Victorian Christmas Home Tour a hit

PARKERSBURG — Visitors had the chance to see how different people decorate for the Christmas season during the 18th annual Julia-Ann Square Historic District’s Victorian Christmas Home Tour.

On Saturday and Sunday hundreds of people went through the district and toured five homes which have been decorated for the holiday season in a variety of styles, from period to modern.

This year’s tour saw a record number of people throughout the weekend, said organizer Judith Smith whose home was on the tour.

“This is a record number of people on both days,” she said. “(On Saturday), we had over 500 people and (on Sunday) it was a continuous flow of people.”

Smith believed that was due to the warm weather and a push on social media to get the word out about the event.

“We are truly experiencing a wonderful year,” she said.

The homes on this year’s holiday tour included: the Nelly-Dyck House at 1024 Ann St.; the Caswell-Smith House at 1024 Juliana St.; the Dils-Creel House at 1103 Juliana St.; the Scott-Rodersheimer/Quispe House at 1111 Juliana St.; and the Leach-Nicholson House at 1214 Ann St.

“We always try to have five,” Smith said.

Julia-Ann Square is a community of approximately 125 homes, primarily built from the mid-1800s through 1900-1915. The entire district has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977. It features various architecture styles, including late Victorian, Colonial Revival and many examples of Queen Anne architecture.

Proceeds from the annual tour and other activities in the district throughout the year are used for improvements to the historic district, Smith said.

“It is our biggest fundraiser,” she said. “Every bit of it goes back into the district.”

Money from the tour has gone to pay for period lighting, arches at the entrances to the district, renovations to Riverview Cemetery and more in the district.

“All the things that you see that are improvements were bought by these wonderful people who come and tour our homes through their entrance fee,” Smith said.

Many of the visitors came to see the homes, how they were laid out, how they were decorated for the holidays and more.

Linda Watson, of Williamstown, has been around old homes all of her life.

“I love old homes and I live in a house that is 107 years old in Williamstown,” she said. “This is a passion of mine.”

She likes the woodwork that goes into many homes, the floor work and many aspects of the architecture as well as the period holiday decorations.

“I grew up in an old home and I have lived in an old home for over 50 years,” Watson said. “It is just my love for older homes.”

Joyce Hawley, of Williamstown, has wanted to go on the home tour for awhile and on Sunday other friends wanted to go so she came out.

“I joined the crowd,” she said.

Hawley was impressed with what she saw.

“It is very beautiful,” she said. “It is just amazing to see how people lived.

“It is very impressive.”

Melanie Drane, of Friendly, had a great time on the tour last year.

“I enjoyed it so much last year that I wanted to come again,” she said.

Judy Johnson, of Vincent, and Diane McMichael, of Barlow, both love older Victorian homes

“We wanted an opportunity to see these dressed in their best Christmas finery,” McMichael said.

The homes represent a little bit of wish fulfillment for the two friends.

“It is like the house we wish we could live in, but since we can’t we like to see how other people live in them,” Johnson said. “It is inspiring and gets you in the holiday mood.”

McMichael said the tour has made her want to go and search for things in her own home.

“It inspires me to go home and find something I haven’t brought out in awhile to use at Christmas, pretty dishes and things,” she said.

In addition to many local people, Smith said they had visitors from Winchester, Va., and many from the Lake Erie area in Ohio. She hopes people get the sense of history that is part of the district.

“I hope the people who come on the tour, they gain an appreciation for these houses,” Smith said. “It is truly remarkable and wonderful that they are all still here. There is so much history in each house.”

The district at large housed so many important people from West Virginia’s history, including the state’s first U.S. Senator Peter Van Winkle, Governor William E. Stevenson and Joseph H. Diss Debar who created the seal for the state of West Virginia.

“There is just a wealth of information and history that many in Parkersburg have no idea is here,” Smith said.

Justin Roedersheimer, who owns the house at 1111 Juliana St. with Mario Quispe, said they wanted to be on this year’s tour to help raise the visibility of the neighborhood.

They want to be stewards to take care of the homes in the neighborhood for the benefit of the whole community.

“We really want to impart the history of Parkersburg on the people who live here and to those who are visiting,” Roedersheimer said. “We want to bring more people in to enjoy the neighborhood.”

The neighborhood is unique in Parkersburg and they want people to be able to really cherish it, he said. They had a lot of people come to their house throughout the weekend.

“We had about 600 people come through (Saturday) and (Sunday) we ran out of tickets very quickly,” Roedersheimer said. “They have been wonderful, very appreciative and very polite.”