Servant life to be examined at Meadow Brook Hall

By: Linda Shepard | Rochester Post | Published January 26, 2016

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ROCHESTER HILLS — Visitors are invited to glimpse the “downstairs” of Meadow Brook Hall during Downton Days, which compares the hall to the popular television series “Downton Abbey.”

The is the third year the hall has offered the Downton Days series of tours and events.

“It is very popular,” MBH Marketing Manager Shannon O’Bersky said. “We’ve expanded them due to the popularity of the series.”

“We change the exhibit every year,” said MBH Curator Madelyn Rzadkowolski. “We are adding the entertainment kitchen area, near the ballroom in the lower level. Farm management has been featured on ‘Downton Abbey’ this year. We’ll have butter and eggs and crates.”

A National Historic Landmark, Meadow Brook Hall is the home built by Matilda Dodge Wilson, widow of automotive pioneer John Dodge, and her second husband, Alfred Wilson. Constructed between 1926 and 1929, the 88,000-square-foot hall is renowned for its superb craftsmanship, architectural detailing and grand scale. 

Downton Days will include A Servant’s Life tours, and Tea and Talks that compare changes in fashion and etiquette. O’Bersky said the Servant’s Life tours feature volunteers dressed as staff in period clothes.

“They greet guests at the door, and the head maid takes them on the tour,” she said. “It is a pretty neat way to experience a living history tour.”

Two Lunch and Lecture events will explore the ways that the inventions and politics of the early 20th century altered British society and country estate living. 

Downton Days has drawn enthusiastic visitors, Rzadkowolski said.

“It’s been very successful, and it is my favorite tour to plan. It shows the juxtaposition of family and staff life, and how they worked together — the best of both worlds.” 

A Servant’s Life tours are offered Feb. 6, 7, 20, 21, 27 and 28. Tea and Talks will be held Feb. 9, 16 and 23. Lunch and Lectures are offered Feb. 11 and 25. Ticket prices for Downton Days tours range from $35 to $55 per person. Reservations are required by calling (248) 364-6252.

Meadow Brook Hall, located off Adams Road south of Walton Boulevard, on the campus of Oakland University, is fully self-funded, relying on special events like Downton Days for its preservation. For more information about MBH, visit www.meadowbrookhall.org.

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