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Christmas at the Mansions: Nutcrackers, naughty elves and Little Falls history

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Decorations light up the night Wednesday, Nov. 28, at the Linden Hill Mansions Christmas tours. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video2 / 4
Kate Larson measures herself against a giant nutcracker as sister Emma Larson watches Wednesday, Nov. 28, at the Burton-Rosenmeier house, which is the site of the Little Falls Convention and Visitors' Bureau. Billed as the Nutrcracker Suite Rosenmeier Home Tour, visitors can try to count the numerous nutcrackers throughout the house with the closest guess winning a prize. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video3 / 4
Mother Chelsey Evans (left), Bexley Evans, Maddix Evans and Jaxson Timmer look through the kitchen at the Musser Mansion Wednesday, Nov. 28, during the Linden Hill Mansions Christmas tours. In the kitchen, the story goes that Mrs. Claus fell asleep and the elves have run amok. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video4 / 4

It's Christmas at the mansions in Little Falls.

Lights, trees, tinsel, Santas, elves, nutrackers, reindeer, stockings and just about any other holiday decorations one could imagine deck the halls of historic homes in Little Falls and welcome visitors to share in the Christmas joy.

The two Highland Avenue Linden Hill mansions—the Musser and Weyerhaeuser homes—date back to 1898 and are in the midst of their 12th year decorated for the Christmas at the Mansions event. About 40-45 volunteer decorators operated under the "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas" theme this year as they crafted holiday decor to adorn the houses.

"Each year we like to have a little bit of a theme, and then it's fun to see what pops up in our decorators' heads," said Kathy Bzdok, chairman of the Christmas at the Mansions Committee, Wednesday night.

Santas, Christmas villages and plaid patterns were among the popular trimmings this year, Bzdok observed.

"The 40-45 spots are not hard to fill," Bzdok said of the volunteer individuals and businesses who each take a section of the mansions. "The people really enjoy decorating."

Mischievous elves took over the kitchen at the Musser home while Mrs. Claus fell asleep. Hot cocoa baths, marshmallow snowball fights and tinsel ziplines entertain Santa's little helpers while visitors traipse through for some holly jolly cheer.

Down the road, nutcracker dolls take center stage in the Burton-Rosenmeier House's "Nutcracker Suite"-themed display.

"You come in, take a guess at how many nutcracker we have and enjoy the 1903 mansion," said Kristina VonBerge, executive director of the Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Both the Rosenmeier House and the Linden Hill mansions are open for tours 1-7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, and Saturday, Dec. 1, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2. Self-guided tours of the Nutcracker Suite are $2 for adults and free for kids under 18. Holly jolly guided tours at the Musser and Weyerhaeuser mansions are $12 for adults, $5 for kids ages 12-17 and free for kids age 11 and under. Tickets for the Linden Hill mansions get visitors into both homes.

More holiday attractions in Little Falls include a WWI Christmas display at the Charles Lindbergh House and Museum and the Christmas Tree Lane display at the Minnesota Fishing Museum and Hall of Fame. Both displays are also open until Dec. 2.

The Charles Lindbergh House features costumed interpreters to help visitors experience holiday traditions from 100 years ago. The display is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday-Sunday, with tickets priced at $10 for adults; $8 for seniors, veterans, active military and college students; $6 for kids 5-17 and free for kids 4 and under.

The Minnesota Fishing Museum's display features more than 75 Christmas trees and wreaths and is open from noon to 7 p.m. daily, with free will donations suggested as admission.

For more photos from Christmas at the Mansions, go to

Linden Hill history

Built in 1898 by friends Charles Weyerhaeuser and Richard "Drew" Musser—whose fathers started Pine Tree Lumber Manufacturing Co.—the Linden Hill mansions were ahead of their times when they were erected with electricity in just three months in the late 19th century. Weyerhaeuser and Musser lived in the homes with their families.

In 1920, the Weyerhaeusers moved to St. Paul and sold their mansion to the Mussers for no more than a nickel and a handshake.

Laura Jane Musser, daughter of Drew and his wife Sarah, was the last of either family to live in the houses. When she died in 1989, the Musser Fund Trust gifted the Linden Hill mansions to the city of Little Falls with an endowment to help with the upkeep. The Weyerhaeuser home is now a museum with many of Laura Jane's personal items, while the Musser house is available to rent for events and overnight stays.

-- Source: Linden Hill Historic Estate website; tour guides

Theresa Bourke

I started at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and the Brainerd School District. I follow city and school board officials as they make important decisions for residents and students and decide how to spend taxpayer dollars. I look for feature story ideas among those I meet and enjoy, more than anything, helping individuals tell their stories and show what makes them unique.

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