Sunday, December 16, 2018

Christmas With a Million Lights: Portland's Victorian Belle

In an eclectic little North Portland neighborhood just off of I-5 stands a rather incongruous sight: a stunning Victorian mansion set in 2.5 acres of flawlessly manicured gardens. Known as the Victorian Belle, this beautifully-restored home has been a wedding destination for two decades, but the romance started early for this 1885 structure. David Cole, a ship captain and store owner, built this lacy confection of a dwelling as a wedding gift for his wife Amanda Boone Cole, who was the great-granddaughter of the frontiersman and folk hero Daniel Boone. Said to have been built entirely from lumber milled on the property, the home boasted such novelties as hot and cold running water, central heating, and interior electricity. Povey Brothers Studio, known as the "Tiffany of the Northwest," created the beautiful stained glass windows. A private residence for a century, the mansion is now a fully-restored showpiece filled with antiques. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places and open to the public, the house draws countless visitors to its year-round events. To see the Belle at her finest, though, one must visit at Christmastime and experience The Miracle of a Million Lights. Hurry, though; this unique display only runs from 6:00 to 10:00 through December 23.

This spectacular display covers the house, the grounds, and the garden gazebo. The glow of (literally) over a million lights can be seen for blocks. Wander through the gardens, check out the model trains, or relax with your family and watch a holiday movie. Warm up beside the bonfire and maybe indulge in a s'more. Pause to let the kids make a craft project. Plan to spend much of the evening; the display is well worth the admission fee. Then turn your attention to the inside of the mansion, where more than 20 trees have been decorated for the holiday. Visitors are allowed access to all three floors; spend as much time as you wish in the beautifully-appointed rooms, each decorated in a different theme. Due to its many decades as a family home, the mansion has been remodeled many times; keep any eye out for such oddities as doorways that lead nowhere. It's fun to imagine what life was like here a century ago, when Kenton was an up-and-coming working-class neighborhood to the north of Portland.

The mansion is located at 1441 N McClellan Street; click here for driving directions. Once you're near the tall, glowing house, it's hard to miss! Plan on lots of other visitors, as this is a popular Portland Christmas tradition. Bring your camera; photography is encouraged, and it's hard to take a bad picture of the beautiful Belle. Bring the kids (or kids at heart) and make some holiday memories among a million lights.

The author amongst the display

Note the gentle light shining through the Povey Brothers windows

Paul Bunyan stands proud in this Portland-themed display

The model train zips past a model of Beacon Rock in the Columbia River Gorge

Even the houses in the model train village are lit up for Christmas

Walk amongst the lighted trees and toast a s'more with Rudolph

Lighted trees shine through intricate, antique lace curtains

Merry Christmas, we'll see you out there next year!