Monday, December 20, 2004

Luminaria Evening offers quiet tour at Dana-Thomas House

One thousand brown bags emitting an orange glow lined the sidewalk, steps and ledges in and out of the Dana-Thomas House on Sunday evening as visitors lined up for the annual Luminaria Evening, a staple of the Springfield holiday season.

The luminarias have been a tradition since 1982, the year after the state bought the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home, except for three years during which the house was being restored, said Donald Hallmark, the manager of the home.

The first year the event was held, there were only 200 luminarias. "It's been growing ever since, as we find new horizontal ledges to cover," Hallmark said. "As long as it's safe."

Between 1,500 and 1,700 people pass through the home on the silent tour each year the Sunday before Christmas. It takes more than 25 volunteers to help at the home for the four-hour (4 to 8 p.m.) event. Volunteers spend between 30 and 45 minutes just lighting the candles.

The evening raises between $2,000 and $3,500 in donations.

The practice of luminarias comes from the American southwest, which Hallmark has spent time visiting. "Normally they put out candles on Christmas Eve. Then it became standard practice in Santa Fe to put them out in the days leading up to Christmas. They put out thousands and thousands," Hallmark said. "Springfield took to it from the very beginning."

Designed in 1902, the house was ready for socialite Susan Lawrence Dana to move in by 1904. Charles Thomas bought the 12,600-square-foot house at 301 E. Lawrence Ave. and its furnishings in 1944, two years before Dana died. Thomas used it as the headquarters of his publishing firm. It is now a state historic site.


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