The Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes will take place in Madison for the 39th year beginning this weekend featuring six personal residences and four historic sites.
“We have six personal residences that will have their homes decorated for Christmas,” said Erin Kindle, who serves as coordinator of the event for Visit Madison Inc. “I have attended several times and have absolutely loved the event ... We have a lot of really cool homes. From a brand new one to ones that are very historic.”
She noted “it’s really neat to see what beautiful ways people decorate,” and the various decorating styles at each location.
The tour, which wraps up the first weekend in December, also includes four historic sites— the Shrewsbury-Windle House at 301 West First Street, Lanier Mansion at 511 West First Street, Prince of Peace Catholic Church at 413 East Second Street and the Masonic Schofield House at 217 West Second Street.
Additionally, there will be four hospitality sites offering refreshments and restroom facilities to tourists.
Dates and hours for The Tour are Nov. 26-27 and Dec. 3-4 with Friday tours running 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday tours running 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The event was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this year’s event will be held with additional precautions, Kindle said. COVID-19 precautions like masks and sanitization are being followed and she also noted that not all residences are handicap accessible.
“We have some really unique houses on the tour this year,” said Kindle. In particular, she noted a former convent at 523 East Third Street located next to St. Michael’s Catholic Church. The home, built in the early 1900s, was recently restored and is now the home of Jeff and Kim Kennard.
Another house she highlighted is the extensively renovated Troutman house at 612 West Main Street owned by Randy and Ellie Troutman.
“There are three stories that you will get to see in that home with just amazing decor,” she said of the circa 1870 residence with classic revival style front porch, dentilled cornices and Doric columns.
The John Boyd/Pennington home, a federal style built in the 1930s by John Boyd that housed both his family and business as a silversmith and watchmaker, will also be featured. Purchased in 2018 by Seth and Ashley Pennington, a key feature of the home was recovered during a 1994 restoration in which a reverse glass painting completed by Margaret Jane Boyd, the 9-year-old daughter of John and Sarah Boyd, with her signature and “1838” was found between a fireplace mantle and a wall in the west front bedroom. This artwork is now displayed in a shadowbox with a comprehensive history of the home in the owner’s parlor area to pay homage to the home’s significant history.
The Taylor home now owned by Brandon and Sheri Taylor since 2019 at 730 West Main Street is believed to have been built in the 1850’s by steamboat captain Thomas Wright and his wife Eliza Craig Wright. Many prominent residents of Madison have owned the home including Leo J. Yunker, son of Pearl Packing Company owner Augustus Yunker, and James M. and Billie Demaree, who were owners of Demaree Motors.
The Bellar home at 836 West Main Street is a shotgun style house built by local carpenter Edward Gorman Lewis in 1870. The house, owned by Larry and Shari Bellar, has an updated kitchen but has retained many of the original features including the fireplaces, mantles, woodwork and trim.
The Ricketts home at 707 West First Street was built in 2018 by lifetime Madison residents Charlie and Mary Pat Ricketts. The home, which overlooks the Ohio River, was completely designed by Charlie Ricketts with the goal of being a comfortable home that respects and complements the rich history of Madison while providing space for family to visit.
The Jefferson County Historical Society’s History Center at 615 West First Street will be decorated through the railroad depot and red caboose. In the past, JCHS has featured a room full of gingerbread houses and a railroad display, but that display has been postponed until next year due to the ongoing COVID-19. However, a limited number of grab-and-go gingerbread houses will be sold for $10.
Hospitality sites include the Lumber Mill Antique Mall at 721 West First Street, Mad Paddle Brewstillery at 301 West Street, Fairfield Inn by Marriott at 108 St. Michael’s Avenue and the McWhiggin’s Wonder Emporium at 220 West Main Street. Each of the hospitality sites will have refreshments and provide restrooms with the exception of McWhiggin’s, which will only offer refreshments. However, directly across the street from McWhiggin’s is the city’s Comfort Station with restroom facilities at 221 West Main Street.
Tour tickets cost $20 for adults and $5 for children ages 5-12, and may be purchased online at nightsbeforechristmas.com/tickets and picked up at Visit Madison’s Visitors Center at 601 West First Street.
Tickets also may be purchased at the Visitors Center during tour hours. Tickets may be used on any of the four nights of the tour. Homes may be toured in any order but cannot be repeated. All tickets are pick-up only at the Visitors Center, 601 West First Street.
Proceeds from the tour benefit Madison’s historic sites with a portion also going to Visit Madison Inc. to help cover operational costs for the event. Kindle said there is also an option available allowing visitors to make an extra $5 donation to Madison’s historic sites that over the last 20 months have been closed for longer periods due to COVID-19.
“With COVID, there have been struggles in the community with tourism and that’s really affected their funding so we’re trying to help out as much as we can,” she said. Proceeds from those donations will be divided between Historic Madison Inc., Jefferson County Historical Society, Lanier Mansion and the Masonic Schofield House. “Five dollars can go a long way when you have a lot of people making that donation,” she noted.
Another companion event held in association with the tour is the “Great Cookie Caper!” in which cookies will be sold at the Visitors Center with each year’s proceeds going to a local non-profit organization. That organization this year is Girls, Inc.