Splendid Christmas Feast – Elling House celebrates the holidays and history with feast

This display adorns a piano at the Elling House in Virginia City. Photo by Greg Lemon

VIRGINIA CITY – More than a hundred years ago, Mary Elling held community gatherings in her house on the hill at the corner of east Idaho and Fairweather Streets. She was known as a gracious community resident and fabulous hostess.

She’d probably be tickled by the thought of a Christmas celebration called a “Splendid Feast,” being held in her restored home.

The Elling House Arts and Humanities Center will hold their annual Christmas dinner – the Splendid Feast – this Friday and Saturday night at the Elling House.

The house was originally built by Henry Elling in 1876, said Gary Forney, who is on the board for the Elling House Arts and Humanities Center.

Henry Elling was a Virginia City businessman, banker and merchant. And though his wife was beloved by the community, Henry wasn’t popular and was considered kind of a miser, Forney said.

After his death at the turn of the century, Mary added on to the family home specifically for holding community events, he said.

Since Mary Elling’s death in 1924, the house has changed hands a few times and has been used for storage.

About 15 years ago, Toni James, who owns Rank’s Mercantile in Virginia City, bought the home and began the process of restoring it.

“The house has always appealed to people and people just relate to it so well,” James said.

James started carrying on Mary Elling’s tradition of community gatherings, holding small concerts and gatherings called Chautauquas.
Eventually, interest in expanding the programs at the Elling House led to the formation of the Elling House Arts and Humanities Center in 2008.

The group has continued to expand the amount and kinds of programs offered at the Elling House, said Judy King, a board member with the group.

Now they hold art shows, concerts and literature readings, along with the Chautauquas, she said.

“We’re just trying to continue to extend the opportunity for people to have different kinds of cultural experiences,” Forney said.

This is the fourth annual Splendid Feast and the biggest fundraiser of the year for the group. Initially it was held one night, but the popularity of the event led it to be expanded to two nights. This year’s feast will be Dec. 16 and 17.

The feast is catered by chef Amy Kelley who, along with her husband Scott, owns the Gravel Bar and Banditos in Ennis. Kelley and the rest of the wait staff volunteer their services, King said.

Tickets for the meal are $50 and patrons are advised to bring a nice bottle of wine. Friday night’s event is already sold out, but some tickets may still be available for Saturday. For more information call James at 843-5454.

The Elling House Arts and Humanities Center in Virginia City plays host to its annual Splendid Feast this Friday and Saturday night. Photo by Greg Lemon

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