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February 5, 2014

Celebrate Downton Days at MBH

By Linda Shepard
C & G Staff Writer

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The daily life of the Wilson family at Meadow Brook Hall and the characters of “Downton Abbey” are compared during Downton Days.

ROCHESTER HILLS — In many ways, Matilda and Alfred Wilson lived a life comparable to Lord and Lady Grantham on the popular PBS television show “Downton Abbey.”

“We have a lot of similarities,” said Shannon O’Berski, marketing manager for Meadow Brook Hall. “People love the show and they think about the show in the context of the Hall. People are intrigued by the upstairs and downstairs style.”

For the first time, Meadow Brook Hall will present Downton Days with a trio of new events Feb. 20 through Feb. 23.

A Life at the Great Estate lecture, lunch and a tour kicks off Downton Days Feb. 20. A lecture by the MBH curator will compare daily life at Downton Abbey and Meadow Brook Hall.

“We will immerse our guests in the lives of the families and their staffs,” said Madelyn Rzadkowolski, Meadow Brook Hall curator. “Exploring the similarities and differences of two remarkable families — one of which is fictional.”

Issues like woman’s rights in America and England during the 1920s and 1930s will be explored, as well as the day-to-day experience of running a working farm. Rzadkowolski said “Downton Abbey” is fairly historically accurate.

“It opens people up to history — that history can be exciting and educational,” she said. 

A Downton Days Automotive Aristocracy Gala will be held Feb. 21 and aims to mimic a party held for Detroit-styled royalty. The evening includes a cocktail and hors d’oeuvres reception, a five-course meal, live entertainment, dancing and more.

On Feb. 22 and 23, A Servant’s Life offers a tour that focuses on the “downstairs” aspect of Downton Days. Guests will learn how the servants lived and worked at the Hall in this behind-the-scenes living history tour, which includes tea and scones in the servants dining room.

The opulent former home of Matilda and Alfred Wilson is a National Historic Landmark. Matilda Dodge Wilson was the widow of John Dodge — the co-founder of the Dodge Brothers Motor Car Company. 

The 88,000-square-foot, 110-room Meadow Brook Hall was built between 1926 and 1929, and is located on the campus of Oakland University off Adams Road south of Walton Boulevard. The Hall was the center of a country estate that included 1,500 acres, numerous farm buildings, recreational facilities, several residences and formal gardens. Meadow Brook Hall is fully self-funded, relying on special events for its preservation and interpretation.

Tickets for Life at the Great Estate are $45, the Automotive Aristocracy Gala are $125, and it costs $35 for A Servant’s Life. Reservations are required and a limited amount of tickets will be sold. To purchase tickets or for more information, call (248) 364-6252 or visit www.meadowbrookhall.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Linda Shepard at lshepard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1065.