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Setting the table for Thanksgiving

David Davis Mansion opens window into past

A bountiful harvest of Thanksgiving food is ready for preparation at the David Davis Mansion Historic Site in Bloomington.
A bountiful harvest of Thanksgiving food is ready for preparation at the David Davis Mansion Historic Site in Bloomington.

BLOOMINGTON – A program and special decorations will bring an 1870s Thanksgiving celebration into the spotlight at the David Davis Mansion Historic Site.

David Davis was a U.S. Supreme Court justice, appointed by Abraham Lincoln in 1862. He and his wife, Sarah, built the house in 1872. It has 36 rooms, an 1850s barn, a garden, a woodhouse, a shed, privies, and a carriage barn on 4.1 acres.

The home became a National Historic Landmark in 1975, and is open to the public. The 45-minute tours are conducted by guides every half-hour between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. from the visitor center.

There is a bonus for touring in November. Saturday, "A Bountiful Feast" will reveal what life was like for servants in Victorian days, at the same time nonpublic parts of the mansion are open to the curious.

This living history program focuses on the Davises' Irish servants who will go about their business in preparation for the Thanksgiving meal to come. They will get the food ready and chat about their lives as visitors watch and listen. Then the family will sit down to dinner with guests.

For those who cannot make it to Bloomington with short notice, The Blessings of the Table – Thanksgiving at Clover Lawn begins today and continues through Nov. 17. During this time, the mansion will be decorated for Thanksgiving. Visitors will be able to view a variety of food served for the holiday and learn more about the feast as it was observed in Victorian days.

As one holiday passes, another, Christmas, looms ahead. This, too, is a time for special events at the mansion. From Nov. 29 to Dec. 31, Clover Lawn, as the family called the house, will display Victorian Christmas decor. And best of all, touring is free between the day after Thanksgiving to the new year. Just make sure to visit some day other than Christmas and New Year's Day when it is closed.

For $10 in advance, $12 at the door, visitors can view three mansions from 2 to 5 p.m. or 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 14. Clover Lawn, the Ewing Manor, and a mystery mansion are part of the tour. A free shuttle service will get guests back and forth from their visits. Go to the "events" tab on the mansion website to order tickets. Ticket sales begin today.

Whether touring the David Davis Mansion for special occasions or a regular day, this graceful mansion makes a good stop on any day trip.

If you go 

What: David Davis Mansion Historic Site

Where: 1000 Monroe Drive, Bloomington

When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday

Cost: $4 for adults and $2 for youth 17 and younger (suggested donation)

Information: Visit or call 309-828-1084

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