ROCHESTER HILLS — At Francis Dodge’s surprise 25th birthday party, Frank Sinatra delivered a special serenade, just for her.
Photographs of that event and more — from some of the most fashionable parties in history — will be on display at this year’s Meadow Brook Hall Holiday Walk.
“We will be telling the stories of those celebrations,” said Shannon O’Berski, MBH marketing manager.
Amidst holiday decorations, rarely seen photographs will be exhibited, showing scenes from the Hall’s inaugural housewarming in 1929, three debutant balls, Francis Dodge’s lavish wedding, Christmas parties with a horse-drawn sleigh, and Matilda Dodge Wilson’s 80th birthday gala.
“They are candid photos of the family enjoying themselves in their own home,” O’Berski said.
The theme of this year’s Holiday Walk is Puttin’ on the Glitz, in tribute to those special celebrations. The Holiday Walk will shine with the sparkle of jewelry, the glamour of ball gowns and top hats, and mementos of extravagant events. “We’ll have some extra sparkle and pop,” O’Berski said.
Matilda Dodge Wilson, widow of auto pioneer John Dodge, and her second husband, Alfred Wilson, built Meadow Brook Hall during the mid 1920s. The Hall was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2012 and is renowned for its superb craftsmanship, architectural detailing and grand scale of 88,000 square feet.
The Hall was the center of a country estate that included 1,500 acres, numerous farm buildings, recreational facilities, several residences and formal gardens.
In 1957, Matilda and Alfred Wilson donated their estate and $2 million in cash to what would become Oakland University. Meadow Brook Hall and its surrounding 127 acres stayed with the couple until their deaths. Alfred Wilson died in 1962, and Matilda Wilson died in 1967.
In addition to the family photographs, a collection of family jewelry will also be exhibited.
“Mostly Mrs. Wilson’s jewelry, about 75 pieces,” said MBH Curator Meredith Long. “Some real and some high-quality costume jewelry.”
Four decades of jewelry, on loan, will be displayed in the Hall’s fountain room.
Children are invited to visit Knole Cottage — the playhouse in the woods built for Frances Dodge in 1926 — during the Holiday Walk. The cottage will be filled with teddy bears. “We’ll have a scavenger hunt, where the bears have escaped from the Hall,” Oberski said.
The Meadow Brook Hall Holiday Walk is held daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 23 through Dec. 22. Special evening hours until 9 p.m. will be held Dec.17-20.
Holiday Walk tickets are $20 for adults, with discounts for children. Seniors age 62 and older receive $5 discounts Tuesdays and Thursdays. All tours are self-guided, and reservations are not required.
This year’s Meadow Brook Hall Holiday Walk also includes several special events, including visits with Santa at Knole Cottage Dec. 1 and Dec. 15, breakfast with Santa Dec. 9 and Dec. 16, and supper with Santa Dec. 9. A holiday tea will be held Dec. 11 and Dec. 18. Ballroom Glitz, held Dec. 13, will include an elegant strolling dinner, live music and more.
For ticket price information and to make reservations for special events, call (248) 364-6263 or visit www.meadowbrookhall.org. Meadow Brook Hall is fully self-funded, relying on special events, including the Holiday Walk, for the preservation and interpretation of the historic estate.
Meadow Brook Hall is located on the grounds of Oakland University, west of Adams Road and south of Walton Boulevard in Rochester Hills.
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