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A Victorian Christmas

Feasts available with tours at Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee

Published: Friday, Nov. 23, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT
(Photo submitted by Visit Milwaukee)
The annual Grand Avenue Christmas at the Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee draws more than 100,000 visitors to see the Victorian holiday decorations and ambiance.

MILWAUKEE – Capt. Frederick Pabst of beer-making fame has a mansion in Milwaukee that was built in 1892. Part of its fame is the Grand Avenue Christmas.

During the holiday season, the home is decorated in style, showing mansion life in Victorian times. The open house on Dec. 21 offers a tour of the mansion and refreshments.

Many places, of course, are displaying their holiday best this time of year, but not all promise a traditional English meal with Charles Dickens. The author of “A Christmas Carol” will even appear to read his classic to diners.

The dinners are handled by Bartolotta’s and cost $90 for adults and $45 for children 12 and younger. The price includes admission, tax, service and parking. The dinners are at 5:15 or 7:30 p.m. For reservations, call 414-727-6980 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

This special meal starts with a self-guided tour of the mansion in its holiday apparel and proceeds to a champagne reception with soda, beer, wine, appetizers and then a three-course meal catered by The Grain Exchange. Christmas carolers in costume will join Dickens in the entertainment.

Self-guided tours without dinner also are available. Grand Avenue Christmas goes on through Jan. 13. Those touring should keep an eye out for the dining room table which seats four to 24, a set of teacups and saucers from England dated around 1825, a Pabst family hair pillow, and the entry hall chandelier which is 6-feet wide. Other delights await, too.

Pabst was born in Germany and came to America with his family when he was 14. He became a lake steamer captain, who married Maria Best, the daughter of a brewer. He later joined his father-in-law by purchasing a half-interest in the family brewing company.

The house belonged to the Pabst family until 1908. It then became the residence of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee for more than 60 years. After narrowly escaping demolition, it became a museum and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s been open to visitors since 1978.

Today, the home welcomes all manner of guests who would like to get a taste of the Golden Age in Milwaukee, and Grand Avenue Christmas is just the time to see it sparkle.

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