White Hall was the home of Cassius Marcellus Clay. Clay is best known as an emancipationist, and a US Minister to Russia. He also served three terms in the State House of Representatives, fought in the Mexican-American War and was a founder of the Republican party. He was a newspaper man and a friend to Abraham Lincoln. Throughout his colorful career, he lived at White Hall, the name he gave his Italianate 44 room mansion. White Hall was actually built as an addition and remodel to his father’s home of Clermont. So the house encompasses both the older sections of Clermont and the newer portions of White Hall.
The mid 19th century saw a rise in Christmas traditions in this country. The English Queen, Victoria, brought the popular traditions of a Christmas tree, Christmas cards, and other customs to the forefront. Both her mother and husband, Prince Albert, were German, where these symbols were already part of the holiday season. Victoria reigned in England from 1837 to 1901.
This was a time of rising wealth and power in the US. Men like Clay with their mansions, and international connections, carried on these traditions. Today the staff at White Hall State Historic Home begin decorating in early November. A large tree greets visitors in the drawing room and the first floor library and dining rooms show customs of the season. From the newel post on the main staircase to the children’s rooms on the second floor each of the bedrooms are themed in color and design as they might have appeared in the mid 1900’s.