Homeowners prepare for Candlelight Tour

Published 10:15 pm Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mary Ann Eure sets a table in her home for the champagne and chocolate dessert that will be on display there during this weekend’s Candlelight Tour.

By Heather McGinley
Special to the News-Herald

Preparing a home to be on public display is no easy task, but the host families for the 34th annual Candlelight Tour are happy to do it.

“We are glad to share with the community,” said Shelley Barlow, co-owner of the Cotton Plains Farm.

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For host families, the Suffolk-Nansemond Historical Society’s Candlelight Tour fundraiser is an opportunity to give back to the community.

“When you own a piece of history, you are obligated to share it with the public,” said Carolyn Bickham, co-owner of The Phillips Farm.

To prepare for the Candlelight Tour, which will take place Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m., Chuckatuck-area hosts are completing a number of home projects. They are working on everything from cleaning and painting to major renovations.

For Carolyn and Ed Bickham, who spent two years renovating their home before moving in 26 years ago and who completed an addition last year, all that is needed to prepare for the event is a little extra maintenance.

“I’ll do what I normally do, but add a little extra touching up,” Bickham said.

Other host families are completing major home projects ranging from kitchen and bathroom renovations to adding in fireplaces and a chimney.

Using the Candlelight Tour for motivation, Shelley and Joseph Barlow Jr. began their home projects in September, replacing one of the chimneys and two of the fireplaces that were originally part of the house.

“The original house had two chimneys and six fireplaces,” Barlow said. “We knew where they had been and wanted to put some of them back. We love our house. We loved it before, but now it looks whole with a chimney. Plus, it’s nice to sit by the fire.”

The Barlows also completed some painting, repair work, and additional renovations not done during the 2000 renovation. They even renovated their dining room, changing it back into a parlor, as it was originally.

The Barlows live in what they believe to be the oldest home in Chuckatuck Creek, and they strived to maintain the integrity of its original material.

“It is a true 18th-century home, and it is very much like it would have been in the 1700s when it was built,” Barlow said. “It is a working farm in original condition. That’s rare for this area.”

Though not all of the homes on the tour are historic, even the newer ones have some historical significance, as they were built in a historic location.

“The land is historic from a Nansemond Indian standpoint and from a Colonial standpoint,” said John “Jack” Eure Jr., co-owner of the 1970s Eure Home. “The creek was a superhighway where people transported heavy loads by boat and barge. It was one of the major highways of commerce.”

To prepare for the Candlelight Tour, the Eures are completing a number of home projects, including renovating their kitchen and a bathroom and tidying up the yard. The Eures will display a number of items of local historical significance inside and outside of their home, including a porcelain Meissen urn purchased from the Amedeo Obici estate.

Outside by the pier, they will display crab boats owned by Thomas Hazelwood, Suffolk’s commissioner of the revenue and a family friend. The crab boats are reminiscent of Chuckatuck’s history as a fishing and oystering community.

Volunteers from the Suffolk Council of Garden Clubs will begin decorating the homes for Christmas on Friday, according to Sue Woodward, co-chairman of the Candlelight Tour. They will use fresh materials found in the yard and in the woods.

Woodward, who was instrumental in beginning the Candlelight Tour 34 years ago, said the Candlelight Tour began to introduce local residents to historic locations in the city.

“We felt people weren’t aware of the great buildings we have here,” she said. “In the ‘70s, we lost buildings at a rapid rate. We felt that this could have been avoided if people knew what the buildings were.”

The Candlelight Tour raises money for the Suffolk Nansemond Historical society to help maintain historic buildings, print history books and publications, and eventually make historic pictures and collections more accessible to the public.

Participants can purchase tickets on the day of the event at Oakland Christian Church for $18. The church, another historic building, will feature the Sugarplum Bakery, a Chuckatuck history exhibit, and musical entertainment, including a performance by the Nansemond-Suffolk Academy choral group on Sunday afternoon. Participants can board a tour bus at the Oakland Church, or pick up a map and drive to each location at their own pace. For more information, call 539-2781.