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‘Blessings of the Table’

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 12:40 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 1:01 p.m. CDT

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BLOOMINGTON – “The Blessings of the Table: Thanksgiving at Clover Lawn,” a recreation of the festive Thanksgiving celebrations of the 1870s, will be featured today, Thursday, through Nov. 18 at the David Davis Mansion State Historic Site in Bloomington.

The Mansion will be decorated for Thanksgiving, and each day the bountiful foods, family celebrations and charitable customs of the period will be featured. In addition to the Mansion’s collection of antique china and rare silver, visitors will see the large variety of delicious foods that were typical of a Thanksgiving celebration in the Victorian age - a traditional feast of turkey, pumpkin pie, and “all the trimmings.” Thanksgiving was the time of year when the dining room was as magnificently decorated for the holidays as the parlor, and visitors will feel as if they are immersed in a 19th century feast for all the senses.

This year’s Thanksgiving at the Davis Mansion will also showcase a living history program on Saturday, “A Bountiful Feast,” which will offer the servant’s perspective on this lavish Victorian holiday observance. Areas not usually open to the public may be visited. This special live theatrical event will be offered from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday only.

Davis’s Irish servants were a major reason why Thanksgiving at the Davis Mansion was a treat for all the senses. “A Bountiful Feast” will give visitors a rare opportunity to experience Thanksgiving at the mansion almost completely from the servants’ point of view. It’s also a chance for visitors to relive a time when people produced and ate fresh, locally grown foods. While watching the Davis family enjoying a traditional New England Thanksgiving feast, visitors will come across the household servants who are busily preparing Thanksgiving dinner for the family and gossiping about personal events in their own lives.

As visitors tour the house, they will be able to watch the Davis family’s dinner guests seated at the formal dining table, enjoying a variety of foods prepared locally by the area’s finest chefs. Mrs. Davis’s guests will also be dining upon a selection of traditional Thanksgiving desserts prepared from fresh ingredients by Red Oak Comfort Food and Pie Co.

Regular tours of the Davis Mansion are free and open to the public, and are offered Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The site will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, as well as Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 6, and Friday, Nov. 9 for Veterans Day. “The Blessings of the Table” and “A Bountiful Feast” are co-sponsored by the David Davis Mansion Foundation and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which administers the David Davis Mansion. Donations are always encouraged.

The David Davis Mansion State Historic Site, built in the 1870s for U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Davis and his wife, Sarah, is located at 1000 E. Monroe in Bloomington. A donation of $2 for adults and $1 for children is suggested to keep the Davis Mansion and other Illinois historic sites open to the public.

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