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Cue Der Bingle: "I'll be home for Christmas, you can count on me..." Just exactly whose home Mr. Crosby never did specify. Home, as in No Place Like? Home, the one On The Range? Home, Where The Heart Is? Or Home, the place where Country Roads Take you?
Wherever you hang your hat, TRAVELER suggests a home visit this holiday season – to someone else's home, that is. Many Wisconsin communities had the foresight to preserve old mansions and homesteads, the presence of which now lend an air of timeless grace to modern city and village streets. The structures festooned with traditional decorations take on a special glow this time of year, opening a door to the holiday celebrations and customs of generations past.
The halls will be decked with flowers, fruit and greenery at Green Bay's ten-room Hazelwood Historic House Museum, a classic example of Greek Revival architecture built in 1837. "A Victorian Christmas" displays children's toys from the 19th century guaranteed to confound today's pint-sized Game Boy aficionados. The home is open from 12-4 p.m. on December 17-18 and 26-30. Take a moment to savor history in the dining room: Hazelwood's owner Morgan L. Martin led conversations around the dining table that brought about the birth of Wisconsin's Constitution. Visit Brown County Historical Society or call (920) 437-1840.
Sing carols with the Wakely homesteaders and watch artisans craft ornaments suitable for a frontier log cabin from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on December 17 at Historic Point Basse in Nekoosa. Located at the beginning of the navigable waters of the Wisconsin River, Point Basse features a working blacksmith shop, a trading post, and the Wakely Road Bridge, built in 1893 by Newbold Wakely, son of original settlers Robert and Mary; it's one of the few stone-arch bridges remaining in the state. See Historic Point Basse or call (715) 886-4202.
Fond du Lac's Ebert Estate is home to the famous "Painted Lady" – an exquisitely restored Queen Anne mansion. On Sunday December 4, 11 and 18 from 2-5 p.m. you'll be dazzled by trees decorated with hand-blown glass ornaments from Germany, Italy and elsewhere. (920) 923-3010. Fondy's elegant Galloway House – 30 rooms graced with Victorian holiday finery – glimmers by lamplight during the "Twelve Days of Christmas" tour from 5-8 p.m. on December 1-4, 8-11 and 15-18 and 1-4 p.m. on Sundays. (920) 923-3010. Visit Fond du Lac Area Convention & Visitors Bureau for more details on both homes.
Celebrate the holiday in style with teas, community concerts and workshops at Fairlawn Mansion, Superior's true grande dame with a four-story turret. Fairlawn became a landmark upon its completion in 1891, and remains so today. Open Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. through December 31. See Superior Public Museums, Inc. or call (715) 394-5712.
Completed in 1857 with all the modern conveniences – large walk-in closets, a complete water system, central heating and indoor privy – it's no wonder the Tallman House in Janesville was deemed the "finest and most costly residence in Wisconsin" in 1871. So fine was the home that Abraham Lincoln himself slept there for two nights in 1859; today the property is known as the Lincoln-Tallman House in his honor, and the bed upon which Old Abe dreamed of a more perfect union can be seen in one of the cream-brick Italianate villa's 26 rooms. Open for holiday tours daily from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. through December 30. Visit Rock County Historical Society or call (800) 577-1859.