LITTLE FALLS -- Two stones sit on a log on the front porch of the Richard "Drew" Musser home in Little Falls. The stones symbolize directional signage the American Indians used.
Walking into the home, a sacred American Indian wall hanging is displayed on top of a mirror past the front porch. A few steps over on the stairway is a tortoise shell decorated with American Indian feathers and memorabilia.
This fountain in the Musser mansion in Little Falls is made of bluish-green ceramic tiles. Greenery surrounds the fountain with an American Indian hanging. Brainerd Dispatch/Jennifer Stockinger
Throughout the Musser home and its neighbor, the Charles A. Weyerhaeuser home, American Indian history is displayed. The culture is accented in the homes for the annual Christmas in the Mansions tour. The mansions' doors will open to the public for the Christmas tours beginning at 1 p.m. today and ending at 6 p.m. Dec. 12.
Susan Haugen, Linden Hill Conference Retreat Center director, said the homes of the former lumber barons, Musser and Weyerhaeuser, were built in 1898 on land once inhabited by the Indians. She said the Ojibwe and the Dakota Indians signed a peace treaty on a big rock down the Mississippi River. The rock, which is on Linden Hill property, at one time showed and Indian pictograph, said Haugen.
If you go
What: The annual Christmas in the Mansions tour
Where: Linden Hill Conference and Retreat Center in Little Falls
When: 1-6 p.m. Friday through Dec. 12
Cost: $10 a person
Haugen said the mansions were decorated this year to celebrate the American Indian influence. Displays include the Musser collections of baskets, jewelry and colorful weavings, accented with Christmas trimmings.
Large red original Musser Christmas stockings were hung on the fireplace mantel in the Musser home. Greenery and feathers fill the space on the mantel. Brainerd Dispatch/Jennifer Stockinger
Third-graders from Lindbergh, Lincoln and Randall elementary schools and students from Nay Ah Shing School on the Mills Lacs Indian Reservation made the holiday ornaments for the children's Christmas tree in the Weyerhaeuser home. The ornaments consist of birch bark where students wrote pleasant thoughts, such as "Peace among people."
Jodell Meyer of the Mille Lacs Indian Museum sewed the birch ornaments together to go around the tree. Christmas lights and pheasant feathers also adorn the tree.
"The students are learning about each other's cultures," said Haugen. "Laura Jane (Musser's daughter who died in 1989) had a passion for the plight of the underprivileged Native American children. She generously donated thousands of dollars to the Mille Lacs Band for various purposes."
American Indian ornaments, feathers and twigs fill the Christmas tree in the music room in the Musser home. Laura Jane Musser's collection of jewelry also is on the tree. Brainerd Dispatch/Jennifer Stockinger
The children's Christmas tree is in the main Weyerhaeuser living room. The mantel displays a portion of Laura Jane's collection surrounded by greenery. In the hallway there are three small Christmas trees decorated with pheasant feathers. Up the stairway in the Weyerhaeuser home is Laura Jane's brown mink stole sitting on greenery.
On the window in the dining room is a wall hanging Haugen bought from the Mille Lacs Indian Museum. The circular piece has a hand print in the middle with feathers on it. There are red streamers on each side with horse hair hanging.
"When I saw this I felt a warmth inside me," said Haugen. "My mind kept telling me to buy it. Afterwards I looked at the tag and found out it was made by an Ojibwe and Dakota and was symbolic of the pictograph on the rock at Linden Hill."
In the Musser home, there is a fireplace mantel in the library with large, red, original Musser Christmas stockings hung with care in the library. Down the large entryway is a fountain made out of bluish-green ceramic tiles. Greenery surrounds the fountain and an American Indian male dance bustle hangs.
In the formal dining area in the Weyerhaeuser home an American Indian cloth covers a side table that held Indian memorabilia. Brainerd Dispatch/Jennifer Stockinger
In the large music room is a Christmas tree decorated with Laura Jane Musser's collection of American Indian jewelry, more feathers and twigs that had fallen from the trees that were on the property hundreds of years ago. In the room there also is a grand piano, an organ and another fireplace mantel.
Throughout the home there are many centerpieces on end tables and the dining room tables with greenery and feathers. On the back porch are fish, cranberries, feathers and greenery hanging from a thick birch branch over the long table.
A tortoise shell hangs in the stairway in the Weyerhaeuser home. The shell is decorated with American Indian feathers and memorabilia. Brainerd Dispatch/Jennifer Stockinger
Last year the theme of the Christmas in the Mansions tour was wizards and weddings.
Haugen said the tours are self-guided and take one to three hours to complete. Haugen expects 1,000 people to tour the homes. She said a person cannot go through the homes in one hour. She said there is too much to look at, be it the decorations or the antiques.
Haugen encourages people to come on the tour. She said, "Everyone is so busy this time of year, but they need to take time for themselves. There is a wonderful presence here that will relieve stress."
JENNIFER STOCKINGER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5851.
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