As Kathy Pruett strung evergreen garland and hung bows on the locust wood gazebo in front of the Alfred Moore House on Thursday, it was clear to passersby the Mount Airy Restoration Foundation’s Christmas Holiday House Tour could not be far off.
Indeed, the tour begins its two-day run today at 11 a.m. with the decorations fashioned by local artist and volunteer Pruett prominently on display. “Decorating the gazebo just sets the atmosphere for the entire Christmas celebration, ” said Betty Wright, long-time foundation board member.
Along with the Moore House, the tour will feature another historic home, the Gertrude Smith House, a church, First Baptist, and a private home that has spent a great deal of its history as a public accommodation.
Alice Faye Hawks
702 East Pine Street
The 112-year-old home on East Pine Street spent its early years as a boarding house and has recently been a bed and breakfast, but Alice Faye Hawks has purchased the property, and is lovingly restoring the home and grounds — appropriately renamed the Thompson House — with plans to make the house her personal home.
The home was built in 1905 and was originally owned by the Thompson family who in 1907 began taking in boarders. The nearby Mount Airy Granite Quarry provided the Thompsons with a steady stream of boarders, with period documents indicating that in 1907, 21 people were living in the boarding house and working across the street at the quarry.
Hawks has a love for Mount Airy. She spent her childhood in Westfield, lived in the former Yokeley house on Pine Street, and owns the Dew Drop Inn – Mayberry. She also has an appreciation for an older home in need of TLC, and has accumulated quality locally made furniture to fill such a home.
The house has changed hands three to four times since its humble boarding house days. Renovations are being done based on immediate need, taking weather into consideration. The foundation, built on granite with granite, is solid and sturdy. This home did not have sagging floors or other issues caused by a settling foundation.
First priority was a new roof and shutters followed by redoing the interior space. After renovation, the home has five bedrooms and four baths. Each bedroom has an ornate fireplace, and the home has a total of seven fireplaces. There are original wood floors throughout the home. The kitchen underwent the most extensive renovation, but the old porcelain sink was saved and reused. The dining room is grand and very large – reminiscent of its boarding house past.
In keeping with a home built in the early 1900s, the Christmas decorations will be simple and appropriate to the home. The live tree will be decorated traditionally and simply. Also during the tour, past newspaper articles and other documentation about the history of the house will be available for review.
Gertrude Smith House
708 N. Main St.
The historic home is operated by the Gilmer-Smith Foundation, established by the will of Gertrude Smith as a living museum, reflective of the lifestyle of the early 1900s.
Gertrude Smith was born in 1891, the oldest of seven children. Her family owned and operated the J.D. Smith General Store in Mount Airy, several farms and numerous rental properties. This home was built by her family in 1903 and is on the National Register of Historic Homes.
After her father’s death in the 1930s, Gertrude Smith moved back to the family home and assumed management of the family businesses. Smith was an interior decorator who was educated at Parson’s School of Design in New York and was employed by two NYC decorating firms. She used her decorating talents when she moved back to Mount Airy by updating and enlarging her childhood home and filling it with beautiful art and antiques. She continued her career in Mount Airy, decorating many of the interiors of the homes in the area. Her brother, Dr. Robert Smith, collected much of the artwork in his world travels, including his service in World War II.
Smith was also involved in historic preservation locally and was one of the charter members of the Mount Airy Restoration Foundation. It was her passion for preservation that caused her to form the Gilmer-Smith Foundation, and the foundation’s board of directors oversees the perpetual care of the home.
First Baptist Church
714 N. Main St.
Mount Airy’s First Baptist Church was established in 1879, meeting in a wooden building on North Main Street until the Old Sanctuary was built in 1912. The education building at the center of the church campus was completed in 1953. The New Sanctuary was completed in October 1968.
Major renovations to the Old Sanctuary building, including a large kitchen and the transformation of the original sanctuary into a fellowship hall were completed in 1993. This project preserved the beautiful stained-glass windows and allows them to be appreciated by the congregation and community during the many events held in that space. During this renovation, on May 18, 1992, the north tower and much of the front wall collapsed into Main Street. No one was injured, and the wall was completely restored to its original appearance.
During the Christmas Holiday House Tour, a parade of Christmas trees will showcase various ministries of the church, including Mission Kids, Women’s Missionary Union, Baptist Men, Friends Helping Seniors, Diaconate, Church History, Prayer Shawl Ministry, Music Tree and a “Blue Christmas” Memory tree.
The church’s New Sanctuary and Fireside Room will be open both days of the tour, but the old sanctuary will only be open on Sunday due to a prior conflict.
“The older sanctuary has some beautiful stained glass windows,” said Peggy Rees, Mount Airy Restoration Foundation spokesperson, who added that people who want to see those should take the tour on Sunday.
Mount Airy Restoration Foundation’s 31st Christmas Holiday House Tour will be Dec. 2, from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Dec. 3 from 1 to 5 p.m. Tickets are $20 on the days of the event.
Tickets are good for both days. Present the ticket at each house. Tours are self-guided, and the homes may be seen in any order. Wear comfortable shoes, and not wearing high heels is appreciated.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.