Christmas Homes Tour: A look at living in a historic home

Contact Reporterhbridges@vagazette.com

In the backyard of the J.C. Darlington House, a picturesque home in Williamsburg's historic Peacock Hill neighborhood, there's a patch of dirt.

That's the pitcher's mound for Brigham and Jennifer Lampert's two young sons.

When the Lamperts first bought the home in 2009, that pitcher's mound was quite literally unforeseeable, the backyard intensely overgrown.

But just like with the rest of the 112-year-old house, much of it in disrepair, the Lamperts had a vision.

"We called someone to look at it, just honestly thinking that we'd walk through and say, 'Nope, that wasn't right,'" Jennifer said. "But no, you just fall in love, and then you think: how can we make it happen? And you just do."

Originally built in 1904, the J.C. Darlington House is the only privately owned home on Green Spring Garden Club's 57th annual Christmas Homes Tour on Dec. 3. Over the past seven years, the Lamperts have turned their vision to reality.

Brigham and Jennifer, both local teachers, always hoped to live in an older home. But not for awhile.

"We thought that this would be a someday thing," Jennifer said. "We hadn't thought that we would be raising our family in the older home, but it's been the most fabulous move."

The two-story home retains several original features, from the coal chute in the pantry to exterior wood siding. But the Lamperts have rolled up their own sleeves, as Jennifer said, investing significant time and effort in the home's interior and exterior.

"I've gotten really good at restoring old windows myself," Brigham said, laughing.

In their repairs, and much of their decorating, the Lamperts strive to stay true to the home's original character. It just so happens the two were already avid collectors; visitors to the house will notice a working Victrola phonograph in the living room.

Of course, there are challenges to living in an old home, but those challenges are often part of the charm, Jennifer said.

Take the plaster walls.

"(Plaster) likes to kind of expand and contract with what's going on in nature, with the given season," Jennifer said. "It's just interesting. I feel like the house is almost alive sometimes. It talks to you."

For the Lamperts, the best part has been raising their boys in the home and the neighborhood. Pitching in the backyard, walking to school, learning to ride bikes along Historic Area roads, that was all part of the original vision.

"Growing," Jennifer said. "Growing with the house as a family."

The J.C. Darlington House is one of six houses on this year's tour, offering a glimpse into modern living in a historic home. Tour organizers Kay Ruhf and Deanna Isemann believe the tour is intriguing for its variety, in location, age, style and frequency of appearing on past tours.

Like the J.C. Darlington House, each home holds its own ever-changing story.

Custis Tenement began its life as a one-story tenement in 1717, built by John Custis. Though a fire interrupted the house's history in 1776, Colonial Williamsburg restored the building in 1932 and, today, Bruton Parish uses it as a gathering place.

Elkanah Deane, an Irish immigrant, purchased what is now his namesake in 1772 and soon opened a shop behind the home for making and repairing coaches, chaises and chariots. Today, the home's renovated interior includes a master bedroom based on the design of a Mount Vernon bedchamber.

Built in 1732, The President's House at the College of William and Mary remains the oldest official residence for a college president in the country. Home to every William and Mary president, except one, the house currently contains English and American antiques, as well as portraits from the Muscarelle Museum of Art's collection.

Built in the 1920s, the Plumeri House, another William and Mary property, was first home to the college's head librarian at the time: Earl Gregg Swem. The Charlotte Brooks House, also in Peacock Hill, was built soon after in 1930.

The interior and exterior of each home will be decorated with a myriad of holiday flower arrangements designed by local volunteers and garden club members to complement each home.

When introduced 57 years ago, the Christmas Homes Tour benefited the local hospital. Today, the philanthropic endeavor continues on, though recipients have changed.

Tour proceeds benefit students, primarily, through annual Nature Camp scholarships and annual college scholarships for environmental science and policy at William and Mary, horticulture at Virginia Tech and environmental science at Christopher Newport University. Other funds might contribute to local beautification projects, including Hospice House and Support Care of Williamsburg, Williamsburg Botanical Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg gardens.

For more information, visit greenspringgardenclub.org.

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

Take the tour

WHEN: 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Dec. 3

COST: $35 for tour, $10 for a single house

TICKETS: Tickets available at Colonial Williamsburg Regional Visitor Center and Williamsburg Lodge from 9 a.m.to 5:30 p.m. Dec. 2 and 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dec. 3, as well as from each house the day of the tour.

No photographs, videos, pets, high heels, backpacks or cellphone use allowed.

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