MORRISTOWN - Step back in time and stir your senses on a walk through nine 19th century buildings on the 2012 Holiday Tour of Homes and Churches in Morristown. Williamsburg-inspired decorations of fresh pine and fruit, lanterns and candles will be found in five private homes, the Christian Church, Methodist Church, Town Hall and the Vestry, all lining the original National Pike and National Road.
The tour will be held Saturday, Dec. 1, from 4-8 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 2, from noon to 4 p.m. Tickets may be purchased on Main Street during tour hours for $10 per person.
Morristown, cited as one of the best preserved examples of a National Road town, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This year marks a return of the popular Christmas tour. The last tour was during Morristown's Bicentennial in 2002.
The Hazlett House was built in 1836 upon original logs of the cabin that stood here in the early 1800s. It is found on Church Street in Morristown, which is the original National Pike.
"We have been working for over a year to create a 19th century Christmas experience," said John Rataiczak, president of the Morristown Historic Preservation Association, tour sponsor.
The sights and sounds of that experience will include wagon rides, home-cooked food, strolling carolers, and a live nativity. Adam and Becky Elizeus and their team of Percheron horses will offer wagon rides through the village. Real Life Community of Faith and the Girl Scouts will stage a live nativity and sing carols throughout town. The Boy Scouts will light luminaries along the walks leading to the churches.
In addition, the Morristown Volunteer Fire Department will serve homemade soups, bread, and desserts in the Town Hall. All proceeds from the supper benefit the volunteer fire department. The Flushing Garden Club will sell decorated wreaths from the old Morristown Bank Building on Main Street.
A description of each tour stop follows.
Bernhard House, 1838
A traditional Williamsburg "apple fan" over the front door distinguishes the Jonas Bernhard house at Christmas. This half-house, one of only six remaining in Ohio, is built of brick in the Flemish-bonding pattern, rare for the region. Chestnut-planked floors, four fireplaces, two staircases, and all original woodwork remain in the 174-year old home that was built by Bernhard, a wagon maker. It is one of the homes restored by the late Margaret Dankworth and is home to Melissa and John Rataiczak. The Rataiczaks host their extended family at the holidays and the dining room table will be set for a holiday feast. The living room has been newly-updated and an addition added over a decade ago will be the setting for a nine-foot Christmas tree decorated with over 500 ornaments. This family room will also feature a 'photo-wall' like none other.
A Greek Revival entrance enhances this Federal brick home that was built by John Berry, a tanner, in 1844. The wood floors have been finished and the original windows rebuilt. The homeowner, Judy Bonifield and her late husband, Bruce, commissioned artist Charla Maxwell Herbert to paint a floor to ceiling mural of Morristown that starts in the entry and extends 20 feet, following the staircase to the second floor. A huge, open fireplace is the centerpiece of the kitchen and a small, winding stairway leads to the second floor from this room. Nestled amid the greenery on the kitchen mantel will be tiny birds' nests, white birds and birdhouses. Berries, nuts and fruit will be scattered throughout. There will be live trees in each of the two front rooms and all the mantels will be piled with live greenery and crystal white lights and ornaments.
Davidson House, 1847
The Robert Davidson House is a fine example of the Carpenter Gothic style, appropriate given its history as a Methodist parsonage from 1917 to 1964. The house has a balloon frame of red oak with poplar lap siding and a cut sandstone foundation. Purchased in 1995 by homeowners Troy Biery and Chip Brienza, the exterior renovation included custom-made wood siding and doors. There are formal and casual areas here and the floor plan is close to its original 2-parlor over 4-parlor design with central hallway. The first floor features original poplar floors while flooring in the kitchen is rare American chestnut. The second floor features three bedrooms and two new bathrooms. A shed dormer added in 2008 complements the historic character of the home. Decorations will feature locally grown Feisley Christmas trees. Garlands will be created from greens grown in Morristown landscapes.
Hanauer House, 1841
Nineteenth century merchant Samuel Hanauer built this Federal home in 1841. The Federal is a common style found along the National Road from Maryland to Illinois. This one has 12 rooms, a central hall and stairway that winds its way up two and one-half stories. The house had been vacant for 15 years when current homeowners, Pamela and Tom McCort, purchased and renovated it in 1990. Upon his retirement, the couple transformed one of the four bedrooms into a study that contains pictures and significant objects from McCort's 32-year law enforcement career and the couple's travels. The nine front windows will be decorated with Williamsburg-inspired pine wreaths while the French Gothic picket fence will be hung with fresh pine, white lights and black lanterns. Kathy Gibeaut of Morristown, a talented gardener and member of the Flushing Garden Club, will decorate the Hanauer House.
Hazlett House, 1836
Morristown's first homes were log cabins lining the National Pike and this house rests atop the rough-hewn logs of the original log cabin that stood along Zane's Trace. As residents prospered from trade along the improved National Road, they replaced their log cabins with the structures seen today. That is what Margaret Hazlett, a shopkeeper, did in 1836. Today, Lisa and Vaughn Butler and their four daughters are at home here. Lisa's inspired decorating style is pulled from a variety of sources. The porcelain vessel sink in one bathroom has an antique dresser as its base. Rooms decorated in subtle shades of tan are emboldened with pops of color while cream tones in the kitchen are accented with peacock blue. Christmas decorations will include thousands of white lights covering the landscaping and baskets stuffed with greenery on each window. Over-sized lanterns hanging from the front porch pillars will welcome visitors here.
The importance of faith to Morristown's early settlers is evident today along Church Street (the original National Pike), where four congregations - Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist and Christian - built nearly identical brick houses of worship.
In May 1862, the Stillwater and Auburn congregations finished work on their meeting house, the Christian Church, which sits on the north side of Church Street, complete with baptistry and bell. Pastor Curtis Hallstrom and the congregation will offer refreshments for visitors.
The Morristown Methodist congregation was organized in 1828 and the church was built in 1862 by Asariah Fields at a cost of $2,500. The Rev. Gene Miller is the current pastor and the congregation has planned a quilt show at this tour stop.
The Vestry, built in 1848, was the Morristown Presbyterian Church for 160 years. The congregation started in the early 1800s when prayer meetings were held in the homes of people like Margaret Hazlett, whose house is next door. When the building went up for sale in 2009, Vaughn and Lisa Butler, who live in the Hazlett house, purchased it. They transformed it into The Vestry, where parties and small gatherings are held. Christmas decorations will be provided by Ponzani Florist Brenda Ponzani and Occasions Decorating Anissa Kirkpatrick.
The Town Hall was erected as a Baptist Church in 1837 and professional decorator/designer Elaine Gacek of Morristown will decorate the Town Hall for Christmas. Visitors will want to linger and enjoy a soup supper served up by the Morristown Volunteer Fire Department both days.
The Holiday Tour of Homes and Churches is a fund-raiser for the Morristown Historic Preservation Association, a non-profit organization chartered in the state of Ohio. Past home tours have raised funds to replace village street signs, restore the old Town Hall, re-construct the World War II Veterans Honor Board, and create and fund the village's website. To learn more, log onto www.morristownohio.org.