Take a peek into historic homes this weekend

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 6, 2002

The locally famous &uot;Suffolk-Nansemond Historic Society’s Annual Candlelight Tour&uot; will take guests through some of the city’s most beautiful and well-preserved homes. The homes being featured and opened for visitors through Dec. 8, and tour tickets are on sale at the Seaboard train station or Riddick’s Folly, both on North Main Street.

The homes included in the tour are in &uot;Riverview,&uot; an elite section of the city where many of Suffolk’s founding fathers first established homes. Tickets for the tour may be purchased at $5 to visit a single home or $12 or $15 for block tickets. Proceeds from ticket sales are used in restoration projects of historic sites and homes in Suffolk.

Some of the homes included in the tour are owned by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Brothers, 313 Riverview Dr.; Mr. and Mrs. Charles R. Birdsong, 813 Dumville Ave.; Dr. and Mrs. Robert D’Haem, 724 Riveriew Dr.

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Those taking the tour will be treated to typical Southern hospitality with refreshments and a candle dipping exhibition at the train station. Also, Battery M. Second United States Artillery will be present during the exhibition, and on Saturday, those with reservations will view a holiday greenery presentation from 1 to 3 p.m. at Riddick’s Folly.

Then, on Sunday, that jolliest of elves, old St. Nicholas will put in a special appearance at the Folly, one of the most historic landmarks in Suffolk.

During the tour, vintage cars from the 1920s and ’30s will be parked in front of the homes. Those vehicles are owned by members of the Cape Henry Model A Ford Club of Chesapeake.

Another homeowner showing her Christmas decorated residence is Ann Story Powell of 501 N. Broad St.

Powell’s home is subtly stunning in its Christmas decor, understated to the point that it’s like opening a brightly wrapped package each time the eye falls upon some of the most unique of decorations.

Beneath the tall tree that adorns the morning room, there are many dolls of a variety of sizes from lands beyond ours, sitting quietly while awaiting the arrival of ticket holders on the Candlelight Tour. Also adorning the tree are many family treasures, items created and collected by the family over the years. Although the theme is Christmas, every person who enters the morning room will be drawn to the beautiful portrait of Powell and her children as they were a few years ago. Painted by her cousin, Jo Vansant of Virginia Beach, the delicate colors used in the painting are resplendent in the entire decor of the room.

The master bedroom speaks softly of its occupant, featuring a handcrafted bed with posts that sail toward the ceiling. Hugo Beyerman of Norfolk created it. The surrender desk next to that spacious bed is most unique, and once owned by Eliott L. Story, a schoolteacher and later the magistrate of court in Southampton County in the 1880s.

Other Vansant paintings grace the bedroom, again with the Story children and others of historic Virginia structures. On a coffee table are antique medicine bottles and a China doll tea service Powell played with as a child. As an adult, Powell’s skills went toward needlepoint and it’s shown off in the many pieces throughout the elegant home.

The home is also graced with fresh greenery and other live decorations, all created by Lydia Duke Heavener, Dr. Lynn Cross and Linda Drummond.

In the dining room, one of the most prominent but also demure pieces is a shadowbox containing many antiquities once possessed by Fannie Knight, a family member, who served as Baptist missionary to China in the 1880s. Knight worked alongside Lottie Moon, a recognized Baptist missionary of that period.

Examine closely the Bible printed in Chinese, the hats, a bank, and fan, and the too small to believe shoes of a maidservant who ministered to the needs of Knight and family in China. Remember then that the Chinese bind the feet of their daughters to keep them impossibly small; a mark of social station in Chinese society.

No tour of a stately Southern home would be complete without a visit to the kitchen, and Powell’s kitchen features toile wallpaper and window treatments suggestive of the French countryside. Powell’s grandmother left several pieces of art with the family and much of it is featured in the breakfast room.

Observe the table set for Christmas brunch with modern-day &uot;splash&uot; China and a lemon tree created by another Suffolk personality, Lila Pretlow. The pie safe in the room is a coffee grinder once owned by Powell’s maternal grandmother.

From the antique French crystal chandeliers, to the Chippendale pedestal-leg dining room table, to numerous lovely portraits and landscapes in the home, the Powell home is a wonderful example of what the Candlelight Tour is all about; elegance, history and life lived in Suffolk by the people who first brought the city forth from the loamy earth alongside the Nansemond River.

Join the tour and discover why the Annual Candlelight Tour helps create wonderful Christmas memories. For more information, call 934-1390.