Yuletide event offers cheer, ghostly tales

December 09, 2007|By DAVE McMILLION


It was a yuletide event, but it touched on history and ghosts, as well as Christmas cheer.

The Yuletide In Waynesboro, Holiday House and Church Tour was held Sunday, giving local residents a chance to see seven properties and their own spin on holiday merriment.

One of the properties, Burgundy Lane Bed & Breakfast, provided visitors with a chance to relive the history surrounding a physician who practiced in Waynesboro in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The house at 128 E. Main St. was built in 1887 and served as the home and office of Dr. James Amberson. As the Amberson family grew to have seven children, Amberson and his wife, Mary Katherine, added on to the house in 1910, according to the current owners, David and Margaret Schmelzer.


The Schmelzers acquired the home in 2003 and Margaret Schmelzer said she can remember seeing figures in the house when they first took it over.

"It was a little creepy when I first came here because the rooms were all empty," Margaret Schmelzer said.

Schmelzer recounted other strange occurrences, including hearing footsteps.

When the Schmelzers completed their renovation of the house, the weird happenings ceased, Margaret Schmelzer said.

"So I told David, 'I think they're happy with what we did,'" Margaret Schmelzer said.

Visitors to the bed and breakfast were able to see the "ladies parlor" on the first floor and the guest rooms that reflected Amberson's love for faraway places. The rooms include the "Out of Africa" room with its wildebeest hide, the Captain's Quarters and its nautical theme, and the Magnolia room, which conveys southern charm.

Also on the tour was the Oller House, situated a couple doors away from Burgundy Lane Bed and Breakfast.

The sprawling home was built in 1892 and was the home of J.S. Oller, a prominent industrialist in the area.

The house, now home to the Waynesboro Historical Society, features a number of unique characteristics, like a foot tub in an upstairs bathroom.

Daily baths were not customary in those days, but the foot tub allowed one to sit down and plunge feet into a warm bath at the end of the day, said David McJonathan, president of the Waynesboro Historical Society board of directors.

Wood trim in the house is made from chestnut, a rarity since chestnut trees were wiped out due to a blight, said McJonathan. And another upstairs bathroom included a "rib cage shower," where water is sprayed sideways from a series of water pipes that extend from top to bottom in its stall.

On the first floor, visitors were able to see a Christmas tree decorated with gingerbread, dried flowers and other items that could be found around the house. That was a typical way to decorate trees in the Victorian era, McJonathan said.

Sunday's tour was sponsored by Mainstreet Waynesboro Inc.

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