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Historic buildings, decorations attract many to Candlelight Tour in Havre de Grace

Christmas Music (genre)Christmas

Undaunted by the stormy weather, plenty of people in the holiday spirit walked up and down the streets of downtown Havre de Grace Sunday night to visit historic homes and churches on the city's 40th annual Candlelight Tour of Historic Havre de Grace.

The tour highlights the city's interesting architecture and history, while homeowners invite visitors into their residences to view Christmas decorations and chat.

The A.P. McCombs House at 120 S. Union Ave. had a constant stream of people coming in and out of the pink Victorian home.

A cheerful doorman wished visitors a Merry Christmas and offered homemade cookies and hot apple cider in the foyer.

Stockings and garland decorated the banister leading upstairs. Christmas music played in the sitting room, where a large tree decorated with white and gold ornaments stood in a corner.

The large dining room table with 22 seats was set with red and white candlesticks and festive dishes.

Bel Air resident Rich Fleury sat in the sitting room to enjoy the decorations. It was his first time taking in the tour, having been invited by the owner of the home, Perry Stewart.

"I was intrigued," Fleury said.

Fleury and his wife had just come from the Havre de Grace United Methodist Church across the street, a sight he said was "incredible."

As Stewart was restoring the Union Avenue house, Fleury was able to see it in various stages.

"She invested a fortune to bring it back to how it was originally," he said. "It's really a throwback to the [Victorian] period style."

In the kitchen was a woman putting sheets of cookie dough into the oven. Stewart, the host, stood nearby drinking a glass of wine and interacting with her guests.

She wasn't sure how many people had come through at that point, but knew it was "a lot."

"It hasn't stopped," she laughed, adding that 600 cookies had come out of the oven so far.

It's the first year Stewart's house has been on the tour since she bought the property at auction in 2009.

Ornate and stunning

Over at Havre de Grace United Methodist Church, at 101 S. Union Ave., a small group took a tour of the different rooms.

Garland and lights decorated the balcony and a woman playing the organ lured in guests.

The church, with high vaulted ceilings, didn't need much decoration, as it's ornate and stunning without twinkling lights or Christmas trees.

The building was built in 1901 and 1902 in a modified Gothic style with granite from Port Deposit.

Havre de Grace resident Garrison Souder attended Port Deposit's candlelight tour of historic homes a week earlier and decided, for the first time, to be part of his city's tour, as well.

By the time he arrived at the church, Souder was already midway through the tour, having seen the homes near the water.

Souder's favorite stop so far was the home of Allan Michero and Brian Ferri on Giles Street.

"It's just a beautiful home," he said. "I wanted to see as many of the old houses as possible."

Souder's own Christmas traditions are "typical," he said.

The family gets together on Christmas Eve and then everyone opens presents that night "so we don't have to wake up early," he laughed.

Many candles, homage to Ravens

The home of Bill and Gay Lynn Price at 200 S. Stokes St. took the candlelight theme to heart and lit up the entire house with candles.

The Prices have worked to restore the house since 2003, keeping the original fireplace, woodwork and ceilings, while adding some of their own personal touches and keeping the home's historical credibility.

Built between 1889 and 1902, the Stokes Street house is also one of the oldest on the tour.

Two musicians played instruments and sang Christmas tunes in the foyer, while Bill Price stood in the living room to greet visitors.

One guest asked if any previous owners passed away in the house, and Price told a tale of one former owner who smoked cigarettes and wore Rose Milk lotion.

Although that owner passed away years ago, Price said when the bought the house, he could still smell the cigarettes, even when he and his wife don't smoke, and the Rose Milk. Since renovating the house, however, Price said he hasn't smelled either scent.

The Prices have done the Candlelight Tour for four or five years, but not consecutively.

The house had many Christmas decorations up, including a large tabletop tree surrounded by a train set at the base.

"We started right after Thanksgiving," Price said about decorating. "It's the night of December and I'm done decorating. I cruise right into the holidays."

Surprisingly, the same ornate decorations would still go up, Price said, tour or no tour. The event just sped up the process.

One thing that set the Price's home apart from other homes on the tour: A Ravens Room.

Price, who wore a purple Ravens T-shirt underneath a green vest, explained that Christmas is the perfect time to show off the Ravens paraphernalia he has collected, such as purple lights, rugs, blankets and pillows.

Price estimated that around 200 people had come through his home as of 7 p.m., with many more expected before the tour's end at 8 p.m.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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