New & notable books: homes for the holidays

For those who love touring homes with a role in history, the icing on the holiday cake is tours of these sorts of places with the halls all decked with balls of holly and the warm glow of Christmas lights. I should know because I am exactly this sort of person, and this season, I’ve already scheduled two such tours of mansions once owned by the illustrious DuPont family.

So, you can imagine my enthusiasm for a big, thick book that wraps up 19 such tours at homes across North America, illustrated with more than 360 color photos.

Penned by Patricia Hart McMillan and David Strahan, partners in a San Antonio architecture and interior design firm, Christmas at America’s Landmark Houses includes five spots in Texas: the Spanish Governor’s Palace in San Antonio; Bayou Bend in Houston; East Terrace in Waco; the Fassel-Roeder House in Fredericksburg; and the childhood home of George W. Bush in Midland.

Some of the homes are grand and fancy — like the Fonthill Museum, a concrete castle in Doylestown, Pa., with 44 rooms and 32 stairways — while others — like the Clintons’ cottage in Fayetteville, Ark., where Bill and Hillary lived while teaching at the state university’s law school — are more humble. Each home’s story includes details about architecture, interior design and the notable people who called the place home.

Christopher Radko, the king of ornament bling, writes the foreword, offering readers some information about his own Christmases at his perfectly preserved 1860s home in upstate New York.

Full disclosure: While I didn’t work on this book directly, I am an editor at Schiffer, the book’s publisher, and so have a natural bias toward the tome. However, I have historic proof that I am a true fan: Back in 2010 when I was an editor at the Star-Telegram, I bought a book I loved called Christmas at Historic Homes by Patricia Hart McMillan & Katharine Kaye McMillan, a very similar book that featured different houses.

To be honest, I had never noticed the publisher’s name on the book and, when I started working at Schiffer, I was surprised and delighted to see the book was part of the company’s list. This follow-up is even better, and the Lone Star State connections make it especially appealing for me, like a quick trip to Texas, back home for the holidays.

Catherine Mallette, Special to the Star-Telegram

Christmas at America’s Landmark Houses

  • By Patricia Hart McMillan & David Strahan, with a foreword by Christopher Radko
  • Schiffer Publishing, $45