Matilda Dodge Wilson and Frances Dodge sledding in the winter.

Home for the Holidays with the Dodge and Wilson Family

Meadow Brook has always been a place of joy and laughter during the holidays, particularly when the family was growing and living here. The Dodge and Wilsons always came home for the holidays. Learn more about their traditions below!

Matilda’s Memories

In 1959, Matilda told the Detroit Free Press her favorite memory was gifts being delivered by horse and cutter on Christmas morning, a tradition she continued with her own family.

“When I was a girl, at home, our Christmases were very simple. We were a small family and our relatives lived too far away in Canada to be with us. This is probably why I’ll always remember the exciting times at Meadow Brook.”

With five children, three stepchildren and many grandchildren, Christmas was always a fun and joyful time!


The Most Wonderful Time of Year

Sleigh ride at Meadow Brook HallIn later years, Frances, wearing a long red velvet cape, took on the role of delivering presents on Christmas morning, and the family placed them under the tree together.

Richard and Barbara gleefully remembered one year when Frances brought a horse through the front door and into the living room as a present for their mother—a joke they swore only Frances could get away with.

A home video shows Alfred, Matilda, Richard and Barbara sitting together on the floor in front of a lit tree, having just finished setting up Richard’s new electric train set. His most memorable gift was his first two-wheeled bicycle. Because of the snow that year, his parents let him ride it inside The Hall!

Joy to the World

Matilda Dodge Wilson cared deeply about helping others during the holidays and all year long. She picked out clothes and presents herself for the children at Denby House, a home for children and unwed mothers in Detroit.

Every Christmas Eve, the Dodge-Wilson family visited Denby House, a home for children and unwed mothers in Detroit.

After watching the children perform a play, Matilda and her family distributed 60-80 handwrapped gifts and shared cookies and milk. Matilda was said to know each child individually and she spent weeks personally picking out a new outfit and toys for each child.

The Salvation Army named her Volunteer of the Year for her tendency to show up on Christmas during the Depression with food from Meadow Brook Farms, roll up her sleeves and help cook a healthy breakfast.

A Time of Generosity

Meadow Brook Hall staff during the holidays in 1945.“Holiday dinners for the employees were outstanding too: The table set with some of Mrs. Wilson’s special linens, dishes and of course a center piece from the greenhouse….

The staff Christmas tree was large and lovely with many beautiful gifts. Everyone received one from each member of the family, plus an envelope with a gift of money from Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, also from the pets for the party who cared for each of them.” – Beatrice Whitaker, head housekeeper.