A Holiday for Our Hometown

One of the greatest joys of the holiday season is walking into a friend’s or loved one’s home and seeing the bright and breathtaking decorations. Wreaths, garlands and, of course, trees delight those of all ages and, for some, are the highlight of the season. For Old Louisville, however, holiday decorating is more than a family tradition; it’s a platform for fundraising.

This weekend, December 5 and 6, from noon to 6 p.m. on both days, the neighborhood will play host to the 39th Annual Old Louisville Holiday Home Tour. Guests will be invited into several private residences as well as other neighborhood staples such as the Conrad-Caldwell House Museum and the Dupont Mansion Bed & Breakfast to see not only the dazzling decorations but also the stunning architecture.

Event Chair Susan Coleman Layman affirms, “Anyone who loves architecture or history can appreciate these grand mansions and will enjoy seeing them all decorated for the holidays, which of course was when these homes really sparkled.” But beyond the holiday festivities, Layman values the fact that visitors on the Holiday Home Tour get a chance to peek inside Old Louisville homes and possibly have their minds changed about the neighborhood.

“They come into these homes and see how it is to live in them, and they go away realizing that [owning a home in Old Louisville] is not as intimidating or impossible as they thought,” Layman expresses. “A lot of people come through and talk to these homeowners and realize, ‘I can do this too!’” Indeed, many homes in Old Louisville may seem beyond repair to prospective homeowners, but as Layman urges, it is not impossible to make it happen. And the prize is so worth the price.

Old Louisville homeowner David Brown agrees: “I think people have the wrong impression of Old Louisville,” he says. “They think that it’s a troublesome place – and it does have its issues at times – but it’s one of the most diverse areas in Louisville. And it has probably the best architecture in Louisville. It’s amazing the architecture we have here.”

And Brown, during the holidays at least, has far more on display than just his architecture. In his three-story home on Ormsby Avenue, Brown showcases an astounding holiday decoration scheme – including 29 Christmas trees – and there isn’t a room that hasn’t been touched by the spirit of the season. From color-coordinated scenes to rotating trees, there is some sign of the holiday in every nook and cranny of the home, making Brown’s residence prime for both the tour and holiday entertaining in general.

And in the true spirit of the holiday, this whole event is for a good cause. The funds raised by the Holiday Home Tour will go toward the Old Louisville Neighborhood Council, which helps keep the neighborhood the nationally renowned destination it is today. “We are the second largest tourist attraction in the city,” Layman describes. “We have tour buses coming through here every single day, so the responsibility is ours to keep our neighborhood vibrant and beautiful, which is what these fundraisers are for. And this, the Holiday Home Tour, is our largest fundraiser.”

Layman explains, in fact, that many aren’t aware that there are several areas in Old Louisville where the homeowner owns “to the middle of the green,” meaning they own their little section of the block, sidewalk and all. “That means you’re responsible for your sidewalks, your lighting, your greenery,” she relates. “The city does not fund those things for us. So when you walk down St. James Court, Fourth Street, Belgravia Court – wherever – and you see those old gas lights, those are things that we as residents must pay for.”

Whether it’s to see the spectacular decorations and the unparalleled architecture or to support the endeavors of the neighborhood council, there are plenty of good reasons to stop by the Holiday Home Tour this weekend. The headquarters of the tour including day-of as well as advance ticket sales, will call and a holiday gift boutique is located at The Woman’s Club of Louisville at 1320 S. Fourth St. Tickets are $25 until 5 p.m. on Friday, December 4, and will increase to $30 after that. The event promises to be a wonderful kickoff to Christmas and, as Brown says, surely show off “the magic of these houses. They’re all different. Absolutely everything has its own character to it.” VT