In historic house, a history-laden Christmas tree

The Christmas display at Alexander Majors House celebrates the past, future.

12/16/2012 12:45 AM

05/16/2014 8:34 PM

Perhaps the only communist Christmas ornament in Kansas City now can be seen at the Alexander Majors House.

On Saturday, the ornament — a hammer and sickle on one side, a star on the other — was among the collectibles displayed by Rich Hoffman, an expert in the celebration of Christmas.

Antique ornaments from many countries, Russia among them, were hung Saturday on a “goosefeather” Christmas tree at the Majors House.

The tree featured goose feathers dyed green and wrapped around wire branches to mimic pine needles. The custom began, Hoffman said, after the massive harvesting of forests in Germany, home of Prince Albert, who in 1840 married Queen Victoria of England and later decorated a large Christmas tree at Windsor Castle.

“A lot of people decided that what was good enough for Queen Victoria was good enough for them,” Hoffman said.

Saturday’s celebration also proved a reassuring sign that a clear future awaits the Majors House, the landmark at 8201 State Line Road.

Since the 2010 death of Terry Chapman, a Kansas City area architect who devoted more than 20 years to preserving the antebellum building, the home’s future has been uncertain. It was built by Alexander Majors, 19th century overland freighter and co-founder of the Pony Express.

But last year members of the nonprofit organization that operates the John Wornall Historical House agreed to take on the Majors home. What is now the Wornall/Major House Museums operates both historic homes.

Several grant-funded projects recently have been completed at the Majors House. One financed the acquisition of 19th century furniture; another funded the replacement of 37 of the property’s 43 windows.

A third made possible the removal of a wall on the property’s west lawn, improving sight lines for those exiting onto State Line Road.

The Majors House will be closed in January and February, and will reopen in the spring.

Other projects are contemplated for the John Wornall House Museum at 6115 Wornall Road. Officials are planning a capital campaign to repair a major crack in the home’s foundation.

In 2014, both historic properties will figure in the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Westport, said Anna Marie Tutera, the nonprofit’s executive director.

“We want to raise the profile of these homes and highlight the roles they both played in Kansas City history,” she said.

At 2 p.m. today, Hoffman will discuss the customs of Christmas celebrations, especially Christmas tree ornaments. The cost is $5 per person for non-members of the Wornall/Majors House Museums.

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