Holiday home tour offers holly, history

December 22, 2003|by DON AINES

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - For the visitors and hosts, Sunday's Heritage Christmas Home Tour offered more than a walk through halls decked with boughs of holly. It also was an opportunity to gather decorating tips and lessons in history, and discover connections with others.

"That's one of the cool things about the tour, the connections you make that you otherwise wouldn't," said Eric Murr, whose Grant Street home was among five on the tour this year, along with the First United Methodist Church. Visitors told him and his wife, Krista, some of the history of previous owners of the 68-year-old Colonial, which they decorated in Victorian and country Christmas motifs.

Getting the house ready for the tour, which was postponed from the previous Sunday, was something the couple had to do around the schedules of their three young children, according to Krista.


"We do stuff at nap time," she said.

"We were ready for it last week and we had to take it all down," Sean Guy said of the decorations at his home on North Carlisle Street. The early American-themed decorations he and his wife, Alice, used were made up largely of pine boughs, holly, cranberries and other greens that had to be freshened up after the delay, Alice said.

Touring the home was Dr. Lois Henneberger, a retired dentist, who told the Guys that her grandfather Jacob Shank built the home, which was a Cumberland Valley Railroad station from 1900 to 1909.

"Can you imagine who walked through those doors?" Sean Guy said, thinking aloud of the history of the house, which once was a knitting mill, a high school and the office of a prominent local physician.

At the East Baltimore Street home of Ron Hess and Deb Ensminger, visitors were treated to rooms of antiques that reflect their hobbies.

"I love angels and Ronnie likes old tools," Ensminger said. Their decorations include four Christmas trees and a Victorian village on a cotton snow landscape.

Hess said they previously hosted visitors in the 1995 and 1997 tours, which are sponsored by the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce.

"A month," Ensminger said when asked how long it took them to decorate.

"I enjoy doing it, although a lot of people would think it's a job," she said.

"These folks are so good at decorating their porch," Nancy Rice of Greencastle said of Hess and Ensminger. "I think this time, each house on the tour was unique in its design."

A unique touch at the Eastside Drive home of Gary and Nancy Gembe was a "glitter road" along the carpets that guided visitors through the house, including a garage designed as much for entertainment as shelter for a 1955 Chevy and a 1965 Corvette. Decorations for the rooms reflected the colors of the rainbow, Gary Gembe said.

He did not know exactly how many nativity scenes were placed inside and outside the house, but one visitor counted at least 10, including one in olive wood they purchased on a trip to Bethlehem.

The travels of Ted and Anne Larew were reflected in the decorations of their home on Castlegreen Drive in Antrim Township. The couple moved to the area in 2000 after Ted Larew retired from the Army.

"Our All-American Christmas tree," was how she described one of the four in their home. Ornamented with patriotic decorations, she said the name actually refers to her husband's last assignment with the 82nd Airborne Division, known as the All-American Division.

Despite decorations that include a 10-foot tree in the great room, Larew said, "I'm kind of a minimalist. When they come to my house, they're going to see what I do for my family every year."

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