Mchenry Mansion: Victorian Spirit in Modern Modesto
By Ashley Stinson
Built in 1883, McHenry Mansion is the only original Victorian home still standing in Modesto. The house was built by Robert McHenry, a director at the Modesto Bank. This house has been an enduring Modesto landmark since 1976, when it was granted to the City of Modesto for community use and subsequently restored to its original Victorian splendor. The McHenry Mansion hosts free tours year- round, as well as serving as the location for many official City of Modesto events. The mansion can also be reserved for weddings, receptions, birthdays and other celebrations. Annually, the Mansion sees around 20,000 visitors.
Although McHenry Mansion is host to events all year, December is when it truly shines. On the first Saturday of December, McHenry Mansion hosts its annual Dickens Faire, a chance for visitors to take in Christmas fun with Victorian charm. The street in front of McHenry Mansion will be closed to traffic during the Faire and vendors and booths will be selling food, crafts, jewelry, Christmas goods, and more. Christmas choruses and carolers, and an assortment of musicians playing traditional instruments such as bagpipes and harps will fill the air with joyous sounds, and carriage rides will be available. With such a lively celebration, it’s no surprise that Father Christmas himself will make an appearance, with candy canes for all the good boys and girls.
For more Christmas spirit, consider embarking on one of McHenry Mansion’s Candlelight Tours. These special tours occur just once a year, on two evenings during the Christmas Season, and are your only chance to tour McHenry Mansion after dark. The Mansion’s halls are decked for the occasion, resplendent in Victorian Christmas decor. The tour travels room-by-room allowing you to see how the residents of this proud home lived in the late 19th century. While regular, daytime tours of McHenry Mansion are free, the Candlelight Tour does require a small entrance fee which goes toward dessert and beverages.
Those who are passionate about local history or the Victorian era can volunteer to become docents—tour guides who help the public get the most out of their McHenry Mansion experience. Beginning in January, an 8-week course is given to new docents to teach them all about the Mansion so that they can pass that knowledge on to their tour-goers. The McHenry Mansion Merry Maid and Groomsmen, dedicated docents dressed in period garb, visit area schools and other organizations to give presentations about McHenry Mansion’s history.
Because tours are given at the Mansion for free, the McHenry Mansion Foundation is a vital part of McHenry Mansion’s continued upkeep. The McHenry Mansion Foundation consists of businesses and members of the public who wish to donate to McHenry Mansion to help with the costs of restoration and upkeep, and to help preserve this important local landmark.
If you would like to become a member, you can find more information at www.mchenrymansion.org/foundation.html.