BUSINESS Party like a Victorian

Tea, treats and tours: it’s Christmas at two of Manistee’s most grand Victorian mansions.

Both the Buckley House and the James Dempsey Manor will be open on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015

“When visitors go to these fabulous mansions, they not step into the past, but also get a glimpse of Manistee’s future,” said Rachel Brooks, who chairs the Sleighbell Parade all-volunteer committee. “Manistee’s reputation as an authentic Victorian destination for tourists pivots on its historic downtown and unique properties like the mansions.”

How did the Victorians celebrate Christmas?

Richly, if they were members of the Buckley or Dempsey families, among Manistee’s Victorian elite.

At the Buckley House, 450 Cedar St., visitors can luxuriate in a multi-course tea in the expansive third floor ballroom, decorated for the holidays. Besides plenty of tea, of course, the spread will include classic tea treats, said Sarah Helge, hostess and, with her husband John, owner of the mansion.

Satiated guests will tour the mansion after the tea. It was built in 1875 by James Shrigley, then purchased by Edward Buckley and renovated in 1895. The Buckley Mansion is one of the few remaining grand homes built by the lumber barons who ruled Manistee society at the turn of the 20th century. This home has been lovingly preserved by all of its resident families over the years. The intricately carved woodwork, exquisite ceramic fireplaces, parquet wood floors and leaded stained-glass features along with extensive Christmas decorations will be viewed by guests attending the Christmas tea.

Reservations and pre-payment for the tea are required. $35.00 per person, call 231 398-2561.

The James Dempsey Mansion, 506 Maple St., will be open for tours on Dec. 3, 4, 5 and 6 at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.

The mansion is lavishly appointed with authentic 19th century furnishings, sculpture, art, artifacts and ambiance. At this time of year, brightly lit Victorian Christmas trees, wreaths, garlands and decorations fill the lovely home. The mansion features an atrium in the center of the house which is open to a skylight 35 feet above – flooding the three floors with natural daylight. A favorite wing of the house – the glass conservatory – keeps visitors toasty-warm while surrounded with snow covered trees and grounds.

Lovely old-fashioned Christmas hymns played on a parlor-grand piano fill the mansion with music and cheer all during the day. Familiar scents and flavors of Christmas waft from the great home’s kitchen, awakening that nostalgia for the blessings and beauty of an era never to be seen again.

Tickets for the Dempsey Manor tour are $12 in advance and $18 at the door, available through

Stay posted about the Victorian Sleighbell Parade and Old Christmas Weekend by following the event at its Facebook page and by watching the official event website at For more information, contact Rachel Brooks, chair at or James Colburn and Jan Peterson, Dempsey Manor at 231-510-4430 or 616-802-4588

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