KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Closed since March 2020 due to COVID-19, the Strawberry Hill Museum & Cultural Center here is making a grand comeback with the magic, fantasy and rich history of its Olde World Christmas.
Now through Jan. 9, 2022, visitors can tour the seasonally decorated Victorian mansion, experience the ethnic exhibits, learn about St. John Orphanage, shop in the gift shop and enjoy refreshments in the tearoom.
Offering a preview of what to expect of this year’s Olde World Christmas, Adrienne Nastav, president of the board of directors and museum curator, said that each room in the mansion is special in its own right.
“Each room has its own personality,” she explained. The children’s room, for example, has a delightful fairy-tale atmosphere, while the family room, decorated in silver and white, has a mystical feel about it.
In the rooms dedicated to different cultures, the exhibits feature items unique to the ethnicities. For example, the Lithuanian Room has ornaments fashioned from drinking straws; stacking dolls (“matryoshkas”) reflect the Russian culture.
This year, the ethnic rooms also have enhanced signage, added information about each land of origin and the country’s flag on display. Additionally, the gift shop is offering T-shirts, aprons and tea towels imprinted with the flag of each country.
Nastav’s favorite part of the holiday tour is the chapel formerly used by the School Sisters of St. Francis of Christ the King, based in Lemont, Illinois, who operated the orphanage. An estimated 75 nativity sets are on display there, including a large one near the altar that came from the former St. Mary Church, the mother church of Wyandotte County. The board president and museum curator also called special attention to the homemade desserts, quiches and soups available in the tea room.
The rich history of the facility, located at 720 N. 4th St., dates to the late 1880s when it was built as a family residence. Located next to St. John the Baptist Croatian Church and rectory, the house transitioned to become St. John Orphanage in response to the deadly flu epidemic of 1918-19. The home went through other transitions until its closure in 1988. The Strawberry Hill Ethnic Cultural Society acquired the property that same year, and the museum came into existence.
Nastav compares the facility to a cake with elaborate icing.
“The mansion — a beautiful building inside and out — is the icing decorated beyond belief at Christmastime into a magical world of fantasy, while maintaining this historic site,” she said.
The “ingredients” blend to provide an extraordinary experience. Among these ingredients, Nastav lists the history of the immigrants, their rich ethnic heritages and stories, and the service rendered by the orphanage.
Bringing this all together are the volunteers who manage and direct the museum, who decorated the facility for the Olde World Christmas, and who will be giving the guided tours and staffing special events.
“This museum is one of the treasures of the city that people need to know about,” said Nastav.
Reservations are requested for tours and events and Nastav urges visitors to register early because tour space is limited and many of the special night sessions are already booked. For scheduled tours, events and fees, and to register online, go to: strawberryhillmuseum.org.
Families can reserve spots online or walk in with their children to have breakfast with St. Nick on Dec. 4, from 8 to 11 a.m. Call (913) 371-3264 or send an email to: email@example.com for more information.