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Residents in Parkersburg, Vienna open doors for Christmas tours

Judith Smith, one of the organizers for the Victorian Christmas Home Tour in the Julia-Ann Square Historic District in Parkersburg, shows different aspects of her home at 1024 Juliana St. during the tour Sunday. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

PARKERSBURG — Two local holiday home tours did not have a shortage of people thanks to warmer temperatures and enthusiastic crowds on Sunday.

The annual Victorian Christmas Home Tour and Tea was held Saturday and Sunday in the Julia-Ann Square Historic District in Parkersburg and the GFWC Parkersburg Woman’s Club presented its Holly Trail 2019 tour of four homes in Parkersburg and Vienna on Sunday.

Temperatures in the mid-50s with sunny conditions brought a lot of people out for both events.

Judith Smith, one of the organizers for the Victorian Tour, said they had a big turnout with a lot of interest. Her home at 1024 Juliana St. was featured on the tour.

“The tour this year has been splendid,” she said. “We had around 550 people (on Saturday) and it was pretty steady (on Sunday).”

Terri Miller conducted tours at the Dils-Joseph House at 1103 Juliana St. on Sunday during the Victorian Christmas Home Tour in the Julia-Ann Square Historic District in Parkersburg. People got to tour different homes in the district to see how people decorated for the holidays. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

One of the reasons for the popularity is two homes were featured this year — built in the 1920s and the 1940s — that have not been part of the tours in the past.

“People wanted to get into those homes they haven’t seen,” Judith Smith said.

Smith hopes the people who went on the tour gain an appreciation for what the community has and its legacy that has been handed down through the years with some of the homes dating back to the 1800s.

“They need to be saved, restored and enjoyed by the current generation,” she said.

Charlie Smith, owner of the Gerwig House at 127 13th St., purchased the house in August and it is now “under various degrees of construction.” The house was built around 1920.

Charlie Smith, owner of the Gerwig House at 127 13th St., shows the dining room to visitors Sunday during the Victorian Christmas Home Tour in the Julia-Ann Square Historic District in Parkersburg. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

He decorated with 13 Christmas trees and other flourishes and accessories.

“It has been hit by the Christmas bomb,” Charlie Smith said.

He said he always wanted to be part of a holiday home tour and when the opportunity presented itself, he jumped at it.

“I hope people get to step back in time a little bit,” Charlie Smith said of the layout of the home and how it differs from more modern homes. “I think people want to see a different era and how people lived.

“It is interesting to step back and see the ghosts of times past.”

Richard and Victoria West, the owners of the home at 1800 Market St., Parkersburg, talk with Emily Vowls and Marsha Kelley of Belpre during the GFWC Parkersburg Woman’s Club Holly Trail 2019 tour of homes Sunday. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

It has been nine years since Peggy Elliott, of Smithville, W.Va., went on the tour. She took advantage of the opportunity to see the historical homes with a friend on Sunday.

“It was a chance to see these beautiful homes on the inside,” Elliott said. “‘We love to do it. We had the time and opportunity to do it.

“It is interesting to see how things used to be. I wish they would build homes like this now.”

For many people, it is the chance to see the architecture of the homes as well as how people decorate, said Terri Miller, who was conducting tours at the Dils-Joseph House at 1103 Juliana St.

“They are all different,” she said. “There is not much the same in each house.”

The home of Heidi and Donnie Smith at 30 Wyndemere Dr. in Vienna was one of the homes featured on the GFWC Parkersburg Woman’s Club Holly Trail 2019 tour of homes Sunday. Decorating began in September. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

Robert Knapp, who was also conducting tours at the Dils-Joseph House, said the neighborhood is of interest to so many people because it has some of the most varied architecture of any neighborhood in the state.

Money from the tour goes back into the historic district. for improvements, organizers said.

After a one year hiatus, the GFWC Parkersburg Woman’s Club presented its Holly Trail 2019 tour of homes on Sunday.

The tour, now in its 51st year, featured four homes decorated for the holiday season.

Richard and Victoria West, the owners of the home at 1800 Market St., Parkersburg, said so many businesses and others helped put the event on, providing a variety of support in getting the home ready. The Wests are local business owners as well owning the Gift Gallery in Vienna.

The home of Tanaz Tahbaz at 31 Wyndemere Dr. in Vienna was one of the homes featured on the GFWC Parkersburg Woman’s Club Holly Trail 2019 tour of homes Sunday. It took over a week to get the home ready for the holidays. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

“It was not just us as homeowners,” Victoria West said. “We felt that by partnering with a lot of local businesses to make this happen, it would only be right to open up our home to the Women’s Club.

“We have involved the community into the Holly Trail tour.”

The couple have owned the home for a year. Many people have been asking about the history of their home which was built in 1933. Some of the windows in the home come from the old Chancellor Hotel.

The weather was perfect and that seems to have helped bring a lot of people out. Many people came out to see the decorations for the season.

“It all really helps put you in the holiday spirit,” Victoria West said.

Friends Emily Vowls and Marsha Kelley of Belpre were out for the Holly Trail tour to see how people decorate for the holidays.

“We do it every year,” Vowls said. “We enjoy getting out together and looking at all of the decorations.”

The two have been going on the tours for over 40 years.

“We came out to see the different decorations and how people decorate their homes,” Kelley said. “Everything is beautiful.

“Some people really put a lot of work into decorating.”

Heidi Smith, owner of 30 Wyndemere Dr., Vienna, with her husband Donnie, was asked to participate in the Holly Trail Tour.

“I have decorated for many years for the holidays,” she said. “I thought it would be great to open up our home and do that.”

Her decorating fit each room. She had 16 Christmas trees throughout the house and began putting up decorations in September.

“There is a variety of different themes,” Heidi Smith said.

The crowds throughout the day were good.

“There has been a lot of people and a lot of participation,” Heidi Smith said. “People are happy to see people’s homes for the holidays.

“I hope people can enjoy our traditions and can share in how our family celebrates the holidays.”

Anna Deem and Valma Adams of the Washington area knew the couple who own the home and wanted to see it.

“It is beautiful,” Deem said. “I like to get ideas on how to decorate myself.”

For both of them, the tour is a chance to get out, spend time with friends and do something fun.

Holly Trail is a fundraiser for the Parkersburg Woman’s Club, which has members working to make a difference through volunteering.

“People open up their homes to support the Women’s Club and the causes we support,” publicity chair Susan Shawver said. “We do a lot in the community.”

Brett Dunlap can be reached at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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