Tales of travel told on Holiday Walk

By: Linda Shepard | Rochester Post | Published December 4, 2013

 Matilda Dodge Wilson’s bedroom features lavish holiday decorations.

Matilda Dodge Wilson’s bedroom features lavish holiday decorations.

Photo by Donna Agusti

ROCHESTER HILLS — Before they built Meadow Brook Hall, Matilda and Alfred Wilson and their children traveled the world.

“The family loved to take adventures,” said Madelyn Rzadkowolski, Meadow Brook Hall curator. “They went to exotic places and places close to their heart. Meadow Brook Hall became their biggest souvenir — taken from places they visited in Europe.”

Photographs, travel diaries, postcards, clothing worn shipboard, and artifacts from Europe and Asia are on display at this year’s Meadow Brook Hall Holiday Walk.

One letter tells the travel story of the family on the first passenger ship that sailed the Atlantic after the Titanic sank. A trip to Yosemite is chronicled by son Danny Dodge’s tent, set up in his bedroom, surrounded by holiday decorations. 

Letters and objects from France, India, Egypt and Africa are on display, along with a view of life aboard a steamship atop the Hall’s grand staircase.

Matilda Dodge Wilson was the widow of John Dodge — the co-founder of the Dodge Brothers Motor Car Co. Matilda Dodge Wilson and her second husband, Alfred Wilson, built Meadow Brook Hall, an 88,000-square-foot mansion with 110 rooms, between 1926 and 1929.

This year’s Holiday Tour visitors are invited into Danny Dodge’s cabin for the first time.

“We’ll have planes, trains and automobiles in Danny’s cabin,” said Shannon Oberski, MBH marketing manager. “And we’ll have a doll collection in Knoll Cottage.” Knoll Cottage is the former playhouse of Francis Dodge.

Ornamental locomotives, symbolizing the family’s travels, are placed on decorated Christmas trees throughout the Hall, ready to be found by children and adults.

Matilda Dodge Wilson’s support of the Salvation Army is continued during the Holiday Walk. Meadow Brook Hall is a toy donation site for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign. All are invited to bring new, unwrapped toys to the Hall’s Courtyard Shop before Dec. 15.

The 42nd annual Meadow Brook Hall Holiday Walk is held 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily Nov. 29-Dec. 23. Santa visits are offered Dec. 7 and 14. Special events, including a Holiday Tea, a Starlight Stroll, and breakfast and supper with Santa, are scheduled throughout December, and group tours are available. A full schedule of events is available at www.meadowbrookhall.org or by calling (248) 364-6220.

Meadow Brook Hall is located on the campus of Oakland University, off Adams Road, south of Walton Boulevard.

“This is an absolutely fabulous tradition that takes you back 100 years to the beauty and splendor of Meadow Brook Hall,” said Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett. “Even if you have been here before, (each Holiday Walk) is a new and unique experience.”