For the first time -- and possibly the last -- the 19th-century homes around Westminster's historic Belle Grove Square will be open for a holiday tour.
Local florists have been busy this week decorating the six houses that will be open Saturday, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., along with the two churches that anchor the square. The tour will feature live seasonal music.
"Christmas in the Park -- A Tour and More" has the support of the city's Historic District Commission, its Department of Recreation and Parks, and Greater Westminster Development Corp.
The idea arose more than a year ago -- in August 1995 -- when East Middle School librarian Laurie Walters was asked to include her Park Avenue home on Carroll County's Harvest House Tour.
"When I was asked to put my house on the Harvest Tour, I said, 'Oh no, no, no,' but it got me thinking: If they wanted my house when there are ones that are much prettier, we could do our own tour to share theses treasures that we're a part of," Walters said.
"These were in-town houses built for city living -- a little planned community."
The styles of the houses include Victorian, Queen Anne and Georgian. Two were on previous tours, she said, but the other four never have been open to the public.
Belle Grove Square is bounded by Green Street, Bond Street, Park Place and Park Avenue. The 30-lot parcel once was known as Matthew's Addition because it was developed by George W. Matthews, who donated the acre park to the city in 1877, said Jay A. Graybeal, director of the Historical Society of Carroll County.
The tour will benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Maryland. Walters said they chose the foundation as the beneficiary because a friend, Sandy Scott, has two children with the disease.
Scott, a former teacher, is co-owner of a nearby shop, the Hickory Stick.
"I feel very loved and honored, to see the whole town take part," said Scott. "I'm not the true recipient -- but this will benefit my children who both have CF." No cure exists for the fatal hereditary disease -- a cellular condition that is not contagious -- but the foundation is making strides in testing and a possible gene therapy, she said.
The $10 ticket includes a booklet with write-ups on the houses and line drawings by art honors students at Westminster High School. To support the tour, seven downtown restaurants are offering ticket holders a 10 percent discount on meals Dec. 14 to Dec. 21.
Entertainment in the park will include the Westminster Band, the Westminster High School brass ensemble and carolers.
St. Paul's United Church of Christ will have a choir and handbell chorus, with light fare for sale by its youth group. Brownie Scouts will sell luminary gift sets.
Westminster Church of the Brethren will offer free cookies and punch to tour participants.
Both churches are on the square.
The homes are being decorated by Dutterer's Flower Shop, Hock's Floral Design, Flowers by Evelyn, the Flower Box, Kingsdene Nurseries and Bowman's Christmas Shop.
After Walters pitched the idea, "It just went from there," said Thomas B. Beyard, the city director of planning and public works. "The city has done a lot of work on it, the florists, the businesses. We hope it will be a success."
Tickets are available at the participating florists' shops and restaurants, the Hickory Stick and other downtown businesses, and will be sold at the two churches the day of the tour. The City Hall information number is 848-7967.
Pub Date: 12/12/96