Thursday, June 9, 2011

Strawberry Festival at the Vaile Mansion

Vendors set up outside the Vaile Mansion during the annual Strawberry 
Festival. You can see the Missouri River from the mansion's top deck.

I am endlessly admiring architecture and building facades. If you ride in the car with me, you’re bound to hear me say as we drive along, “Oh, those windows are so cool... I like that door... Wow! Take a look at the relief on that building... That house is beautiful!.” It’s no wonder I am thrilled to be teaching the class “Sneak Peeks” this summer for the educational program I work for geared toward adults with developmental disabilities. The goal of the class is to explore, compare and contrast living spaces in the Kansas City area that are quite different from each other. 

Last Saturday, two assistants and I accompanied a group of students on a tour through the Vaile Mansion in Independence, MO. The Vaile Mansion is a 31-room Victorian era private home-cum-museum, built from red brick with stone detailing. We could not have chosen a better day to visit this splendid local treasure. Although it was hot and humid (even at 9:40 am), the day of our tour fell on the same day as the museum’s annual Strawberry Festival. It was entirely a delight to see the elegant living areas and decor, as well as to have the opportunity to watch performers, eat strawberry shortcake and purchase homemade and vintage wares from the local vendors who were set up on the lawn. While my students definitely did not enjoy waiting for their peers outside in the heat before touring the house, they were impressed by the scale of the house, the painted ceilings, the lavish decor and the copper bathtub!

 Vaile Mansion decor - I've been enamored with hair wreaths since
  I discovered one in the antique store where I worked as a teenager.

Sweet embroidery found at a booth in a shady spot.
I unexpectedly ran into my pal Sonya at the Vaile Mansion. She was there to give tours, because her grandma is on the Museum’s Board of Directors. It was so nice to see Sonya, and she did a great job on her leg of the home tour. As did her grandma. During the tour, I learned the Vaile Mansion holds an annual themed tea party, which sounds simply charming. This year’s theme was “The Wizard of Oz.” Groups may also schedule private tea parties. I also learned most of the furnishings and accessories we saw were not original to the house. Upon the original owner’s death, the majority of the household goods were auctioned off. Over the years, the furnishings have been replaced, and the mansion has been kept up, through the hard work of the Vaile Victorian Society.

While art, history and houses intrigue me, I had never heard of the Vaile Mansion before I was scheduled to tour it. Now that the Vaile Mansion and I are acquainted, I recommend visiting, whether you are a Kansas City native or a visitor to the area. Apparently, the Museum has a gorgeous Victorian Christmas display, so I just might be back next winter. Care to join me?

What private home-cum-museums do you love? What other historical homes should I visit in the Kansas City area? Where should I go if I am visiting your hometown?

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