Party Time in the House

December 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Following a tradition of over 100 years, the Dana-Thomas House Foundation hosted its annual holiday party last week. Almost 300 volunteers and Foundation members enjoyed the fully decorated house lit only by the decorative lights and the Wright-designed sconces and lamps. The evening is always magical, and I try not to miss it each year.

Newspaper accounts reveal that holiday parties at the Lawrence House were equally splendid.  A reporter from the Illinois State Journal described the red, green, and white motif Susan chose when she hosted the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) on the afternoon or December 26, 1908. A comparison of the two parties reveals that while some things change, much remains the same. Susan’s decorations are described in this way:

 The decorations were elaborate and beautiful in every detail, being entirely suggestive of the holiday season.  Christmas greens, the holly wreaths and the red Christmas bells were used effectively throughout the spacious home.  In the living room the windows were decorated with California peppers and holly wreaths were hung in all of the windows.  The quaint large fireplace in the hall was completely surrounded with holly.  To enhance the beauty of this, the balcony just opposite was hung with the folds of the American flag together with wreaths of laurel and mistletoe.  The fountain was beautifully adorned with red and white carnations.

While the center of the dining room table this year sparkles with golden electric lights, Susan chose candelabra for her afternoon party and a Christmas tree as a centerpiece:

Christmas 2012 Dining Room Table

Christmas 2012 Dining Room Table


The event, which was styled a Virginia Colonial Christmas, was carried out with beautiful effect.  In the center of the large table was a Christmas tree elaborately trimmed with tinseled ornaments and colonial bells.  Beautiful mats of lace were laid on the tables and silken candelabra gave forth a subdued light.

This year we were treated to the dulcimer music of Mike Anderson from the musician’s gallery above the reception area and the voices of the Rochester High School Madrigal Singers from the musician’s gallery in the dining room. Susan provided musical entertainment appropriate to the historic interests of the members of the DAR: 

An enjoyable feature of the afternoon was the playing of plantation melodies by three [black] men, two of whom were slaves in Missouri.  The instruments used were a banjo, guitar and violin, which were furnished by Mrs. Dana.

Susan’s reputation as a holiday hostess was memorialized by V.Y. Dallman, then retired editor of the Illinois State Register, in this excerpt from his tribute to her which was published at her death:

Vivid in my memory are the scenes at Christmas time in the beautiful Lawrence home which was completed in 1902.  Mrs. Lawrence, then known as Mrs. Susan Lawrence-Dana, rejoiced in providing numberless gorgeous gifts for her friends and presenting them beneath an elaborately decorated Christmas tree. As a hostess, Mrs. Lawrence was the symbol of continuing charm and gracious hospitality.  Her dinners were the ultimate in epicurean delight; her receptions complete in every fascinating detail.  There was a running fountain, birds singing, lights of delicate shade and all appointments blending in a colorful symphony of social delight.

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