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Historic General Dodge House decked out for the holidays

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It’s time for Christmas at the Historic General Dodge House, 605 S. Third St.

The Victorian mansion, a National Historic Landmark, is decked out for the holidays and has unveiled its 24 Christmas trees creatively decorated by families and organizations from the community.

“They get better every year,” said Tom Emmett, executive director of the Dodge House. “A lot of our folks have been decorating for six or eight, 15, 20 years. Some of our trees are done by local florists.”

“This year, we reached out to the community asking for help to assemble all of the Christmas trees,” said Michelle Hrdlicka, director of operations. “We were overwhelmed by the response.”

One of the groups that stepped up to the plate was the Iowa Western Community College baseball team, Hrdlicka said.

“Marc Rardin, head coach, lined up 30 of his players to assemble 24 Christmas trees,” she said. “Heartland Family Service’s Iowa Work Program provided a group of six women to assemble three trees in the Beresheim House.”

In addition, two families helped carry ornaments and garlands to the Dodge House. The General’s Ladies were there to provide guidance to all the volunteers, Hrdlicka said. The General’s Ladies worked for two days to decorate the entryway and the banisters throughout both houses.

This year’s theme is “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and decorators have come up with some fun variations on the theme, Emmett said. Examples vary from Christmas under the sea or on a tropical island to handmade or antique ornaments, he said.

“Every year, there’s several made by hand,” he said.

A series of special events are planned for the holiday season, including the following:

Nov. 28 – Museum Store Sunday, 1-5 p.m. Gift items will be on sale for 20% off. Antique items will also be available.

Dec. 2 – Family Night, 6-8 p.m. Admission only $15 per family. Special guest Santa Claus; crafts and refreshments. “The neat thing about Family Night is it’s affordable for a whole clan of folks,” Emmett said.

Dec. 5 – Day with the Dodges, 1-5 p.m. Members admitted free. Many Dodge House volunteers will be dressed in period costumes.

Dec. 11 – Breakfast with Santa, 10 a.m. to noon, Hoff Family Arts & Culture Center, 1001 S. Sixth St. Dine on food prepared by the General’s Ladies while the Jolly Old Elf reads “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” There will be holiday-related crafts for young elves to busy themselves with. $15 per person. Reservations are required. For a reservation, call 712-322-2406 or visit, open the events calendar under “Plan Your Visit,” go to Dec. 11 and click on “Breakfast with Santa,” then “Register.”

Dec. 11 – Christmas by Candlelight, 6-10 p.m. Experience Christmas as it was in the last quarter of the 19th century. Tour the Dodge House with only (artificial) candlelight and 24 beautifully decorated and lighted trees. “All the lights in the Dodge House are turned off, save for the Christmas trees, garland and candles,” Emmett said. Refreshments will be served in the ballroom on the third floor. $15 per person, if preregistered; $20 at the door.

The Dodge House is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays (until 8 p.m. on Thursdays) and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. The house will close at 3 p.m. on Dec. 24 and will reopen at 10 a.m. on Dec. 28. The Dodge House is closed during January and most holidays. Admission is $10 for adults (19-64), $5 for seniors (older than 65), $5 for students (6-18) and $5 for veterans with ID. Children younger than 6 will be admitted free.


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