House of Christmas past: Glenn House offers holiday tours

Friday, December 21, 2012
Visitors tour the Glenn House’s library Dec. 15. The historic home in downtown Cape Girardeau has been decked out for the holidays and is open for tours from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. (Fred Lynch)

Now that the rooms in the Glenn House have been decorated for holiday tours, Alyssa Lage has a wonderful feeling every time she enters the historic structure.

"It always feels like Christmas to me," she said.

A member of the Historic Association of Greater Cape Girardeau Inc., the not-for-profit organization that oversees the Glenn House, Lage has worked with other association members and volunteers to have everything in order for the Glenn House 2012 Holiday Tour.

"There's something here that isn't found anywhere else," she said. "It's always rewarding to share it with our visitors."

Holiday tours of the Glenn House, 325 S. Spanish St., will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 27 through Dec. 29. The theme for this year's tour is "Christmas Past and Present."

"We want our visitors to have a warm feeling," Lage said. "It's a special time of year, and we'd like for them to feel the connection from a Christmastime of another era to the present time. We also encourage them to use the decorative styles in the Glenn House in their own home."

The decoration styles in the Glenn House date back to the Christmases of the late 1800s. Visitors will see the holiday theme from the parlor on the first floor to the master bedroom on the second floor. The historic association has decorated some rooms for the tour, but others have been decorated through the help of local sponsors.

"Three of the nine rooms of the house tour have been sponsored," Lage said. "There's businesses in Cape Girardeau that have given their time and materials to physically decorate a room, and we're very grateful for that."

The Glenn House, over time, has seen its share of decorating. Built in 1883, it was owned by David A. Glenn, a respected merchant and banker in Cape Girardeau. In the late 1890s, the house was modernized with indoor plumbing and electricity, and in 1900 it was remodeled in Queen Anne Style, a Victorian design the house retains today. It belonged to Glenn until he sold the house in 1915 to settle debts before he moved his family to Texas.

The house changed owners a few more times, eventually coming into possession of Cape Girardeau's Erlbacher family. By the time the Erlbachers donated the house to the Historical Association of Greater Cape Girardeau in 1968, it was in dire need of repair and restoration.

"That's why the association was formed," association president Tom Grantham said. "We were formed to restore the house as a historical home. But believe me, it took some doing. The house was in bad shape."

Grantham said the association raised more than $100,000 throughout the 1970s to return the home to its former Victorian style. The restoration was completed in 1980, the same year tours of the Glenn House began. The tours are offered from May through October. Along with the holiday tour, they draw about 2,000 visitors each year.

"I think we saved something important," Grantham said. "I have a passion for the house, and it's the combination of being involved in the community and sharing the house's history that will always keep me interested."

Grantham said proceeds from the holiday tour, and tours that take place earlier in the year, go toward supporting the Glenn House.

"Like any other house, we have bills to pay," he said. "There's electricity and water bills, and there's also insurance. We're an all-volunteer organization, so there's no salaries. Everything is dedicated to the upkeep of the house."

Tickets for the Glenn House 2012 Holiday Tour are $5 for adults and $2 for children younger than 12 and can be purchased at the Glenn House on the day of a tour. Advance tickets are available at the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau, with adult tickets $4, and $2 for children younger than 12. For more information, contact Donna Grantham at 335-3490 or


Pertinent address: 325 S. Spanish St, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

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