Mayowood Mansion ready for your oohs and aahs

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The trees are decorated, the wreaths are hung, and the lights are twinkling. Mayowood Mansion is all dressed up for the season, ready for the annual Christmas tours, which are given now through Dec. 17.

The tours, which are hosted by the History Center of Olmsted County , are a favorite for locals and visitors alike; nearly 3,000 people toured the mansion last holiday season. This year's theme is "Christmas with the Mayo Family," and organizers say the tours will bring guests a feeling of nostalgia as they walk through the home, which was built in 1911 by Dr. Charles H. Mayo, co-founder of Mayo Clinic.

Decorators were busier than Santa's elves last week, bringing boxes and armloads of holiday decor to the mansion. Each room in the Mayo home is decorated by a local business or group of volunteers. It is a long-held tradition for many of the groups, and plans are made far in advance of decorating week.

"It is exciting all year," said Judy Goldsmith, chairwoman for the Rochester Garden and Flower Club, this year's decorators of Charles and Edith Mayo's master suite. "We look for crafts and ideas and through books about the Mayo family. We also do some searching on Pinterest to learn about the '30s and '40s eras."

The club met throughout the year and made many of the items that adorn the room. The tree holds an assortment of handcrafted treasures — paper angels and pinecone angels and ornaments made from photos of the Mayo family. Mini scrapbooks, wreaths, and other photo displays showcase the creativity and interest the group has in the annual decorating tradition.


"This last week has been ultra-stressful, putting it all together," Goldsmith said. "We've been very busy."

Staff and volunteers of the History Center of Olmsted County decorated the library of the mansion. Their aim was to demonstrate what Christmas with the Mayo family would have been like by using items from their collection at the museum.

Dan Nowakowski, curator of collections at the history center, prepared a display of a long, black sequined gown worn by Ruth Mayo in the 1930s.

Bonny Stock and her sister, Laurie Sue Durdahl, have decorated a room of Mayowood at Christmastime for nine years. This year, they decorated the music room. The two, who live in Cannon Falls, made four trips to bring decorations to the site.

"Bonny was going through all of the boxes of Christmas decor at her home, looking for just the right ones to bring," Durdahl said.

"I love the mansion," Stock said. "I always get my friends to take the tour."

Stock is a retired professional decorator. It was on a tour of the mansion when she first decided she wanted be a part of the annual holiday decorating.

"I walked into the master suite, and thought, 'I would love to decorate this room.'"


The following year, Bonny did decorate the master suite. She decorated it in purple wisteria.

This year, for the music room, she created numerous ornaments, a tree topper, and a star-shaped wreath using vintage sheet music. Red and gold are the predominant colors in the room.

Stock also has a little fun with the yearly decorating project. She hides a small framed portrait of her husband amidst the decorations, challenging her friends to find it.

"He's the love of my life," she said. "He's very supportive, comes to the decorator's tour and helps me clean up when it is all over."

Each year, to express appreciation for the decorators' time and energy in preparing the home for the holiday tours, the history center hosts a post-decorating party, which includes a sneak peek at the completed work. At this year's party, as they walked from room to room, seeing the results of their fellow decorators' work, murmurs of "stunning," " elegant," and "I get goose bumps looking at it" could be overheard.

"It's gorgeous, the prettiest I have seen it," said Terry Olson as she walked through the music and living rooms of the mansion. Olson is a longtime decorator at the home during the Christmas season. She, along with her friend Gloria Canfield, decorated the 1960s kitchen this year.

"We love doing it," Canfield said. "We're already talking about what we're going to do next year."



If you go

What: Mayowood Mansion Christmas Tours

When: Now through Dec. 17

Where: Tours begin at the History Center of Olmsted County, 1195 West Circle Drive. Following a short informational film about the mansion and the Mayo family, guests are taken by trolley to Mayowood Mansion for a 90-minute guided tour.

Cost: $22 for ages 13 and older, $10 for youth ages 5-12, free for ages 4 and under

More information: , 507-282-9447

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