Meadow Brook reopens for tours, activities

Meadow Brook Hall, the old summer home of Oakland University founder Matilda Dodge Wilson, is once again open to the public after being shut down due to COVID-19.

Shannon O’Berski, the director of external relations at Meadow Brook, has been hard at work with her team behind the scenes in order to open the hall in a way that is safe for visitors. 

“As part of the leadership team here at Meadow Brook, we had to really come up with ways to reopen the house and we continued to try to do that over and over again, but we never knew when the updates or mandates were going to come,” she said.

When the stay-at-home order was rolled back, the staff made sure the grounds were clean and safe for visitors.

As with most places around the state, it is required for guests to wear face masks and to maintain social distancing to the best of their ability while they are touring the estate.

Though the estate has offered guided tours in the past, they will not be available over the summer. Instead, visitors are encouraged to download the Meadow Brook app and take a self guided tour, which is able to provide historic anecdotes about the house and gardens.

The tours will be available on a reduced schedule, with visitation hours being cut back to Friday through Tuesday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We are taking this very seriously and we’ve implemented every precaution that has been mandated,” O’Berski said. “We have a really good, professional team here. They took it very seriously and they’re implementing those policies. People seem to be enjoying themselves.”

Though social distancing is still encouraged, touring the grounds is free and offers guests the chance to enjoy the mansion has to offer in a fun and safe way.  

“People are itching to get outside and do something and I think they feel safe here,” O’Berski said. “Just enjoy the space until you’re more comfortable to come inside.”

O’Berski said guests are encouraged to have a picnic on the grounds and partake in any of the lawn games, which are sanitized daily. For those looking for other recreational activities, the estate has also been offering yoga classes and summer concerts.

Abigail Austin is a sophomore at Oakland and has previously visited the mansion. She has especially enjoyed coming to the estate for their Christmas celebrations with her family.

Though she knows the estate is doing what they can to implement safe guidelines for staff and guests, she personally feels more comfortable visiting in the fall. However, she said she would most likely attend one of the fall events if they are still going to happen.

“Depending on the status of the pandemic, I would most likely go,” she said. “I think the mansion is a place where you could easily space people and maintain social distancing, so I believe it would be pretty safe.”

Mary Gass, a senior at Oakland, said she has enjoyed the events in the past and if the hall takes social distancing seriously, she would be okay attending the events.

“Personally, I think if i’m wearing a mask and I know everyone else is required to wear a mask and they’re not hosting at full capacity, then I would feel safe,” she said. 

O’Berski said it’s understandable if people are nervous, since this is an unprecedented time and everyone’s personal circumstances differ, but she encouraged those who feel safe to come out and enjoy what the mansion has to offer. 

“We are staying on top of it because we are a public museum, a public institution and we want people to come and feel safe,” O’Berski said. “We want to be a place that people can come and have a positive experience and maybe forget for just a little bit all the craziness that’s happening in the world right now.”