'Downton Abbey' takes Rochester with ties close to home

Alice Keefe
Updated: February 19, 2020 05:38 PM
Created: February 19, 2020 04:54 PM

(ABC 6 News) - Hold onto your tea and crumpets because ‘Downton Abbey’ has arrived in Rochester, and surprisingly, it hits close to home.

What does Rochester, Minnesota have in common with the popular PBS show? 


According to Matthew Dacy with the Mayo Clinic Heritage Program, quite a lot.

“There’s a remarkable connection between Mayo Clinic and ‘Downton Abbey' on two levels. If you know the plot of ‘Downton Abbey’ it deals with the loss of the family’s heir aboard the RMS Titanic,” Dacy said.

What you might not know, is that Dr. William Mayo and Mr. and Mrs. Kahler were also traveling the North Atlantic Sea that fateful April day in 1912 aboard the ship Amerika.

“Their ship saw the iceberg, sent a warning that the Titanic acknowledged but did not heed, and 12 hours later the Titanic struck the iceberg and went down. So one of the great ‘what if’ questions of Mayo Clinic is, had the iceberg hit Dr. Mayo’s ship, or had he been ending his trip and booked passage on the Titanic, how different things might have been,” Dacy said.

While it’s impossible to know the “what if,"  but the history of the Mayos and Kahlers made the Chateau Theatre’s new exhibit, Dressing the Abbey, a perfect fit.

“If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, which you’re going to become, you will know it’s the Super Bowl of PBS, okay? The story of the Crowley family is a wonderful soap opera of the turn-of-the-century,” said Amy Noble Seitz, founder, and CEO of Exhibits Development Group, the operator of the Chateau Theatre.

The exhibit spans the Chateau Theatre, the Kahler Grand Hotel, and the Olmsted County History Center, putting 32 of the show’s costumes on display.

“A number of very, very famous actors have donned these costumes, so people will come just to see Maggie Smith's costumes, or Shirley MacLaine’s,” Noble Seitz said.

The costumes are exquisite, with intricate beading and stitch work, but for Dacy, that story is woven from the same fabric of Rochester’s own.

“Play it against the real history of Rochester, of Mayo Clinic and the Kahler Hotel, it becomes not just a thing you watch on TV, but part of our story here, in this city,” he said.

Admission for the exhibit, which runs through April 8, is $15 for adults, and does not include the Chateau’s other exhibit, The Magical History Tour; however, for $25 visitors can access both.

Throughout the exhibit’s duration, visitors can experience an ‘English High Tea’ at the Kahler Grand Hotel on Sundays for $50. 

For more information on tickets and events at the Chateau, visit their website

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