Detroit’s early auto barons decked their halls in grand fashion for the holidays. Those traditions continue today—with some creative, contemporary twists—in two of Metro Detroit’s showiest estates that welcome visitors for special Christmas season tours.

Meadow Brook Hall

More than 50 glittering trees star in the “Landmark in Lights” Holiday Walk at Meadow Brook Hall, the English Tudor-revival mansion of Matilda Dodge Wilson and her second husband, Alfred Gaston Wilson. Built from 1926-29 in Rochester, 40 miles north of Detroit, this National Historic Landmark, with 110 rooms and 24 fireplaces, has been called an American castle.

An artist-designed ice castle tree and a 10-foot-tall poinsettia tree created from 150 live plants are the headliners at the 48th annual event. In addition to self-guided tours through December 23, there are guided candlelight tours, an ornament scavenger hunt and a final-week visit from Santa and two live reindeer.

Edsel & Eleanor Ford House

Only a few Christmas trees—but lots of garland and floral arrangements—celebrate the season at the home of Henry Ford’s son Edsel and his wife Eleanor Ford at their lakeside home in Grosse Pointe Shores, 15 miles from downtown Detroit.

For starters, there’s the traditional, double-flocked white tree that greets visitors to the 60-room, English Cotswold-style manor. It’s dressed with dozens of historic, teardrop glass ornaments that were hand-blown 60 years ago at the Ford River Rouge factory.

The focal point of the “Holiday Belles House Tours” is a giant topiary, made of greenery and golden balloons, that hangs from the vaulted ceiling in the gallery. Based on the grand debutante party Mrs. Ford threw in 1969 for her granddaughters, Lynn and Sheila, the décor includes colorful springtime florals and fruit arrangements, says spokesperson Claire Pfeiffer. “It’s definitely a different twist.”

Tours run Wednesdays-Sundays through January 5.

Hackley & Hume Historic Site

Elsewhere in Michigan, Muskegon’s Hackley & Hume Historic Site, with its pair of restored, Queen Anne homes, showcase Victorian holiday decor on December 7, 14, 21, 27 and 28.  

Top Photo: Meadow Brook Hall


Susan R. Pollack is an award-winning travel writer in suburban Detroit.

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