News from the Tennessee Valley Living Today

Green apples and ornamental grass star in the porch and door design created by Scott Willis and Kathy Gray, who will lead a workshop on holiday floral décor Saturday at 3.
Daily photos by Gary Cosby Jr.
Green apples and ornamental grass star in the porch and door design created by Scott Willis and Kathy Gray, who will lead a workshop on holiday floral décor Saturday at 3.

Wind & Fire Tour
Two homes renovated after separate tragedies are part of Christmas tour

By Patrice Stewart· 340-2446

You could call it the “wind and fire” tour.

The annual Historic Decatur Christmas Tour, scheduled from 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday, will showcase the restorations of the Gibson-Gaultney House at 305 Lafayette St. N.E. and the Carpenter-Blake House at 712 Line St. N.E. These two Old Decatur homes were sidelined in 2004 and 2005 by separate disasters, but now they’re back and better than ever.

The three Albany District homes on the tour — the Bragg-Geddes House on Jackson, Gray-Freeman House on Johnston and Holloman-Rankin House on Sherman — also have gotten a lot of loving attention and work in the last few years. Decatur historic public buildings and churches also are taking part in the tour

Steve and Claudia Blake bought their 1920 Arts and Crafts Period one-story bungalow from Fred Inglis in 1981 and renovated it to suit a family, turning the attic space into two bedrooms and a playroom. Sometimes nature tells you when it’s time to renovate again, and Hurricane Ivan passed that message to the Blake family. When the remnants of Ivan blew through Old Decatur on Sept. 17, 2004, their house was crushed by an uprooted oak tree.

The Blake family had to move out for a year, but they now have a kitchen addition and other renovations, such as relocating a staircase and removing several walls to create more open space.

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The 9½-foot Gaultney Christmas tree, in one of their home’s twin parlors is decorated with ornaments they collected while living in Germany, along with some crocheted by her mother and others made by their children and grandchildren.
Seven months later, neighbors Hal and Janice Gaultney also had to move out for renovations after fire destroyed their garage and damaged the kitchen, master bath and upstairs hallway. They have bought Saturday tour tickets for Decatur firefighters, who saved the house, to come tour it with their families.

Their yellow two-story Queen Anne Victorian with gable roof dormers was built in 1901 for a cotton broker from a design by George F. Barber & Co. and was listed in its Art in Architecture catalog as No. 568. It’s one of two in Decatur; the other is on Ferry Street. Barber claimed the design had been built in every state plus Canada and Cuba.

Wally and Barbara Inscho purchased the home in 1984 and restored most of it; then the Gaultneys bought it from them in 1985 and completed the work. They love the original details in their house, such as oak floors, doors and trim in the twin parlors and other formal rooms, while natural pine was used in the informal rooms. The doors in between are oak on one side and pine on the other, and the house also has three sets of pocket doors. Two of the three full baths are original, too, and they have five fireplaces (three with gas logs).

“They paid so much attention to detail back then,” Gaultney said.

The Gaultneys, who were sweethearts in first grade, lived in Germany and Belgium before he retired from the military. That’s where they began collecting German tree ornaments, which still adorn their 9-1/2-foot tree today, along with the bell ornaments her mother crocheted for them when they married and items made by their two children and two grandchildren.

One mantel holds her collection of Vaillancourt Folk Art chalkware Santa, which are made in Massachusetts using antique molds from Germany.

Many of their furnishings also came from Germany, such as the breakfront with hand carving that she got at a bazaar sponsored by the Officers’ Club in Landstuhl. The First Presbyterian Church carillon playing carols on tour night reminds her of the villages in Germany.

In 1990, the Gaultneys added a detached garage, along with a pool and fence. When fire broke out in the garage in April 2005, “Hal thought the house was gone,” she said. They were so glad to complete the renovations and get back in the house, and people wanted to see what changes they had made, that they decided to go ahead and put it on the Christmas tour “while it was nice and fresh.” The only other time it was on the home tour was 20 years ago this month, but now it has a new master bath that she loves, a fresh look for the kitchen and a two-car garage with poolside bath, utility room and a game room with bath.

Subtle touches

With the house’s Victorian grandeur and so much oak and pine around her, Gaultney prefers to uses subtle touches when decorating for the holidays. “I do all of my own decorating, and I like white, white and more white, with lots of blue and smidgens of green,” she said.

