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Anderson Mansion adds history and charm to Christmas Market

The focal point of the Carlinville Christmas Market has always been the festively decorated town square, which surrounds the famous gazebo and hosts the festival’s prominent white arts and crafts tents each December. But just a mile or so north and a little bit west of the square is another Carlinville landmark with an even longer tradition than the Market. It is the Anderson estate, anchored by the Anderson Mansion that is home to the Macoupin County Historical Society (MCHS).

The charm of the Anderson Mansion is its 13 rooms, each of which is decorated for the holidays and hosts its own Christmas tree, hand decorated by MCHS members and volunteers who do so simply for the joy of celebrating the season. Visitors may tour the entire Mansion, including an attic that truly is a step back in time, at their own pace. Knowledgeable guides are on hand to answer questions. The cost is $3 for adults, $1 for children younger than six. The gift shop on the first floor sells souvenirs, toys, collectibles, and freshly baked cookies.

The Mansion’s “Destination Christmas” display alone is a touch of seasonal charm that is worth the visit, but guests also can walk the grounds to see an operating blacksmith shop, the print shop, the antiques barn, and the old General Store. In the famous “red barn,” hungry visitors will find food, snacks, and drinks, including beef stew, BBQ sandwiches, hot dogs, fresh biscuits, home-made pies, as well as coffee, tea, and spiced apple-cinnamon drinks.

Christmas Market visitors may drive to the Mansion, but the easiest way to get there is aboard the Christmas Market trolley, which is free. The trolley leaves from the town square and takes visitors on a half-hour narrated tour of Carlinville’s historic landmarks. Riders can get off at any one of the three stops -- including the Anderson Mansion -- and then re-board during a later run for the return trip to the festival on the square.

“This has been a great partnership,” said MCHS President Wes Loveless. “We founded our Historical Society in 1970, bought the Anderson property in 1973, and later opened our MCHS Museum in the Mansion itself after a lot of rehab work. We started our Christmas decoration program in 1996, but it really took off when we joined with the Christmas Market in 1997 to bring in the trolley service. That allowed visitors to the Market easy transportation to the Mansion and vice versa.

“We’re happy to be part of the Christmas Market weekend, to attract visitors to Carlinville, and do our part to show them a real slice of Central Illinois history.”