Recall the splendor of a bygone era as you tour the spectacular Dana-Thomas State Historic Site, as it will completely bedecked in turn-of-the-century finery for the holiday season from Friday, November 26 through Friday, December 31. Featured in the midst of this wondrous Christmas celebration in this Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece will be two special evenings: Family Night and the Night of the Luminaries.
Family Night will be held Friday, December 17, from 4pm to 8pm. All visitors will be admitted free, although a minimal donation of $1 per person is suggested. Regular holiday tours will be conducted during the day. Tours featuring live music will take place from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. as well, and Santa Claus will make a visit this evening as well!
Night of the Luminaries
The Night of the Luminaries is scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday, December 19. About 1000 luminaria will line the sidewalks and ledges of the structure. Tours on Luminaria Evening are silent except for the live music being played in the house. Regular holiday tours will be until 3:30 p.m., with the luminaria display starting at 4 p.m.
Location, parking, hours, holidays, shopping, and general admission
The house is located at 301 E. Lawrence on the corner of 4th and Lawrence Streets, which is just two blocks south of the Executive Mansion. A parking garage is available to the west of the house by the YMCA, and metered off-street parking is available as well. The site is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 9am-4pm., except for December 17 and 19 when it will be open to 8 p.m. December 31 will be the final day to tour the house decorated for the holidays. The site is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
The Sumac Shop in the Visitors Center maintains the same hours as the house throughout the year, including December 17 and 19. The suggested donation for all Dana-Thomas House tours, except Family Night, is $5 for adults and $3 for children. Nearly 6000 people visit the Dana-Thomas annually to partake in its holiday celebration. For additional information, please contact the site at (217) 782-6776.
Origins of the Dana-Thomas House Christmas celebration
Named executor of her father’s estate in 1902, Susan Lawrence Dana discussed with her mother the remodeling of the old family residence at Fourth Street and Lawrence Avenue. Passing over local architects and acquaintances of her father, Susan chose a young Oak Park architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, to design the new house. Completed in 1904, the residence was dedicated by Susan and her mother with a series of Christmas parties. The first was for the families of all the laborers, artisans, and designers who had worked on the house. These very first Christmas celebrations at the newly remodeled home formed the basis for the annual Dana-Thomas House Christmas celebration.
About the Dana-Thomas House State Historic Site
Springfield’s Dana-Thomas House is perhaps the best preserved and most complete of Frank Lloyd Wright’s early “Prairie” houses. The structure has changed little since its construction in 1902-04 for Springfield socialite and women’s activist Susan Lawrence Dana.
The house is typical of the Prairie style, which is characterized on the exterior by low horizontal roofs, wide overhanging eaves, and rows of ribbon art glass windows. This house was the largest designed by Frank Lloyd Wright to that time. It covers 12,600 square feet, with 35 rooms and 16 major spaces. The house contains more than 100 pieces of original Wright furniture, 250 examples of art glass doors and windows, and more than 100 art glass light fixtures.
Designed for entertaining, the home’s gallery and dining room can each seat forty, and both have two-story barrel-vaulted ceilings. Musicians’ balconies overlook the large public gathering spaces. Other features include an interior terra cotta fountain and a basement duck pin bowling alley.
History of the House
Susan Lawrence Dana inherited this thirty-year-old Italianate brick house upon the death of her father. As a patron of the arts, she had been impressed with Wright’s work and immediately commissioned him to incorporate the brick foundations and a portion of the original floor plan into the new house along with a Victorian sitting room and marble place. Plans of the home, however, show that as construction progressed, the new Prairie house took precedence, the old house playing only a minor role.
Dana entertained many guests during her stay here. While living in this house in 1928, she owned the property in 1944 when she sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Charles C. Thomas. For 37 years, the Thomases used the house as executive offices for their publishing firm. The house was sold to the State of Illinois in 1981, and is now preserved by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
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