ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JANET HAMOUS
Florence residents took full advantage of the unseasonably warm weather over the weekend to put the finishing touches on outdoor decorations in preparation for the Florence Home Tour next Sunday, Dec. 14.
The tour, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., is a fund-raiser for Florence’s new PRIDE program. PRIDE is a state program designed to help revitalize small communities.
“Basically it is bringing towns back together again to see if they can improve their community by using their own manpower and their own resources and getting help from other towns with the same program,” chairperson Sue Klassen said.
“We’ve got to get moving forward or we’re going to die in the water like a lot of little towns have.”
Funds raised from the home tour will be used for projects benefiting the community.
“Our first project that we have undertaken is a community newsletter,” Klassen said. “Our first issue came out last Friday and we’ve just had rave reviews. Now people don’t have the excuse ‘I didn’t know about it.'”
Other projects being considered are publishing a community brochure, park development, extending the downtown holiday lighting and building fix-up downtown.
“We’ve got to start small and hopefully build bigger and bigger and bigger,” Klassen said.
Tickets for the tour are $5 in advance and $7 the day of the tour. Children 10 and under are free when accompanied by an adult.
Advance tickets are available at the Florence Market, Chuckwagon, Johnson’s General Store and Town and Country Café in Florence or at the Peabody Market.
This year’s tour includes six homes:
n Mark and Sheri Austin, 203 West 8th.
If it hadn’t been for Mark and Sheri Austin, the home known as the “gingerbread house” might have been razed.
“It was abandoned for 18 years and everybody thought they should just bulldoze it,” event organizer Scott Zogelman said. “Mark bought it and it’s just cute as can be.”
“It was just a shell,” Sheri Austin said. “It had no windows.”
Visitors will want to check out the “before and after” pictures that Austin has displayed throughout the house.
She loves to do crafts and the home reflects her creativity.
The tree is decorated with handmade gingerbread men, popcorn strings and bows made of all different types of material. Gingerbread men also peek down from the greenery decorating the stairway.
“In the front room area, I’ve got snowmen,” she said. “We’ve got a master bedroom upstairs that is all done up in cedar and I’ve used cranberries on trigs.”
Outside, it’s just as festive. Trees decorated with popcorn and cranberries adorn the lawn, and Santa and his reindeer sit on the rooftop. The Austins’ two children have even decorated the playhouse in the yard.
n Dave and Charlene Longshore, 715 Main St.
The Longshores are known for tackling one project after another to make their 1919 home uniquely their own. They have been working for over seven years to customize it.
Special features of the home include an indoor “outhouse,” fireplace and open staircase.
The Longshores are currently refinishing the home’s original hardwood floors.
A variety of holiday decorations will complement the home’s rustic antique décor. Guests will enjoy seeing their hand-painted old world Santas, Charlene’s ceramic Indians and Dave’s collection of antique stemware.
Outside, Dave has been busy getting the yard ready for the holidays, and after the nice weather last weekend, he’s just about ready to welcome guests.
n Randy and Judy Mills, Doyle Place.
The stately 1882 limestone house that was once home to Patrick Doyle, Marion County’s first settler, will be open this year for its first home tour.
Randy and Judy Mills have lovingly restored the house and grounds just south of Florence. Seeing the home as it looks today, it is hard to imagine it was once almost converted into a hay barn. The home is now on the National Historic Register, thanks to the many hours Judy spent researching its history.
For the tour, the home will be decorated as it might have been in 1882.
“I’ve tried to make the parlor very Victorian,” said Judy Mills. “I have crocheted angels which I made and the old fashioned candles that you would have seen in 1882-the ones you would really have lit although mine will not be lit.”
She has used antique glass ornaments on the parlor tree and has several other trees decorated with lights and berries.
“We have a staircase that curves the entire hallway of the old part of the house. That’s all decked with garland and bows and a few silver bells,” she said. “I’ve also decorated the porch and put gifts and Santa out there. I’ve mainly used greens and lights and touches of the dark red berry colors.”
n Mark and Nancy Moore, 234 West 5th.
Mark and Nancy Moore may have the newest home on the tour, but you wouldn’t know it by the decorations-they’re pure Victorian.
“I really enjoy Victorian period style,” said Nancy Moore. “We have greenery and bulbs and lights and angels-everything that I think of as Victorian.”
Moore even recovered a footstool in leopard print when she learned that leopard skins were part of every Victorian home.
Moore is a ceramicist, and she will also be displaying the ceramic Santa’s and snowmen she has made.
The Moores have lived in their home only six months, and Moore said she’s still working on making the house her own.
“I don’t really do things by the book, I just do things that are pleasing to my eye,” she said. “It’s not done all the way how I want it yet, but you have to do a little at a time. We thought this would be a good way to meet community people that maybe we wouldn’t meet otherwise.”
n Mike and Jackie Sigwing, 513 Marion St.
Mike and Jackie Sigwing’s 1922 bungalow boasts its original woodwork and ceiling fixtures. One of those fixtures was rescued at auction after the Sigwings moved into the home two years ago.
“Jackie got a call about a year ago that said there was going to be an auction and they were selling the old original light fixture that had hung in here for years,” said Mike. “So we went and bid on it. It’s back in the front room now.”
Elves and teddy bears are just some of the holiday decorations you’ll see at this home. Jackie will also display her Thomas Kinkade nativity scene and her collection of colorful glass ornaments.
She will be serving cookies and the hot-spiced punch her grandmother made every Christmas Eve.
“I’m going to have my little nieces here as greeters,” she said. “They’re going to wear their Christmas dresses and help greet people and offer cookies and punch.”
n Bert Zogelman, 213 West 4th.
Bert Zogelman’s 1908 home is the family gathering place. The open kitchen, dining room and living room area make it a great place for entertaining friends and family.
It’s also a great place to display her collection of Christmas decorations. Her pride and joy is a lighted porcelain village given to her by her son Scott.
“He bought it for me over the years. Every year for my birthday, he’d give me a piece,” she said. “It’s got a toy shop, coffee shop, garage and forge, grist mill, florist, library, school, and men’s clothier. I think my favorite is the light house.”
Her Christmas tree is decorated with ornaments she has collected through the years.
“I used to buy one new ornament every year,” she said. “My favorite thing on the tree is a little gold bell. You plug that into your tree cord and when you want to turn your tree on, you just go push on that bell. I hope that never wears out.”
Zogelman said she also has a collection of angels and a pretty nativity set.
“I’m one that if I have a decoration, I never throw it away,” she said.