of this photo.

High resolution photo of Cardinal in a Snowstorm.

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Filed under Birds, Kansas, Life, Nature, Photography

Round the Town from Down Under

When guests come to town, I usually take them to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, especially when it's below freezing and there's snow on the ground. Here two of my Australian guests check out the acoustic furniture in a special exhibition in the Bloch Building.

Sure, snow is pretty, but the thrill quickly wears off when frost bite sets in. When it's snowy, sleety and frigid, what are you going to do with guests who don't know what real winter is? I took them to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, where the temperatures are balmy. Here two of my Australian guests check out the acoustic furniture on a curving floor in a special exhibition in the Bloch Building. In the foreground is Michael Cross' work, "Flood," which features light bulbs and brightly colored cables in vases of water. (Kids, don't try this at home!)

It was a dreary, cold, snowy night when we picked up our Australian guests from the airport in late December. To us locals, the snow was a nuisance, but our guests thought it was beautiful, like fairy dust, fluffy and bright.   (It was soon dirty and crusty…)

The first night, the boys raced through the snow in the dark with a flashlight, making tracks.   We’d gotten rid of our sleds long ago (probably in some garage sale for nothing!), but the next morning, the youngest boy found a piece of cardboard and “snowboarded” down a hill several times.  

Squirrels were fascinating creatures. Cardinals and woodpeckers were exotic.   It was wonderful to see the world with a new perspective.   When I drove them around, I pointed out what I knew.  They also asked me plenty of questions I didn’t know the answer to, so I spent some time online when we got home learning more about my own city.

We spoke the same language, yet we didn’t quite.  Jumper, biscuit, council, fringe, bum.  Familiar words, but with different meanings from American English. I’ve watched enough Masterpiece Theater that I knew what they were talking about, though.   Thanks, PBS!  New to me is bushwalking, which means hiking.

In Australia, they are surrounded by birds we only see in cages, such as lorikeets and parrots.  There are marsupials everywhere, while we have only one — the opossum.  They have mandatory voting and are fined if they don’t vote.

The Liberty Memorial is so tall you can't see the top!

The Liberty Memorial is so tall you can't see the top!

They checked regularly online for the cricket scores.  There was a  big game in Perth, Australia, against South Africa.  Australia’s national cricket team is the highest ranked in the world.  Cricket is played in a hundred countries.  High-level “Test cricket” games can last up to five days with time outs for lunch and tea. I still don’t understand American football, so I can’t begin to explain cricket.  All I know is that they use bats and wickets, and that one of the incarnations of Dr. Who wore a cricket uniform.

We visited the National World War I Museum underneath the Liberty Memorial.  Again, I saw the world through a different perspective.   Their visit lasted too short a time. The next time I hope they can see our city in the summer.   Soon I’ll be seeing the world from their point of view (and be a lot warmer, too) when we visit them in January.

What is Cricket?

What is Australian English?

National World War I Museum

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

 

Our young guest from Sydney, Australia, contemplates the snowy view.   Beyond, Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker" ponders the giant shuttlecocks that seemed to have landed on the snow in front of the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art.

Our young guest from Sydney, Australia, contemplates the snowy view. Beyond, Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker" ponders the giant shuttlecocks that seemed to have landed on the snow in front of the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art.

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Filed under Art, Friendship, Humor, Kansas City, Life, Photography, Random, Relationships, Sports, Travel

Snow

Paper birch in my front yard.

Snow fell in big, soft flakes this past week, swirling around this river birch tree (Betula nigra) in my front yard. I love the way the bark cracks and peels. So many textures, and the snowflakes add another dimension.

Red Cedar in my back yard.

This red juniper (Juniperus virginiana) is flourishing in my backyard. According to one of my botany professors (long ago), the red juniper (also known as red cedar) is the only evergreen conifer native to Kansas, where I live. Another evergreen fact: Kansas is the only state in the continental United States, plus Alaska, that has no native pine trees, according to my professor. I thought Hawaii also had native pine trees, but thanks to Ed Darrell, I discovered that pines were introduced to Hawaii, as were so many other species. I don't know whether pines will propagate themselves in Hawaii. They don't seem to in Kansas.

 

a cardinal grabs a snack in the snow at the bird feeder outside my kitchen window.

A cardinal grabs a snack in the snow at the bird feeder outside my kitchen window.

 

I didn't venture far to get this photo of snow on a holly bush in my backyard.

Holly berries! After three years of no berries, I thought the original owner of my house had planted only males. What's the point of that? But there were three holly princesses, after all. A holly prince was tucked in a corner (Who needs to see him? He doesn't have berries!) to pollinate this holly harem. I don't know why the romance took so long to blossom.

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Filed under Animals, Biology, Bird-watching, Birds, Environment, Gardening, Kansas, Life, Natural History, Nature, Personal, Photography, Science