Written by Jill Kirk, Director of Development.

Each year, members of the Evanston History Center “family”– trustees, volunteers and staff – join forces to decorate the Dawes House for the holidays. This is no small task and not for the faint hearted!

Three trees (including a towering 12 foot one in the library) are all decorated with ornaments representing different periods in history.

The tree in the library is decorated a la 1920s with elaborate ornaments and electric lights similar to ones available by that time. The Dawes’ servants decorated a large tree in the library at night on Christmas Eve with lights, tinsel and German-made glass ornaments, topped by a Santa figure with real fur and whiskers.



The tree in the east parlor is decorated with original and replicated ornaments from the 1890s and electric “candles.”  Originally trees were lighted with wax candles held on the branches of the tree with small metal clip candleholders.  The candles were lighted on Christmas Eve for only a few minutes and a bucket of water or sand stood by to extinguish any accidental flame. 


Look closely and you will see under the tree a toy Prussian soldier and an elephant pull toy that belonged to Dana Dawes.

The feather tree on display in the Great Hall by the fireplace is part of the EHC’s collection and dates from the 1930s.  Feather trees were produced by Germans as early as 1840 and were still in production through the 1930s.  This tree represents the earliest period and is decorated in the sparse Victorian Christmas traditions of the 1870s.


The bags of food were the generous donations from individuals for EHC’s 9th annual food drive, which we do in partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

The Dawes House is open for tours during the holiday season on Thursday-Sunday from 1pm-4pm, except for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. 

A special holiday tour, Brighten the Nights, will be taking place on Wednesday, December 17 and Thursday, December 18. Click here to learn more about the tour!