(Other People’s) Homes for the Holiday

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Attendees of the 40th annual Old Louisville Holiday Home Tour will have the opportunity to lighten up, in more than one sense of the word.

This year’s theme of “Light Up Old Louisville” refers to the history of how light – at least in the form of incandescent light bulbs – came to much of the city. And participants who hope to add a little spirit to their holiday can look forward to a new feature of the tour: a premium bourbon tasting.

The event will feature the story of the Southern Exposition, a series of fairs held annually from 1883 to 1887 in what is now the Old Louisville neighborhood. According to the Frazier History Museum, “The world traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, to discover innovation” during these fairs. The highlight – pun intended – was the installation of 4,600 incandescent light bulbs, which were a new invention at the time. Thomas Edison, a one-time Louisville resident who created the first commercially viable incandescent light bulb, turned the switch to light the exposition in 1883, according to the American Planning Association.

Many Louisville residents, unless they’re history buffs, might not be aware of Old Louisville’s connection to Edison and to the light bulb, says Lauren Hendricks of A+H Marketing. Hendricks pointed out that seeing Old Louisville’s famed Victorian homes might give visitors a sense of this history in a way they wouldn’t get from a textbook.

“You’re seeing some of the most beautiful homes in the city,” Hendricks maintains of the tour, which offers attendees a glimpse into different homes every year. Hendricks calls December “the prettiest time of the year,” pointing out that the tour decorations will encompass other winter holidays in addition to Christmas.

Old Louisville features the largest collection of Victorian mansions in the nation, according to the American Planning Association. The group, which recognizes exceptional community design, named Old Louisville to its 2016 Great Neighborhoods list.

The tour’s ticket price covers a tasting of the Evan Williams Single Barrel and the company’s Original Southern Egg Nog at Louisville Bourbon Inn, formerly known as the Inn at the Park Bed and Breakfast. The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is sponsoring the tasting, during which master artisanal distiller Charlie Downs of Heaven Hill will be at the inn to speak with visitors.

If you go, expect plenty of company. Hendricks says the tour has pre-sold more tickets than usual. “I don’t know if it’s the bourbon,” she laughs, “but we’re seeing a lot more excitement this year.”

The home tour will take place Saturday, December 3 and Sunday, December 4 from noon to 6 p.m., with the bourbon tasting happening from 1 to 5 p.m. both days. Tickets cost $25 through Friday, after which the price rises to $30. As part of a collaboration with the Conrad-Caldwell House Museum, customers can buy a joint ticket for the home tour and the museum’s annual Victorian tea party for $50. VT

Tickets are available for purchase online at oldlouisville.org/holiday-home-tour, by phone at 502.635.5244 or in person at the Historic Old Louisville Visitors Center (1340 S. Fourth St.).

STORY BY JESSICA STEPHENS.