But when the holidays arrive, “I use a lot of white and red poinsettias, and amaryllis, too,” she said. However, you may see them sitting among pieces of her favorite blue-and-white china and her collection of white pitchers.

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Janice Gaultney lights candles in her dining room, where artichokes join poinsettias in providing seasonal colors on the table and sideboard. Her home, newly renovated after a fire, will be one of five open for touring Saturday from 3 to 8 p.m. during the Historic Decatur Christmas tour.
Her holiday touches of green are a bit different from traditional greenery. Green artichokes, along with Jackson vine, decorate her dining table and sideboard, along with white candleholders and poinsettias. Fresh rosemary trees and herb wreaths adorn the light, airy kitchen.

Upstairs, in an old-fashioned bath with clawfoot tub, she combines green hydrangeas with green apples and adds white votives. Green Christmas trees made of tin adorn the headboards of the twin beds in the grandchildren’s bedroom,

While she does her own decorating inside, Willis-Gray Designs created her door and front porch décor: twin white double urns flanking the door and holding arrangements of green apples, shrubs and grass, with a wreath to match.

“This house really comes alive at night,” said Gaultney, whose upstairs and downstairs will be open for the tour.

Albany tour homes

In Albany, Philip and Cindy Geddes have been working on the 5,000-square-foot Bragg house since purchasing it in 2003. They’ve even installed an elevator to simplify getting to the 1,500-square-foot third floor, a former attic that has been turned into cozy living space. The guest house behind the 1911 Georgia-Italian style home now is being renovated.

Ricky and Sandra Freeman have been busy since purchasing the 1905 Gray House in 2000. They gutted and stripped all the woodwork themselves when they started this extensive restoration project, paying careful attention to original details such as two working fireplaces and chimney, spindled pine staircase, beveled glass French doors in the dining room and heart pine floors upstairs. They added a first floor master bedroom suite and cherry cabinets and other touches in the kitchen.

Rex and Sharon Rankin have added their own style to the 2,100-square-foot 1912 Holloman Victorian bungalow since buying it in 2003. Their eclectic furnishings, suede paint and other touches make this three-bedroom house that used to be a duplex more livable. While it has features such as a black marble fireplace and beveled-pane French doors leading to the garden, they remodeled the kitchen and dining room area in May to create a better area for entertaining.

Home tours and much more

Decorated homes, yard lights and scenes, a nativity scene, carriage rides, humorous talk on Christmas, holiday floral decorating program and refreshments all will be part of the Historic Decatur Christmas Tour on Saturday, Dec. 9.

Floral decorating program: Scott Willis and Kathy Gray, designers, 3 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

“Life Makes Me Laugh, Especially at Christmas”: humorous talk by Randy Cross, humanities speaker and professor of English at Calhoun Community College, at Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m. ($10 at the door or $15 in combination with home tour ticket).

Carriage rides: 4 to 8 p.m. for $10 per person in two locations, Old State Bank and Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Refreshments: 4 to 7 p.m. at Carnegie Visual Arts Center and Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Tour stops open 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday:

  • Gibson-Gaultney House, 305 Lafayette St. N.E.
  • Carpenter-Blake House, 712 Line St. N.E.
  • Old State Bank, 925 Bank St. N.E. (tour tickets available noon to 7 p.m.)
  • Carnegie Visual Arts Center, 207 Church St. N.E. (refreshments 4 to 7 p.m.)
  • First Baptist Church, 123 Church St. N.E. (Journey to Bethlehem beginning at 5 p.m.)
  • First Presbyterian Church, 701 Oak St. N.E. (live nativity scene beginning at 5 p.m.)
  • Holloman-Rankin House, 1023 Sherman St. S.E.
  • Bragg-Geddes House, 651 Jackson St. S.E.
  • Gray-Freeman House, 651 Johnston St. S.E.
  • Westminster Presbyterian Church, 801 Jackson St. S.E. (refreshments 4 to 7 p.m. and tickets noon to 7 p.m.)
  • Tickets: $10 for home tour; $15 for home tour and “Life Makes Me Laugh”; available in advance at Parisian, Sam Frank and Moore, Carnegie Visual Arts Center, Decatur-Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau. On tour day, tickets will be at Old State Bank and Westminster Presbyterian from noon to 7 and the Visitors Bureau from 9 to 5.

    Patrice Stewart

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