The Ellwood House Museum gets a Christmas makeover, open for self-guided tours

As the holiday season spurs into action, a local museum put up its Christmas decorations and rang in the holiday cheer this weekend. 

The Ellwood House Museum, 420 Linden Place, hosted its annual Holiday Event Weekend on Dec. 2.

Changing its interior design from the standard late-1800s decor that it usually has, the museum dolled up each room with Christmas trees, garlands and lights galore. 

While the museum typically has guided tours, this weekend it opened its doors for self-guided tours. 

Friday night was members’ night. Members of the museum could walk through the mansion from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. To help maintain the educational value of the museum, there were volunteers in each room of the mansion that would give an overview of the history of the room and answer any questions that patrons had.

After member’s night, the museum was open to the public. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday night and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, the museum was open for all to come to see.

This event has a pretty nice-sized turnout every year. Featuring Santa in the visitor center for the kids to meet and the lights hung all around the park, the event sure has a big draw. The museum was not crowded, but it was very hard to go into a room and be the only one in there. 

The mansion was built in 1879 for barbed wire mogul Isaac Ellwood, according to the Ellwood House

Ellwood teamed up with Joseph Glidden whose design for barbed wire was the best among the three DeKalb men who patented this product at the same time – Glidden, Ellwood, and Jacob Haish – to make the Barb Fence Company. 

Ellwood’s business acumen and his shrewd deals led to a massive fortune with which he built the Ellwood mansion. 

After Ellwood’s death in 1910, the house was passed on to his son, Perry Ellwood. 

When Perry received the mansion, he remodeled it and documented this process. Because of Perry’s efforts in 1911, photographing every room, the museum was able to furnish and restore the house to its 1911 form. 

After Perry’s death in 1943 and his wife May Ellwood’s death in 1965, the mansion was donated to the DeKalb Park District. 

The event this weekend at the Ellwood House brought in a large crowd to learn local history while admiring the beautiful decorations inside the mansion. 

“I thought it would be interesting,” said Reagan Gibson, a DeKalb native. “I drive past it a lot, so I wanted to check it out.”

The house’s history did not go unnoticed though among the crowd that was at the event. 

“I learned something,” said Gage Gibson, a DeKalb resident. 

The decorated facade of the mansion did a good job of luring in the public, but it was the history and the stories inside that made them stay.

“It had technology that you wouldn’t expect,” said Dalton Mersing, a Troy resident. “The icebox refrigerator was so interesting.”

While museums decorated like this may be pretty to look at, there is more to learn inside. Whether it be the depiction of centuries past or the understanding of a differing lifestyle, there are things to appreciate in a museum like this.

If you would like to visit the Ellwood House Museum, visit their website to purchase tickets. The decorations on the house will only be up until Dec. 18, and then the museum will be closed until March. Tickets are free for children under five, $6 for children five to 17 and $12 for adults.