by John Phillips
The holiday season is a time to relive cherished traditions, and, for Chestnut Hill, there is no better tradition than spending a day enjoying the Holiday House Tour.
Get into the holiday spirit with a day spent touring a variety of dramatic homes decorated for the holidays by professional designers, florists, local garden clubs and the homeowners themselves. Find inspiration for your own holiday celebrations, and experience the rich architectural heritage of Chestnut Hill.
This year’s tour will be held on Saturday, Dec. 6, and features five homes that represent the many eras of Chestnut Hill’s development. There is a new location for registration this year: Woodmere Art Museum, 9201 Germantown Ave., which is itself part of the tour and open for your enjoyment as a Holiday House Tour guest.
You can drive the tour at your own pace or park your car at Woodmere and take one of the trolleys, so you can relax and enjoy the trip. There are three trolleys this year to minimize wait times.
The first home on the tour is a stately 1860 Victorian Gothic mansion. Its dark warm paneling, ornate coffered ceilings, carved fireplaces, and stained glass windows draped in garland greenery provide the perfect stage for a traditional holiday party. One of Chestnut Hill’s first signature estates, the house was threatened with demolition but saved through efforts by the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, restored, and is now preserved as one of the grand residences of the community.
Fast forward to 1880 where a charming Queen Anne cottage presents cozy, beautifully detailed rooms that are the very embodiment of Arts and Crafts design. Both intimate and elegant, this interior presents the perfect place to relax in a comfy Morris chair and enjoy a warm holiday beverage.
By 1919, the American family would exchange presents in the fire-lit front parlor of their comfortable new Dutch Colonial home, then gather in the warm and welcoming dining room around a table straining with roast turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and gravy. (Sorry, no food will be served, but the house is just a block away from Germantown Avenue and its many fine restaurants.)
On that same night in 1919, and just a few blocks away, a Yule log burns in the fireplace of a quaint English Cotswold village residence, keeping out the cold and dark of a snowy English winter. Imagine opening a Christmas cracker, donning a silly hat and feasting on goose, Yorkshire pudding and mulled wine.
Suddenly, it is 1988 where friends circulate through the kitchen and family room of a spacious, light-filled contemporary house, enjoying a glass of Chardonnay, exchanging jokes (and complaining about work). No doubt, some of the men will sneak downstairs to the well-equipped media room to check out a football game.
The tour has two bonus stops: the Chestnut Hill Hotel is opening three rooms that have been decorated for the holidays. The hotel is a midway stop on the tour so you can take a break if you are ready to get something to eat. The second bonus stop is the Philadelphia Magazine Design Home 2014. This home has been reopened just this one day for Holiday House Tour guests, so if you didn’t get a chance to see the house yet, here is one more chance.
If you drive your own car for the tour, there will be no charge to park at any of the Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation lots on the day of the tour. The nearest lot to the Chestnut Hill Hotel is the Verizon parking lot on Germantown Avenue, between Southampton Avenue and Gravers Lane. Parking behind the hotel is intended for shoppers at The Fareway, and shop owners ask that you not park there for several hours if you are taking the trolleys for the tour.
The tour will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and typically takes 1.5 to 2 hours. Tickets are $35 for Chestnut Hill Community Association members and $45 for non-members. They can be purchased online at www.chestnuthill.org, by calling 215-248-8810, or on the day of the tour at registration. Registration opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 3 p.m.
John Phillips is a member of the Holiday House Tour Committee.