There’s certainly no shortage of holiday events and celebrations throughout the Kansas City metro area. One place in particular deserves special recognition not only because it’s steeped in history, but also because it is home to some of the most beautiful holiday decorations in the city. Welcome to the Strawberry Hill Museum & Cultural Center.
Perched on a hillside in the aptly named Strawberry Hill neighborhood in downtown Kansas City, Kan., the museum is inside a Victorian home that dates back to 1887, when it was built by 21-year-old John G. Braecklein for John and Mary Scroggs. According to information provided by the museum, “it was one of the most outstanding examples of the Queen Anne style to have been erected in Kansas City, Kan.”
The Scroggs family lived in the home for 32 years, after which it was sold to the Sisters of St. Francis of Christ the King, who ran an orphanage out of the home for 69 years. In 1988, the orphanage closed its doors due to what the museum called “changing social needs.” A number of Strawberry Hill residents and other community stakeholders, led by Msgr. John W. Horvat, feared the home would eventually be destroyed, and instead created the Strawberry Hill Ethnic Cultural Society, which acquired the home and transformed it into the museum that stands today.
Each year, a staff of hardworking volunteers (at least one of whom has been with the museum since it opened) spends nearly a month decorating the immaculately preserved interior for the holidays. Step in the onsite chapel, for example, and marvel over a number of nativity scenes, including one that’s in miniature. Upstairs, you’ll find several bedrooms whose “inhabitants” are preparing for a Christmas celebration—you’ll almost feel like you’re intruding on a special family tradition!
A sizable portion of the museum is also dedicated to showcasing the rich ethnic heritage of the neighborhood, and during the holidays, an Ethnic Traditions exhibit highlights the festivities and celebrations of several countries and cultures. Stroll through the museum and you’ll be instantly transported to Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and the Ukraine, to name a few.
And while you’re there, be sure to stop at one of the museum’s most treasured exhibits: a bed used by Pope John Paul II during his TWA flights.
“When Msgr. John Horvat, a Catholic priest, heard that items used on the Pope’s Papal visits to the U.S. were being stored at TWA, he requested from TWA that a more suitable area could be had at the Ethnic Museum,” according to an exhibit summary provided by the Strawberry Hill Museum. “The articles could be on display promoting the Polish immigrants that settled in and around the Strawberry Hill area in Kansas City, Kan. Arrangements were made with TWA with the promise that on the next two Papal visits, the bed, linens, pillows, footstool and other items would be made available.”
Ready to plan a visit?
The Strawberry Hill Museum
is open every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Be sure to allow enough time to browse through the gift shop and enjoy a tasty, culturally authentic treat in the museum’s tea room (open from 1-4 p.m.).
During this season of celebration, there’s no better time to appreciate the rich heritage and traditions of the families and communities that have made Kansas City such a culturally diverse city, and the Strawberry Hill Museum is one of the best places to honor our collective history.
Katy Ryan Schamberger is a KC-based, downtown dwelling, Online Content Marketing Manager and Magazine Journalist with a Passion for Words, Stories and Technology. Katy’s love of the city reached a fever pitch with the publication of her first book, Moon Kansas City. When Katy isn’t writing, you’ll find her exploring her River Market neighborhood or at one of many favorite local shops, restaurants or bars. Follow Katy on Twitter at @katywrites.