Cultivating History

PARKERSBURG – With beautiful weather throughout most of the weekend, many people came out to the annual Victorian Spring Home Garden Tour and Tea in the Julia-Ann Square Historic District on Saturday and Sunday.

Over 200 visitors walked through the district Saturday with many coming out Sunday to look at the historic homes and the gardens that the current owners have cultivated.

The locations on this year’s tour included: the Katharine and Madison Brown House at 904 Juliana St.; the Shawn and Rebecca Blevins House at 944 Juliana St.; the Julie and Jim Deklavon House at 1203 Ann St.; the Calvin Wilson House at 931 Juliana St.; The Caswell-Smith House at 1024 Juliana St.; and the Ambler-Hanlon House at 109 West 12th St.

Judith Smith, one of the event organizers, said the tours went well throughout the weekend. Her house, known as the the Caswell-Smith House at 1024 Juliana St., was on the tour.

“We have nine different stops this year,” she said. “We have seven homes, two are yard only while the rest you get to go through the homes themselves.

“It has been a great response from the community.”

Although the weather was sunny and warm on Saturday, a little rain did fall on Sunday before the tour began and a bit more in the later afternoon during the tour.

“We were sort of worried, but we have learned not to worry,” Smith said. “This is our 14th year and it used to be that everything was outside.

“It might sprinkle a little, but we have never worried about it. People know, bring their umbrellas and have a good time anyway.”

Barb Moberg and Judy Piersall, of Marietta, came on the tour Sunday out of a love of history.

“My friend and I love old things,” Moberg said. “We love history and love to see how it is restored, especially in the Parkersburg and Marietta area.

“It is really wonderful seeing these Victorian homes restored to their original luster and charm.”

Piersall said they enjoy seeing how the homeowners incorporate antiques and family items into each home.

“It is gratifying to see how the owners used so many antiques throughout their homes,” she said.

Although there were fewer people Sunday than on Saturday, Smith said it was still a good turnout.

“We hope they get an appreciation, an enjoyment from seeing these homes,” she said. “We love sharing these old ladies (homes) with the people.

“They are just a treasure. Even people who have lived here all of their lives do not realize they are here.”

Money from the tours have helped make improvements to the district, including sidewalks, arches, period lighting and more.

Organizers also added the Riverview Cemetery to the tour this year.

“It is part of Julia-Ann Square,” Smith said. “People probably don’t know that.

“We are on an initiative to make it beautiful. We want to replace and put back the iron fence that was there and do lots of upgrades” she said of the cemetery.

Visitors also had the chance to visit the garden labyrinth at First Presbyterian Church at 1341 Juliana St. during the weekend event.

“People don’t even know it is there,” Smith said. “It belongs to the community, not the church.

“It is a mediation tool, often spiritual. In West Virginia, there are about five all over the state.”

Julie Deklavon, co-owner of the Julie and Jim Deklavon House at 1203 Ann St., said many people were coming out and enjoying the homes and properties.

“I think people like to get inside the homes, see the history inside, the architecture, the old tile, the wooden floors, and learn the history of Parkersburg,” she said. “A lot of it was here in this neighborhood.”

Katharine L. Brown, owner of the Katharine and Madison Brown House (also known as the Chancellor House) at 904 Juliana St., said the tour had gone extremely well Sunday.

“We were worried that the weather would be horrible and it would be pouring which would have scared people away,” she said. “I think the crowds have been good and compares favorably with what we got (Saturday) which was a really good day.

“It is very exciting, because it means we make more money for the neighborhood association and all of that goes back into improving the neighborhood,” Brown said.

“We are now interested in Riverview Cemetery and restoring that to a beauty spot for the neighborhood. It is exciting to have a hand in helping that,” she said.

Brown had a collection of old recipes from people who use to live around the neighborhood and compiled those into a cookbook, “Historic Parkersburg Cooks,” and was selling them during the tour.

Martha and Rowland Hill, of Ritchie County, own properties in the historical district and were out Sunday taking the tour to support the area. They came to the neighborhood Christmas tours, but were not able to spend the time they wanted to at Brown’s home. They came back Sunday to really take everything in.

“We are showing community solidarity,” Rowland Hill said. ”We are very active in historical preservation.”

The Hills always attend the tour every year.

“We always come to this event,” Martha Hill said. “The more the community works together, the better chance it has.

“I love going in and looking at the old homes. The substantial quality in the workmanship, it is hard to find. Parkersburg needs to be really careful about protecting all of that. Once it is gone, it is gone.”