View of a beautifully decorated room in a residence on last year’s Holiday House Tour.

View of a beautifully decorated room in a residence on last year’s Holiday House Tour.

by Susan Hemphill

It is virtually guaranteed that people who attend this year’s Chestnut Hill Holiday House Tour will be amazed by what they experience. Friends, couples, mothers and daughters, clubs, and more make the Holiday House Tour an annual holiday tradition.

For many who attend, the attraction will be the holiday decorations. The tour is the best way to get ideas for special table settings, festive doorways and mantels, and creative tree trimming, and to discover new resources for decorative items, floral arrangements, and holiday gifts. But for most attendees, the Holiday House Tour is first and foremost a chance to see the inside of some of Chestnut Hill’s finest, grandest homes.

This year’s tour on Saturday, December 7, promises to deliver for both groups. Beginning at 10 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m., the tour is expected to draw over 600 attendees.

Six properties will be featured — four large homes, a charming smaller property, and the historic Northwestern Stables. All of the properties are on the northern side of Chestnut Hill.

The Northwestern Stables, a longtime Chestnut Hill landmark, will showcase a special holiday theme and will be a nostalgic departure from the residential settings. A seventh special feature will be the mansion at Woodmere Art Museum, where there will be a display of early Pennsylvania German ornaments. A trolley will drive the House Tour loop throughout the day, beginning and ending at 8300 Germantown Avenue.

The styles of the homes vary greatly. One home, a center-hall Colonial Revival-style built in 1912, is an early example of the architecture of Robert Rhodes McGoodwin. Constructed of gray schist, the home was built by the owner of one of the area’s premier nurseries. A nearby home in the Norman Manor-style is also on the tour. Built in 1920 and sited on more than 1.5 acres, the home is storybook handsome. An imposing Queen Anne with a carriage house, and a side-gabled Gothic Revival-style home, will also be decked out for holiday guests.

The fifth and final residence on the tour will be accessible only by shuttle van. Attendees will be asked to pick up the van at Woodmere Art Museum on Germantown Avenue. Both Woodmere and the homeowners of the fifth home have graciously offered to serve refreshments so the slight detour will be well worthwhile. And for those who haven’t visited Woodmere during the holidays, the holiday gift shop with its unique and affordable selection of gifts and items for the home will be a bonus.

Holiday decorations throughout the homes will include a generous dose of greens — used in classic wreaths and swags and as newly imagined focal points that incorporate unexpected elements. Each year our local nurseries and florists design spectacular arrangements that are colorful, seasonal, and fragrant.

Participating designers represent a variety of styles and will be paired up with the home that lets them show off their creativity. Baked goods, candies, and other savory and sweet treats will be delivered by local bakeries and kitchens so tables and kitchens will look inviting and appealing.

The day of the tour is also the time to “shop local” as the House Tour’s participating merchants and vendors are the perfect place to begin holiday shopping. Docents at each House Tour location will be knowledgeable as to sources so if you see something you like, and you’d like to make it part of your own holiday home, please be sure to ask where it can be purchased.

Tickets for the House Tour are $35 for Chestnut Hill Community Association members and $45 for non-members. Groups of 10 or more enjoy a 10 percent discount when tickets are purchased in advance. Holiday House Tour veterans will recall that wristbands, program books, and maps of the tour will be available that morning beginning at 10 a.m. and ending at 3 p.m. (although the Tour itself ends at 4 p.m.). Advance registration is encouraged. Attendees will also receive a list of participating restaurants that are offering a special “House Tour” discount for lunch.

House Designers

Agan Design

Brunettes Bake Shop

Debbie Campbell Interiors

Elite Florals


Greene Countrie Garden Club

The Hill Company

Hob Nob


MAM Interiors

ML Willcox Home and Personal Accessories

Night Kitchen Bakery


Oscar’s Alley

Oxford Circus Toys

Oyster House Design

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

Private Gardens

Random Garden Club

Robertson’s Flowers

Seasonal Sisters

South Avenue Sweets

A Taste of Olive

Ten Thousand Villages

Top of Hill Farmers Market

Trade Stone

Valleygreen Flowers & Gifts

(List as of 11/11/13)

Organized by the Chestnut Hill Community Association, the House Tour only comes together thanks to hundreds of hours of hard work by volunteers, the contributions of generous sponsors, and in-kind donations from the many designers and florists who share their talent and their vision.

For information or to make reservations, call Noreen Spota at 215-248-8810 or visit