The Mag Interview | Anna Marie Tutera steps back in time for the holidays

11/27/2012 8:51 PM

05/16/2014 8:20 PM

Anna Marie Tutera of Kansas City is executive director of Wornall/Majors House Museums, which owns John Wornall House, 6115 Wornall Road, and Alexander Majors House, 8201 State Line Road. Holiday events include Candlelight at Wornall House on Dec. 7 and 8 and Father Christmas at Majors House on Dec. 15. Information about both events is at wornallhouse.org. This conversation took place in the dining room of Wornall House.

Q

Who was Alexander Majors?

A

Majors was a pioneer, very much an outlier for his time. He was an overland freighting magnate and really responsible for a large part of the economic development and commercial destiny of Kansas City. His freighting company was a portal for westward expansion. He was Kansas City’s first millionaire.

Q

Tell us a little about Majors House.

A

The Majors house is an antebellum house, built in 1856 in frontier style.

Q

What is your favorite thing about that house?

A

The kitchen. It’s just beautiful, and in that kitchen we have all this Missouri pottery that is very rare and unique. I think we have one of the largest collections of Missouri pottery anywhere.

Q

How is Wornall house different from Majors House?

A

The John Wornall House was built in 1858, so close in time to Majors house, but it is very different. It was built in the Greek Revival style.

Q

How does the house reflect the man who built it?

A

John Wornall was a very successful farmer, businessman and banker. He was also very civic-minded. The house was deemed as a very pretentious property at the time because it is so grand. The property was on 500 acres, so the whole area around it was the Wornall homestead.

Q

What is your favorite thing in that house?

A

The 1859 Steinway in the parlor. It was generously renovated by (Kansas City organist and former New York Philharmonic keyboardist) Bruce Prince-Joseph. He took a great deal of time and care renovating that instrument.

Q

The furniture here in Wornall house is really beautiful.

A

All the furniture in both houses is historically correct. The pieces are antiques from the period, not reproductions.

Q

What is it like being in these old rooms in Wornall House every day?

A

It’s kind of uncanny at times. It feels like I am very much the caretaker. I feel a great sense of responsibility to each of the houses.

It also feels very mysterious. There’s a lot to unpack here. Every day I think about the people who lived here as I walk through each of the rooms. You can feel that energy of the past and of memory.

It conjures up so many fantasies of mine about what that time must have been like. I think about how strange it is that I’m working on a laptop in here and how different our lives are now.

Q

Are you learning a lot about maintenance of old houses?

A

I’m trying to catch up all the restoration issues and thinking about how the repair and maintenance decisions you make now affect long-term sustainability in terms of safeguarding these treasures.

Q

What can visitors expect during Candlelight at Wornall House?

AEach room is historically staged. When you come to visit, it’s as if you are stepping into Christmas Eve at the Wornall family home. So you can play parlor games. You can see dancing. There are tableaux. And you can hear Bruce Prince-Joseph play the piano. It’s magical.

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