The 16-foot Christmas tree in the ballroom, dubbed the Military Appreciation Tree, is topped with American flags and accompanied by a rotating series of choral groups singing carols.
The equally tall Christmas tree in the gentleman’s parlor sports garlands of dogwood, while the one in the morning room was decorated with children in mind – hence the large carousel horse at its peak.
“They have more Christmas trees here in this house than my mother,” remarked Mary Thompson, 56, of suburban Chicago, as she toured the Executive Mansion on Saturday afternoon.
“And that’s saying a lot,” replied her husband, Dan, 57.
Opening the doors of the “people’s house” – the Victorian-style Executive Mansion at 200 N. Blount St. in downtown Raleigh – to the public for the holidays is an annual tradition, and a popular one. About 150 people waited outside the house, which dates back to 1891 and has been the official residence of 29 North Carolina governors, shortly before the doors opened at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The last chance for this year’s free open house is Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. Reservations are neither needed nor accepted.
In addition to the holiday finery – it typically takes a team of 10 four or five days to decorate the mansion’s interior, visitors who gather close to the docents standing behind the velvet ropes posted at the entrance of each of the downstairs rooms can get a dose of history.
“When you walked across those bricks (outside), did you see some names on those bricks?” asked docent Betty Sykes, who was stationed in the dining room where the 24-person table was decked out with Amaryllis flowers. She went on to explain that the bricks were made from Wake County clay by prisoners, some of whom inscribed their names on the bricks.
“I think that’s a form of immortality,” she said.
Josephine Crabtree, 41, of Fuquay-Varina, came with her daughter Carleigh Jo, a junior at Holly Springs High School who sang at the mansion with the school’s choir Saturday afternoon.
“It’s beautiful,” she said of the decorations. “The red, white and blue tree with the flags on top – I would have never thought to do that. But it’s a great tribute.”
There was, however, one thing that bugged her. One of the trees is actually a little bit taller than the 16-foot ceilings, so the tree bends over where it hits the ceiling.
“I don’t know why they just didn’t snip that,” she said.