I was honored to attend a Christmas tour this evening, in one of the most beautiful old homes in the area. My mother and sister Linda accompanied me. Don and Becky Freeman, the current owners of the Elijah Thomas Webb House in Webb City, graciously invited us to take a peek inside this grand home, decorated for the holidays.
The Webbs of Webb City
Elijah (1851 – 1936) was the son of John C. Webb, the founder of the city that bears his name. John came to Missouri from Tennessee in 1856, settling on 200 acres. Eventually he acquired an additional 120 acres, part of which would later become the community of Webb City.
While plowing in a cornfield in 1873, John discovered lead. He quickly turned mining operations over to a partner, while he built a community. Webb platted the town of Webb City in July 1875. The following year, the Center Creek Mining Company began operations on Webb’s land. Miners flocked to the area. Most of them lived in nearby Joplin, which, at the time, was filled with gambling halls, saloons, and brothels.
However, the mine owners chose to make their homes in Webb City. The town was incorporated in December 1876 with a population of about 700. As the town grew, shops, hotels, saloons and businesses sprang up. In 1882 John and his son Elijah opened the Webb City Bank. John died the following year. Elijah continued to operate the bank and manage the family’s land and mineral interests, which were leased to numerous operators.
Having become a very wealthy man, Elijah built a magnificent Queen Anne style home during the last decade of the 19th Century. The house featured two stories with an attic and cupola, 12-foot ceilings, inlaid wood floors, three fireplaces, oak trim, and all the trimmings of a successful man of the time. This beautiful home continues to stand in the city today, a historic treasure that has been lovingly restored.
Mom, Linda and I arrived a few minutes early at the Webb home, so I could take photos before most of the guests arrived. Even in the dark, the exterior of the home is enchanting. Lights in the windows and on the front porch invited us in.
Don and Becky greeted us, and then encouraged us to wander through the house. We happily accepted the invitation.
Every room is faithfully restored, and filled with furnishing from the 1860s and 70s. Don shared with us that Elijah was allergic to carpet fibers. He created gorgeous wood floors instead. The detailing and the wood trim is exquisite. Themes inside the house, such as the carved fan shapes on the staircase, are carried outside onto the front porch.
The wallpaper is hand printed, and while not original to the house, it is a perfect representation of the time period. Hot water radiators still provide heat. And air conditioning is rarely needed. The design of the house, with its high ceilings and transom windows above doors, allows for the circulation of air.
Every room in the Webb Home sparkled with Christmas cheer. A variety of decorated trees graced rooms and nooks. In older homes the rooms are more intimate, more cozy, and doorways connect the spaces. That architectural detail allowed guests to circle through rooms this evening and ohhh and ahhh over the décor.
Fireplaces originally contributed to heating a home. They still can. Whether there’s a fire crackling within them or not, they add warm ambiance and draw the eyes when entering a room. Webb House has several such eye catchers.
Dressed for Christmas, the house features an impressive collection of large scale seasonal décor. Santa appears in one room. Carolers surround a lamppost in another. It was fun to wander through the rooms and be delighted and surprised.
Christmas Tour Continues Upstairs
How fun to tour the main floor and the upstairs. Up those magnificent stairs we went, to see what awaited us on the second floor. Trees shine in each bedroom, and a vintage silver aluminum tree occupies a corner of the wide landing. I laughed when I saw the leg lamp and BB gun, from the 1983 film, A Christmas Story, in a bedroom.
The biggest surprise upstairs is the Nightmare Before Christmas room! This space, which is part of an extended bedroom suite, was originally a sleeping porch. It now serves as a family room, complete with a large screen tv.
Characters from the quirky Tim Burton animation fill this room. My family appreciates Halloween and this film, which is a blending of the two holidays. We loved this playful room.
We so enjoyed the Elijah Thomas Webb House Christmas Tour. I’m grateful that Don and Becky invited us to their home. Shortly after we arrived the rooms filled with happy people and the sounds of laughter and conversations drifted through the big old house.
What a labor of love. Historical homes require a great deal of research, work and time to restore them to their glory. They are so worth the effort. Every home has value. These old homes, however, are an important part of the area’s history. Their stories merge with those of towns and cities and the people who founded them.
Thank you, Don and Becky, for loving this home and caring for it. Truly, it is spectacular. And thank you for opening wide your doors and allowing others to appreciate the Webb Home as well, in all its Christmas finery. Merry, merry Christmas.