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Thanksgiving celebrations at David Davis
Historic site presents festive Thanksgivings of the 1870s, along with special look at the holiday from servants’ point of view

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[November 12, 2014]  BLOOMINGTON – The festive Thanksgivings of the 1870s will be recreated throughout November at the David Davis Mansion State Historic Site, and a special dramatic presentation Nov. 8 will give the servants’ perspective on holiday preparations.

“The Blessings of the Table: Thanksgiving at Clover Lawn,” runs Nov. 1-23. The mansion will demonstrate the bountiful foods, family celebrations and charitable customs of the period. In addition to antique china and rare silver, visitors will see the large variety of delicious foods that were typical of a Victorian Thanksgiving celebration.

And on Nov. 8, the Davis Mansion will present “A Bountiful Feast” from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. This special event gives visitors a unique opportunity to see what Thanksgiving meant for the hard-working servants who prepared and served the holiday meal.

The David Davis Mansion State Historic Site was built in the 1870s for U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Davis and his wife, Sarah.

Sarah Davis was born in Massachusetts and brought to Illinois a New England fondness for celebrating Thanksgiving. She invited friends and family to her elegant home in Bloomington, where she served a traditional feast of turkey, pumpkin pie and all the trimmings.

Thanksgiving was the time of year when the dining room was as magnificently decorated for the holidays as the parlor. Visitors will feel as if they are immersed in a 19th-century feast for the senses as the tour guide describes the tastes and aromas of Sarah’s favorite Thanksgiving foods.

Regular tours of the Davis Mansion are free and open to the public, and are offered Wednesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The site is closed Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, as well as November 11 for Veterans Day.

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“The Blessings of the Table” and “A Bountiful Feast” are co-sponsored by the David Davis Mansion Foundation and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which administers the David Davis Mansion. Donations are always encouraged.

The historic site is located at 1000 Monroe Drive in Bloomington. A donation of $4 for adults and $2 for children is suggested to keep the Davis Mansion and other Illinois historic sites open to the public.

Following the Thanksgiving celebrations, the holiday season will be in full swing at the Mansion. From Nov. 28 to Dec. 31, 14 Christmas trees will be on display around the mansion. Visitors will be able to experience Christmas customs and traditions popular during that period. A brand-new display on the beginning of the consumer era and the ritual of “Christmas shopping” will feature Christmas gifts available from department stores of the time.

The David Davis Mansion will also be taking part in a holiday tour that will include the Ewing Manor and a private mystery mansion. On Dec. 13, visitors may tour all three mansions and experience a vintage Christmas celebration. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 on the day of the event. For details visit

[Chris Wills, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency]

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