Visit to the past

Volunteers demonstrate life in the 1900s at the historic Maplewood Home
Monday, December 8, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:39 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Sunday might have been Pearl Harbor Day, but tour guides at the Maplewood Home were more focused on the latest news: President William McKinley had just been re-elected.

Visitors to the home were taken back to the year 1900, courtesy of the Boone County Historical Society and Columbia’s Parks and Recreation Department. The holiday tour-with-a-twist included actors in period costumes portraying real figures from the era.

A volunteer dressed as Slater Lenoir, who built the house in 1877, greeted crowds at the door. Visitors were led through the house and encouraged to ask questions about the house and its occupants.

“By being able to ask questions, it feels more like a visit,” said Deborah Slade Thompson, executive director of the historical society. “It’s not a stage; it’s a home. We want people to see it as a family home.”


Acting as Margaret Lenoir, Betty Cook Rottmann reads historic letters. Some of the original letters are kept by the Boone County Historical Society.

That atmosphere was evident, with poinsettias, garlands and holiday decorations lining the halls. The rooms had a cozy feel, and the hosts were warm and gracious in welcoming their guests.

Ryan and Kimberly Kenney, who are married in real life, played newlyweds Dr. Frank G. and Lavinia Lenoir Nifong.

“I’m very interested in history,” Ryan Kenney said. “It’s fun to bring it back to life, and it gives us an opportunity to give back to the community. It’s the best way to learn about history.”

Kenney and his wife were happy to speak about the home’s furnishings, almost all of which are from the era.

“Most of the materials belong here,” said Bill Crawford, past president of the historical society. Crawford greeted guests in the parlor at the end of the tour and gave the history of the house. When it was built, it was considered a country home. Today, it sits next to U.S. 63 and is owned by the city, which reopened it to the public in 1976 after extensive restoration.


Betty Cook Rottmann, acting as Margaret Lenoir, holds a letter box and a photocopy of a letter written in 1834 by Sara Slater.

Renee Ortmann toured the house with her whole family, including her three young children.

“I thought the kids might like it,” she said. “I thought they might think it was neat, with the old dolls and old stoves.”

More than 100 people signed up for the tour, but the flu and other winter bugs forced several parties to cancel. One Girl Scout troop that had signed on for two tour slots had only enough girls to fill one.

Still, the mood was cheerful and festive. As the tour ended, guests wandered down to the society’s museum for refreshments and Christmas carols.

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