McWhorter Museum gears up for the holidays

Posted November 4, 2013 at 6:34 pm

‘Tis the season (well, almost), and plans are underway to open the McWhorter House Museum for several pre-Christmas events.

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Connie Schroeder is a member of the Hand County Historical Society board. She says the board is excited about new acquisitions, which will be on display this holiday season.

An antique pump organ, owned by Mary Alice Vaughn, is on loan to the museum. The intricately carved organ still plays beautiful music, and is located in the smaller room just off the living room.

Soon to be added will be most of the collection of dolls from the Cahalan family. The family used to live in what is now the Dakota House on Broadway, and the dolls were displayed there. Now a granddaughter, Kay Rozell, will deliver some 75 dolls on November 21, and they will be on display in time for “Christmas on the Prairie.”

“We’ve purchased an enclosed glass display case,” Schroeder said. The dolls will join other dolls and children’s toys in a second-floor bedroom.

The first event of the season will be a social/fundraiser at the museum Friday, Nov. 16 from 4 to 8 p.m. Jewelry, totes and bags and kitchen products will be available. (See advertisement in this issue).

Schroeder says upkeep of the museum is expensive, and the board operates the building on a “shoestring.”

“We did get a grant from the Miller Area Foundation for our porch project, and Quoin Financial Bank paid for a porch pillar,” Schroeder says.

A pillar blew down in a bad storm in 2012, taking the railing with it. Three new, historically correct columns will be replaced. The wooden newel posts are copies of the originals, and are ready to be installed, as well as the replacement pillars.

In addition to the grant, support comes from museum tours, primarily during the summer; sale of the Scott Heidepriem book, “Bring on the Pioneers”; sale of miniature Miller buildings (this year’s addition will be the Hand County Courthouse); and historical society memberships. A stipend from the City helps defray the cost of heating.

Although the porch may not be restored before the November-December events, it is a work in progress, says Schroeder.

The museum will again feature nativity sets during the Christmas events. Last year, many sets were loaned for display, and Schroeder hopes persons who shared their sets last year will consider doing so again. Anyone wishing to add their special nativity scene can drop it off November 22 or 23. They may be picked up before Christmas.

“This year, we’re hosting Business After Hours Tuesday, Dec. 3, so business people will have the opportunity to see the decorated museum,” Schroeder explained. “They’re busy during the Christmas on the Prairie night, and often can’t get around to other spots.”

Come December 5, the house will be ready to welcome all Christmas on the Prairie visitors. Of course there will be a tree and other Christmas decorations, all the nativity sets, and a story time for the kids. A new outside outlet, compliments of DeGeest Electric, will allow the evergreen in the front yard to shine brightly with Christmas lights.

Schroeder says the museum will also be open December 7 and 8.

The McWhorter Museum will celebrate its 25th year in 2014.

The house was built by Dr. Port McWhorter in 1906 and he and his wife lived there until they moved to California in the 1920s. Over the years, it served as a girls’ dormitory, and for some time was the school’s “lunch room.” Meals were prepared and lunches were served there.

After considerable restoration, the house was officially opened as a museum in 1989, the same year that South Dakota was celebrating its 100th year of statehood.

It features Victorian d├ęcor, antique furnishings, quilts and toys, and medical equipment from years ago.

Take a break from the pre-Christmas flurry, and step back into a century-old home, all adorned for the holidays.

Ruth A. Moller|The Miller

CONNIE SCHROEDER plays a tune on a recent acquisition. This ornate pump organ belonging to Mary Alice Vaughn is on loan to the museum.

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