DECATUR -- All visitors to the James Millikin Homestead want for Christmas is to never have to leave.

Decked out Sunday afternoon for its annual Christmas Open House Tea, featuring refreshments, edible goodies and live music, the 1875 Decatur mansion built for banker and philanthropist James Millikin never looked better.

Acres of sumptuously crafted woodwork made the perfect backdrop for festive garlands and decorations, while the dying rays of a December sun set a vast stained glass window afire in colored light.

“Could I imagine life here? Yes, it’s beautiful and I want to move in,” said Shelly Baron, who lives in Decatur but was visiting the Italianate-style mansion for the first time. She arrived with a family group that included her 2-year-old great niece, Layla Alexander, who had just discovered one of many glowing Christmas trees upstairs. “Pretty,” she announced before scampering off across hardwood floors that seemed to stretch into forever.

Downstairs it was much the same story, with first-time visiting couple Chelsea and Josef Schmid from Decatur stunned by what they found. “Could I live here? Sign me up,” said Chelsea Schmid. “What most appeals to me? It’s the woodwork, the paneling and the woodwork. Homes nowadays are standardized like the windows are a standard size. But everything here is custom-made.”

Josef Schmid could easily imagine he was home for the holidays and a whole lot longer. “I could do all year round here,” he said with a smile.

For those that have known and loved the grand old home for many years, everything was going to according to their festive plan. Mary Lou Brown, a member of the James Millikin Homestead Board which looks after the interior, said the Christmas event brings in new generations of people to fall in love with the home and want to see it preserved for all time.

“I never get tired of the James Millikin Homestead,” said Brown. “I think it’s just the beauty of it and the fact you just don’t see craftsmanship like this anymore; it’s awe-inspiring to me.”

Is there a ghost of Christmas past wandering around the grand mansion? Brown and current board president, Terry Grant, both said they’ve never seen one. “And I love being here by myself,” added Grant. “This is a happy house.”


Staff Writer

Courts and public safety reporter for the Herald & Review.

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