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I’ve been wanting to take the Brown Mansion Candlelit Christmas Tour at the Brown Mansion in Coffeyville, Kansas, for a few years now. This year, I got my chance.
The Brown Mansion is a great place to visit any time of year, but it was extra magical at Christmastime. Still, if you aren’t in the area around Christmas, be sure to stop by and step back in time. Tours are available throughout the year, and I have done this tour a few times over the years.
History of the Brown Mansion
I spent some of my earliest years in Southeast Kansas as a young child. The Brown Mansion captured my imagination as a little girl. We’d drive into Coffeyville, and I’d see that enormous white house on the hill; it must’ve been built for royalty.
Close. The Brown Mansion was built for a family that gets as close to royalty as one can get in the Midwest. William Pitzer Brown came to Coffeyville with his wife, Nancy, in 1885. He set up business as a lumberman, and his success led him to other business ventures in town, including natural gas wells. In 1893, Brown owned seven gas wells, securing his wealth and prosperity.
In 1905, Brown began constructing the three-story Georgian Revival-style mansion for the family. By this time, the couple had welcomed two children. Brown used his own businesses to supply construction materials, and of course, he used natural gas for heating and lighting, though the lights could also be powered by electricity.
Below is the present-day Brown Mansion lit up at Christmastime.
Since Mrs. Brown was rather petite, the stairs and other features of the Brown Mansion are designed for her use. Before the house was finished, the Browns’ oldest child, Violet, married, so she did not live in the mansion at the time the Browns moved in. Donald, their son, lived in the home until his death at 11 years old. Three other children died in infancy.
The Browns lived in the mansion until Violet came to care for them in the 1930s. After her parents died, Violet continued living in the mansion. Prior to her death, Violet sold the mansion to the Coffeyville Historical Society with the condition that it be made available to the public. In 1973, Violet moved into a nursing home. After her death, the balance due on the mansion was canceled.
Caldwell, Bill. “Bill Caldwell: Coffeyville’s Brown Mansion Recalls William P. Brown.” Joplin Globe, 13 May 2022, www.joplinglobe.com/news/local_news/bill-caldwell-coffeyvilles-brown-mansion-recalls-william-p-brown/article_baa41250-d14c-11ec-920a-9bfff66918e7.html#:~:text=Credit%20%7C%20eBay-,The%20Georgian%20Revival%2Dstyle%20Brown%20mansion%20in%20Coffeyville%20is%20now,down%20to%20a%20reflecting%20pool.. Accessed 4 Jan. 2023.
“The Brown Mansion – Welcome.” Ravenville.com, 2017, ravenville.com/brownmansion/welcome.html. Accessed 9 Jan. 2023.
The Candlelit Tour of the Brown Mansion
This year, three self-guided tours were available each evening the candlelit tours were offered. We picked the middle time–7:30 p.m. We arrived while the first tour was still in progress, so we had some time to walk the grounds before our tour was to begin.
As the time for our tour drew near, we headed towards the entrance that is commonly used for events and tours these days. Since it was a chilly night, I was grateful for the heaters running along the queue.
A few minutes before 7:30, the guide checked our digital tickets and let us inside. Below is a view of the portico entrance as we climbed the stairs and looked back.
Since the tour is self-guided, we decided to start at the top of the mansion and work our way down. As we entered the mansion, the volunteer inside the hall handed us a brochure with information about the Brown family and the rooms we’d see.
When you take a tour during other times of the year, the tour is guided. The candlelit tour is a nice change of pace because you can spend as long as you’d like, within your hour, exploring the home. You can also return to areas as much as you’d like within your time slot. Both types of tours have their advantages, but this style was fun for Christmas.
I worried that maybe we wouldn’t get as much information about the family; after all, it’d been a while since my last tour. But I needn’t have worried. Several volunteers, stationed throughout the mansion, readily provided information and answered questions.
Third Floor of the Brown Mansion: The Ballroom
The entire top floor of the mansion is a ballroom with various cubbies and small rooms related to throwing lavish parties. For Christmas, the community of Coffeyville and various organizations decorate a Christmas tree, making the entire floor sparkle with lights from all the trees.
I love this fireplace at the end of the ballroom. Also, notice the detail on the ceiling in the picture above. Lovely! Around the room, you’ll find the area where the band would play and a “fainting room” for the ladies.
At times, the ballroom was also used as a gym for Donald.
The Second Floor of the Brown Mansion: The Browns’ Private Rooms
The second floor contains the bedrooms of the family. There are five bedrooms and three full baths on this floor. Below is a bedroom that originally adjoined a nursery. Later, it became the seamstress’s room.
At the Brown Mansion, even this bathroom is decorated during Christmas.
Below is Donald’s room. There are plenty of toys there that a boy from yesteryear would love. Sadly, Donald died when he was eleven years old, on month shy of his birthday, from complications of diabetes.
And here is the Taft Room. President Taft didn’t stay the night, but he “freshened up” here once while on the campaign trail in 1912.
The First Floor of Brown Mansion: Grand Entrances and Guest Spaces
At Christmastime, the dining room table is set for dinner. Notice the stunning Tiffany gasolier light above the table. The story goes that Mr. Louis Comfort Tiffany helped hang the fixture himself. Also, apparently, the china and silverware belonged to the Browns and are not reproductions.
Below, even the kitchen is full of holiday cheer. Off of the kitchen is a small hall to the maid’s room. The butler’s quarters, along with the walk-in icebox, wine cellar, laundry, and heating, are in the basement. The basement was not accessible to the public during this event.
One of the coziest places in the mansion is the library. The books here belonged to the Browns, and some of the books are first editions.
You’ll find this gorgeous Tiffany lamp in the library. Next to the library, you’ll find the music room with a baby grand piano and a harpsichord.
And notice the beautiful gasolier in the parlor.
The entrance guests would use when entering the mansion is surrounded by Tiffany glass, as well. This door leads to the great hall. Women would gather here and warm themselves before taking the elevator up to the ballroom. The great hall also has a mirror so women could check their petticoats before going upstairs.
Of course, the holiday decorations in the great hall are more modern, but you can see the beautiful fireplace that warmed the ladies. This fireplace is the only wood-burning one in the mansion.
Below is a bench near the fireplace for the ladies to sit while warming from the cool evening.
Here is the elevator the women would use to get to the ballroom. At Christmastime, even the elevator has a Christmas tree.
The Brown Mansion also has a lovely gift shop with some great items. With scented candles representing each floor of the mansion, the gift shop is warm and inviting.
We enjoyed our visit to the Brown Mansion for the Candlelit Christmas Tour. It was a great way to see the mansion, and the holiday decorations certainly put us in the Christmas mood. We even got to catch up with a friend, Mr. Lloyd Houk, who was at the mansion playing the piano in the music room.
As I stated previously, even if you can’t get there during the holidays, the Brown Mansion is worth checking out any time of the year. You’ll definitely feel like you’ve stepped back in time or into a period drama.
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