History in color: Ellwood House holiday tours begin

November 16, 2018

DeKALB – Holiday history buffs have a chance to start their Christmas festivities early, as the Ellwood House Museum kicked off its 51st annual Holiday Traditions event Thursday, which will run through Dec. 2.

Visitors wanting a guided hourlong historical tour of the mansion will be met with Christmas cheer.

Since Halloween, dozens of volunteers from local community organizations, businesses, schools and nonprofits spent hours trimming trees and decking the halls of the Ellwood House, room by room, with Christmas trees, festive ornaments, lights, ribbon and other holiday baubles.

“Each group gets one of the rooms in the house, our staff gets the spaces ready for them to decorate and installs an artificial Christmas tree,” said Scott Tews, assistant director at the Ellwood Museum.

Groups this year include Altrusa International of DeKalb and Sycamore, a Kishwaukee College special events class, Kishwaukee United Way, the DeKalb Area Garden Club, Hickey Farms, the DeKalb County Community Gardens, Kohl’s of Batavia, First National Bank, DeKalb School District 428 librarians and various other individuals. Ellwood staff also got in on the festive fun and decorated the living room on the first floor, a fan-favorite, Tews said.

This year’s color scheme is green and gold.

“We leave it up to the group to use creativity and imagination to come up with their own decorative schemes,” Tews said. “[The decor] is not meant to be historically accurate, so the history comes through those guided tours.”

The four-story, 16,000-square-foot Ellwood mansion, built in 1879 at 509 N. First St., was the home of multiple generations of the Ellwood family, most notably Isaac Ellwood, who had a hand in the development of the barbed wire industry with other local businessmen such as DeKalb farmer Joseph Glidden. Isaac Ellwood bought one half of the Glidden’s barbed wire patent, and the rest is, as they say, history.

The Holiday Traditions event culminates in a three-day weekend Nov. 30 through Dec. 2, during which visitors can take self-guided tours from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, with live music and guides stationed in each room to provide historical commentary. Regular guided tours are available Tuesdays through Sundays. For information and ticket prices, visit the Ellwood Museum website.

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