The Times West Virginian

November 15, 2012

Holiday Historic House Tour set Nov. 24

By Nicole Lemal
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — For 18 years, the Holiday Historic House Tour has been a highly anticipated event for the Marion County Historical Society.

The houses, which date back to the 1800s, have tremendous historical significance, according to historical society officials.

“These architectural works of art that we have here in this town are like something you won’t find in any other part of the country,” president Dora Grubb said. “We’ve had people come from Utah and New Mexico, and their mouths are just wide open at the buildings that we’re not taking a good look at.”

But a local organization recently did, and bestowed the event with its first award. The Holiday Historic House Tour was named the “2012 Event of the Year” by the Marion County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Facing competition from events at Pricketts Fort, the Feast of the Seven Fishes Festival and the Johnnie Johnson Jazz Festival, Grubb was shocked.

“I honestly believed that we would never receive it because we’re competing against some major events,” Grubb said. “This was just an unexpected thrill to win this and see that people do think that we are making a contribution to the city to promote tourism.”

This year’s tour will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24. Tickets are $16 in advance and $18 the day of the tour. Since it is a self-guided tour, guests have the freedom to explore at their own pace, Grubb said.

“You can go to the houses you want to and stay as long as you want to,” she said. “If you want to spend two hours just looking around at one house, that’s fine.”

One house added back on the tour route this year may captivate enough guests to spend a few hours looking around at the historic property. Built in the 1860s, the Hunsaker-Ice Farm is located on Fairmont Avenue and originally faced the Beverly Turnpike. In the 1930s the house was turned around to face the new U.S. 250. During the Works Progress Administration (WPA) era, it was stoned with the same stonework used in the construction of the 12th Street Pool and East-West Stadium.

“It’s absolutely a beautiful house,” Grubb said. “It has wonderful restored antiques in it, and a lot of work has been done on this house. The owners are very proud of it, and they should be.”

Reports insinuate the farm at one time was used as a charity farm to feed the poor. Since then, the barn has been converted into a guest cottage, which is located in the back.

“People had repeatedly asked for this house to be back on the tour because it’s probably one of the most fascinating houses around the Fairmont area, and it is a pre-Civil War home.”

Of the other eight historic properties on the tour, another highlight is the Methodist Protestant Church, also known as The People’s Temple, on Monroe Street. Gov. Francis H. Pierpont and his wife Julia worshipped at the church, which has more than 40 stained glass windows from the 1800s. One of the windows dates back as early as 1834, and the cornerstone was laid in 1896.

“People are wanting to see what The People’s Church now looks like inside,” Grubb said. “A lot of people have not seen what they’ve been doing in renovation.

“The people playing Julia and Francis Pierpont will be up here, going from house to house, and they will also be playing the piano at several of the houses,” she said. “We expect to have a couple people also in period dress.”

Also included on the tour are the former sheriff’s home on Adams Street, the George S. Brackett Home at 111 Virginia Ave. (at Second Street), the Hutchinson Coal Co. Warehouse on Fairmont Avenue, the Sears and Roebuck Kit House on Edgeway Drive, the Arthur G. Martin House on Watson Avenue, the Meredith House on Pennsylvania Avenue and the Shaw House on Morgantown Avenue.

“I think that there is such beautiful, handmade structures that we have built in the past,” Grubb said. “Artisans from all over the United States and Europe actually came here just to build these buildings that were imported because they worked with glass and ceramics.”

While taking a glimpse into the past, many guests get even more excited for the holiday season.

“A lot of people say they love to start off the holidays by the Historic Home Tour because it puts them in the mood,” Grubb said.

There will be snacks and live music at most of the sites. Tickets can be purchased at the Marion County Museum from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday or by mail at MCHS, P.O. Box 1636, Fairmont, WV 26555-1636.

Email Nicole Lemal at nlemal@timeswv.com.