Hospitable houses deck their halls The door's open: Toursof grand homes open a magical portal that leads to Christmases past


November 30, 1995|By Dorothy Fleetwood | Dorothy Fleetwood,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

In yesterday's LIVE section, a list of holiday open houses incorrectly reported the closing date for Victorian Holiday at Carroll County Farm Museum. The house is open through Sunday, Dec. 3, as the accompanying story reported.

The Sun regrets the errors.

House and garden tours are simply delightful, and fall festivals are great fun, too, but the sights and scents of a Christmas house tour make it the grandest tour of all. With fresh greens that help bring the outdoors inside, the scents of pine and spices, a cozy fire and the warm glow of candlelight, what could be more inviting?

There are several locations in the area where a visit will surely fill you with the spirit of the season.

In recent weeks, Jean Scott and her fellow staff members at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster have been hard at work preparing the museum for its "Victorian Holiday," open to the public through Sunday.


"It's gorgeous!" says museum administrator Dottie Freeman. "I just love the colors and the charm of the Victorian era [the period when the farmhouse was built], and I can't wait to go home and start on my own decorations.

"Many of the decorations were made during workshops held this fall at the museum," she explained. "Participants made Victorian Santas, silk roses and patchwork ornaments, and each item was made in duplicate, one for the museum and one to take home."

In addition, soups and home-baked goods will be sold in the summer kitchen, and museum artisans will demonstrate old-time skills in the outbuildings. Volunteer gardeners have made decorative swags that will be for sale. There's even a tree outdoors that's trimmed for the birds, with hard rolls coated in peanut butter and seeds.

"You should come on Saturday evening," says Ms. Freeman. "The driveway will be lighted with luminarias. It's really nice."

Annapolis is always full of holiday spirit, and one place to find it is the Charles Carroll House, where you can attend the annual Candlelight Open House on Dec. 9. Colonial troubadour John Durant will be performing, and there will be living history tours. But watch your step, says executive director Sandria Ross -- you might bump into an 18th-century member of the Carroll family.

"And on [Dec. 10] we're having a 'Candlelight Musicale' in honor of Beethoven's birthday, complete with 18th-century desserts and music by the Annapolis Opera Company," says Ms. Ross. "It's been so popular, we've had to go to two performances this year."

Another historic home to be done up for the season is Waverly in Howard County, which was built in the 1700s and became a wedding gift to George Howard, who became governor of Maryland. If you visit "Waverly By Candlelight" on Dec. 11, you'll be able to enjoy music by the Die Liedersanger Madrigal Singers, along with light refreshments from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

How about Christmas at an English country house? That will be available at the home of the late Harvey S. Ladew, near Jarrettsville in Harford County. From Dec. 8 through 10, enjoy the home's lavish decorations. Ladew, who designed and built Ladew Topiary Gardens, filled his home with antiques, fox-hunting memorabilia and items he collected from around the world. Outside are the famous topiary hedges shaped in the forms of fox, hounds, horse and rider.

In Baltimore County, be sure to visit elegant Hampton Mansion in Towson, which was the largest home in Maryland when it was finished in 1790. Seasonal music will be performed in Hampton's Great Hall on Dec. 6 through 8.

"It will be an opportunity for visitors to see the reproduction French panoramic wallpaper that was recently installed in the dining room," says Jenny Masur, chief of interpretations at Hampton. Tickets for the three evening programs are free, but space is limited. The deadline for ticket requests is Saturday.

"But if you are unable to get tickets to the programs, decorations will be up for awhile longer, at least until they become too dry," say Ms. Masur. Tours of Hampton are offered daily between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

And in downtown you can see Baltimore's only pre-Revolutionary mansion, Mount Clare, decorated in the style of the colonial period. On Dec. 9 and 10 you can enjoy early American music by David and Ginger Hildebrand and the Monumental City Fife and Drum Corps while costumed docents serve hot mulled cider and cookies.

There's also a "Christmas Cookie Tour" on Dec. 10 in Union Square, a great way to sample and collect some new recipes and have a look inside 25 restored Victorian townhouses.

And, as you can see from the accompanying story, there's much more to see and do.

Open season for area homes

Anne Arundel County

A Child's Colonial Christmas, London Town Publik House and Gardens, Edgewater. For ages 6 to 12 Dec. 9. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations are limited. Admission: $5 for children; $3.50 for adults. (410) 222-1919.

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