Post from the Archives

Thanksgiving in New York

November 25th, 2020

Margaret-and-Squiffy.jpgMargaret Douglas Hall kept a diary for much of her life. As one of many primary sources in Brucemore’s archives, it provides valuable first hand insight into life in the early 20th century. While on site programming has been limited during the pandemic, staff and volunteers have been able to devote additional time to transcribing various diaries and check registers.

Margaret’s daily diary from 1911-1915 provides a glimpse into her life as a 15 to 20-year-old girl. During these years, Margaret spent much of her time away from Brucemore, attending Miss Spence’s School in Manhattan and studying sculpture in Boston. She would spend the Thanksgiving holiday away from her family and would engage with the holiday traditions of the east coast.

During the early twentieth century, Thanksgiving was often celebrated with costume balls and parades. This tradition was particularly strong in New York.  A 1911 New York Times article stated that “fantastically garbed youngsters and their elders were on every corner of the city.” Miss Spence’s School seemed to be in on the tradition as Margaret wrote:

Tuesday. Thanksgiving Party. Had walk & lessons as usual & then dinner. Walk at 2:20 & then studied until six. Dressed in my gym bloomers & a velvet coat. E. Clark and I went as the Two Little Princes in the Tower. The dining room was all decorated with lanterns and greens. Had a Historical party/ all came as characters.

Masquerading at Thanksgiving was such a popular tradition that it was regarded as “the busiest time of the year for the manufacturers of and dealers in masks and false faces” by the Los Angeles Times in 1897. In 1913 Margaret wrote:

Tuesday. Went to spelling and reading first then went through to the other house to study. Met Miss T.  in the hall and she said MOTHER was coming Wed & to be at The Plaza!!!! Had Elocution & Rhetoric. Really got along very well. Big Thanksgiving Dinner. We all dressed up & wore paper bags (on our heads).

Spence’s holiday traditions were not the only ones that Margaret enjoyed. She was excited to spend time with her family, who would visit her for the holiday. In 1913, it appeared that Irene and Mahala visited, while the rest of the Douglas family stayed at Brucemore:

Thursday. Thanksgiving. Simply tore to get dressed in time to go out with Mother at 9:00. Walked over to the Plaza. Took an auto ride up Riverside Drive & back. Lunch at Aunt Mahala’s. Went to the Hippodrome with the Babst[s] & then a Thanksgiving dinner with them. All of us practiced the Tango. Mother saw my room.

Learn more about other Thanksgiving traditions from the early twentieth century via the links below:

When Thanksgiving was Weird (NPR, 2014)

This is What Thanksgiving Looked Like 100 Years Ago (Huffington Post, 2014)


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No. Visiting the Brucemore estate during grounds hours is free. Tickets are only required for scheduled tours and events, and they can be purchased in advance online.

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You do not need a reservation to visit the grounds on your own. You do need a ticket to go inside the mansion. We recommend advance reservations for any of our mansion tours or other scheduled special themed tours due to limited capacity. Please visit our calendar to see upcoming opportunities and to purchase your tickets.

Touring the Mansion

Can I take pictures inside the mansion?

Yes. Photography is allowed during tours for personal, non-professional use. Tripods, selfie-sticks, or other photography equipment will not be permitted. Photographs should not distract from others’ enjoyment.

How large is the mansion?

Brucemore is approximately 15,000 square feet.

How many fireplaces, rooms, and floors does Brucemore have?

There are 21 “main” rooms, 14 fireplaces and four floors plus an attic.

Is all of the furniture original to the house and families?

Much of the furniture you will see on display belonged to the second or third families to live at Brucemore; however, some pieces had to be replaced with replicas or similar antiques.

Is the mansion handicap accessible?

The Brucemore mansion includes multiple floors and several staircases. Because of the historic architecture, some spaces are not accessible. Due to preservation work, the wheelchair lift that offers accessibility to the first floor is not available at this time. An elevator is not available from the first floor to the other floors at any time. Learn more about accessibility at Brucemore.

Group and School Tours

Is there an age requirement for students visiting Brucemore?

You do not have to be a certain age to visit or attend a program at Brucemore. Different programs are best suited for different ages. Tours of the mansion are recommended for 4th grade and older due to the concepts and historic collection.

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Parking is available on site a short walk from the mansion or carriage house. Buses must follow special instructions. Large events may not be able to accommodate on-site parking; please see the event calendar information for exceptions.

Is bus parking available?

Yes. Bus parking is available near the carriage house. Buses must arrive via special directions as they are unable to fit in our historic gates.

Is there a lunch area at Brucemore?

There is not a designated area indoors or outdoors to eat; however, you are welcome to bring your own blanket or chair to picnic on the grounds. Please carry out any trash to help our small staff keep the grounds beautiful.

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Please let group members or chaperones know where they can meet the group.

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Brucemore admission is to be paid prior to the visit and a deposit may be required. Payment can be made by cash, check, or credit card and should be paid in one sum.

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You must have a ticket to a tour or program inside the mansion. Many tours do sell out in advance; purchase online or by calling 319-362-7375 in advance of your visit to guarantee your spot. See the schedule here.

Is the mansion wheelchair accessible?

The mansion is not currently accessible to wheelchairs due to preservation work. The mansion includes multiple flights of stairs. Most of the outdoor areas of the site are accessible. See our full accessibility information and contact us with additional questions regarding your visit.

Can I walk on the property?

Yes, the grounds and gardens are open daily most of the year. Several self-guided interpretive panels and tours via QR codes are available. See hours here.

What is Brucemore’s ticket policy?

Tickets are non-refundable, but may be rescheduled for comparable programs as space allows. Learn more.

I’m attending a large event at Brucemore. Where do I park?

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Are weapons allowed at Brucemore?

We prohibit weapons on the property and at programs to ensure the safety and security of all employees and people visiting Brucemore.