Decking the halls

Four Lanes End Garden Club to host 58th annual Holiday House Tour

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Across the country, haunted houses have opened their doors to scare daring guests, pumpkin picking is the go-to weekend activity and children (and adults) are beginning to piece together the perfect Halloween costume. It’s the spookiest time of the year. That is, for everyone except the women of Langhorne’s Four Lanes End Garden Club, who are breaking out the sparkles and tinsel in preparation for the Christmas season and 58th annual Holiday House Tour.

’Tis the season: The Four Lanes End Garden Club’s 58th annual Holiday House Tour will feature four historic and scenic houses in the neighborhood. Each will be decorated by garden club members with a distinctive theme. PHOTO: Renee Rumsey

This festive local tradition got its start in 1959, a year after the garden club was formed by a group of Langhorne ladies looking to express their love of flowers and gardening. Like most community events, the Holiday House Tour has evolved since its creation. Now, four historic and scenic homes are volunteered each year by their owners to be decorated and toured, each with its own distinctive theme.

“It’s nice for the holidays,” said Renee Rumsey, publicity chairwoman for the Four Lanes End Garden Club.

Before heading out on the self-guided tour, guests receive a map and booklet containing descriptions of each house. They’re able to choose their own personalized route, visiting as many of the locations as they desire. While several of the stops are walkable, Rumsey encourages people to bring a car if they plan to hit all of them.

The four houses included on the tour this year range from an old farmhouse to a miniature mansion, each with its own unique appearance and backstory. The first is a 1760 original twin home built as a wedding gift by their father, William Huddleston, for two sisters married within a year of each other. Gigi and Scott Cowan made this their home about 30 years ago, preserving the original pine plank floors and unique staircases to the second floor, and filling it with tasteful antiques to maintain the home’s integrity. The garden club named the theme of this residence “A Secret Garden.”

Next is an 1890 Victorian style that still maintains its original pocket doors, flooring and carved staircase woodwork. The kitchen showcases the lifestyles of that era with a bell ringing system for servants in each bedroom. The theme of this house is “O Tannenbaum,” and in honor of the present owner’s heritage, guests can enjoy an Italian-style Christmas Eve dinner, including cocktails in the bar and Italian desserts and espresso in the kitchen.

A carriage house, built in 2007, celebrates the theme of “An Enchanting and Iridescent Christmas” with the colors of teal, copper and cream. Guests can enjoy a beautiful display of teal collectibles, dark wood furniture, a peacock picture and wreath, as well as set tables filled with the homeowner’s china collection and childhood nativity scene. Handmade iridescent and quilled ornaments on the tree and flower arrangements add to the house’s enchanting theme.

Lastly, guests can visit a 1740 stone house with a large addition built in 1810 to create a more modern, comfortable living environment. For many years, this was a 184-acre dairy farm. The theme of “A Picture-esque Christmas” was selected to create a charming atmosphere among the two carriage houses, one with a steeple that resembles an old school house, the other a former barn.

According to Rumsey, the roughly 60 members of the garden club decorate each of the houses themselves. All of the ornaments are handcrafted and only fresh flowers are used for the arrangements.

After the house tour, guests can visit the Middletown Country Club for a complimentary “Happily Ever After” tea. Following an elaborate wedding theme, a Christmas tree will be adorned with white lace flowers, glass balls with pearls and small floral bouquets. Tables will be set with antique-style birdcages filled with white flowers as a tea table takes center stage with a large, five-arm candelabra. Homemade cookies baked by the garden club members can be enjoyed with a hot cup of tea or coffee. Several gift baskets will be available for raffle chances. Guests are also invited to stop by the Country Store at Richardson House on the corner of Maple and Bellevue avenues, where they can shop for discounted handmade holiday items, decorations and gifts.

The Holiday House Tour is the garden club’s biggest event of the year. Not only do the members work to celebrate local history and spread cheer, but they also help the community. A large sum of the proceeds goes toward scholarships for local students pursuing degrees in horticulture, landscaping or other environment-related fields. Another portion goes toward community beautification projects, including the ongoing upkeep of the Richardson House, where the club plans to put in a new walkway. ••

If you go…

The Holiday House Tour will take place Thursday, Nov. 16 from 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased for $20 in advance before 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15 from any garden club member, or at the following Langhorne vendors: Judy’s Corner (Bellevue Avenue), St. Mary’s Community Thrift and Yellow Daffodil (Pine Watson Shopping Center). Tickets will be sold on the day of the tour for $25 at Richardson House and at Middletown Country Club.

For information, contact Darlene Helicke at 215–757–8931 or dhelicke@aol.com. Those interested can also visit langhornegardenclub.com.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com