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Plumb Grove tour offers visions of Christmases past

December 10, 2006|by ALICIA NOTARIANNI

CLEAR SPRING - Standing in shadowy candlelight in the chilly second-floor quarters of Plumb Grove summoned childhood memories in Ruth Hetzel.

"I was born and raised in a country home like this," Hetzel said. "Those kind of stairs went up to my bedroom. We had these old windows and no electricity."

Hetzel, 80, of Hagerstown, attended Plumb Grove by Candle Light, a tour of the holiday-decorated 1831 farmhouse hosted Saturday by the Clear Spring District Historical Association.

"We were poor so we didn't decorate like this," Hetzel recalled. "But every year, we went out and cut down a cedar tree on Christmas Eve."

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Association President David Wiles, 50, of Clear Spring, said the group hosts the annual tour, in part, to spark memories among visitors and help them imagine living as our ancestors did. He said the group also hopes to foster an appreciation for older houses and active involvement in historic preservation.

"We have a lot of laughter and a lot of good times every year," Wiles said.

Wiles said the association has upwards of 700 members from more than 40 states.

Sharon Bondroff of Hagerstown said she attended a tour of Plumb Grove a couple of years ago and "fell in love with the house."

She became a member of the historical association, and this year took part in decorating the home for the candlelight tour.

One of Bondroff's creations was a cedar tree perched in a bucket of stones and adorned with rose hips, dried oranges, cookies, seashells, popcorn and cranberries.

Betsey Lillard, 49, of Clear Spring, chairwoman of the event, said the group strives for authenticity.

"Everything must be more or less in the historic keeping of the house - nothing artificial," Lillard said.

Group member Colleen Cashell, 41, of Clear Spring, said the use of natural materials - which often include the likes of fruits, nuts and cookies - for decorating presented challenges both in days gone by and today.

"You need to be aware that mice or squirrels might come and eat your decorations," Cashell said. "At night, you definitely need to keep them covered."

Sue Stoner, 34, of Greencastle, Pa., admired the boxwood wreaths garnishing the windows and headboard of a bedroom. She said her interest in historical homes prompted her to attend the self-guided tour.

"I love it," Stoner said. "They did a wonderful job, and the decorations are gorgeous. It really gives a sense of what decorating used to be like as opposed to now. It's simple, but elegant. It's beautiful."

Beverly Hannah, 62, of Waynesboro, Pa., stood in the dining room amidst nuts and pine cone garlands, painted gourds and candles encircled with cranberries and jingle bells.

Hannah said she went to the tour with a group of about 30 people from her church.

"What is very amazing is how closely they stayed with tradition," Hannah said. "I think the whole concept of the historical society doing this is a hidden treasure."

Wiles said he expected more than 600 people would attend the tour.

By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

Beverly and Roger Hannah of Waynesboro, Pa., look over the decorations at the 19th-century Plumb Grove farmhouse during the Plumb Grove by Candle Light event Saturday.

(photo -- Plumb Grove.tif -- in News folder)

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