Houses wrapped in gold garland, ready for visitors

Frederick's Candlelight House Tour open for guests, welcoming for holiday season


Adorned in silver and gold garland, white poinsettias, wreaths and spray-painted pinecones, the home welcomed its visitors, who casually strolled through the halls.

Then more visitors came in, and more and more. Guests poured into the home, made their way through the rooms and halls and then left through the back door. Those who had left made their way up the street, walked up to the door of one of the neighboring houses and came in crowds through that house’s doorway.

The homeowners didn't take offense to this entrance. In fact, they encouraged it.

Homeowners on Rockwell Terrace invited visitors into their historic houses during the 26th annual Candlelight House Tour in Frederick Saturday night from 5 to 9 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. The self-guided tour featured seven houses.

“The crowd is spectacular…very interested, very upbeat for what they are seeing,” Jackie Grimes, a docent at one of the houses on the tour, said. The six homes on Rockwell Terrace and the home on West Third Street were decorated by interior design companies, but also had decorations from the owners throughout the homes.

“Our designer just took our stuff and helped us organize it,” Pamela Geernaert, homeowner of a featured home on the tour, said. Geernaert’s home had some decorations brought in by the interior designer, Jan Nicholson of finelyfinisheddesigns llc, but the house was mainly decorated with objects that Geernaert and her husband owned.

“It was incredibly overwhelming to have that many people in [our] house,” Geernaert said. Within Geernaert’s home, which was built in 1908, visitors on the tour viewed a collection of antique maps on the walls. “Overall, [the tour] was very fun and exhausting,” Geernaert added.

Nicholson also decorated Geernaert’s home with Native American pieces that Geernaert received while she earned her doctorate working in the Pueblo of Laguna, the Laguna Indian Reservation in New Mexico, for three years. Geernaert said that most of the pieces displayed in the home were gifts from family members and elders she worked with.

“The Geernaert family is just a really lovely family,” Nicholson said. The Geernaert home also featured works from local artists. “I think [the tour] really is…a collaborative effort with the community,” Nicholson added.

Also on the tour was the home of Tom and Kathy Hundley, which was built in 1910. Tom Hundley, a writer for the Chicago Tribune, had objects featured in the house that came from his travels. The home was decorated with pottery, wooden figurines and glass from Poland, tapestries from Turkey and carpets from the Middle East.

Interior designers Bonnie Kratovil and Wendy Flynn of Dream House Furnishings and Interior Design placed decorative pieces in the Hundleys’ home to complement the Eastern European pieces that the Hundleys owned.

“I just enjoy seeing the insides of all the older homes,” Michelle Darden, a visitor on the tour, said. Homeowners Tal and Patti Hart also opened up their almost 100-year-old home to the tour. Inside of the home, guests on the tour saw objects such as a 20-year-old wooden, rotating nativity scene from Frankfurt, Germany.

The Harts’ home was decorated by interior designer Tim Coakley of Interior Foundations. Darden said that she and her mother, who were both on the tour, “enjoyed [the tour]…it’s been nice.”

The home of Paul and Heather Tinney was also on the tour and was decorated with a Christmas tree near the entrance of the house and also one on the porch. The Tinneys collect antique radios and, during the tour, visitors saw an antique radio in almost every room of the house on the first floor.

Decorations for the Tinney house were provided by interior designer AnnMarie Farran of purehome. Joan Whelihan, who attended the tour, said, “I think [the tour] shows off the character of Frederick…it’s always been wonderful.”

Homeowners Eric and Melissa Ward, who have only owned their house for 18 months, opened their home to the tour as well. Their home, which was built in 1915 and completely renovated in 2004, exhibited artwork owned by the family and china from the homeowners’ grandmother.

“I think this street is the crown jewel of downtown Frederick…the houses are just extraordinary,” Hazel Whitaker, who attended the tour, said. The Wards also displayed mid-century modern style chairs at their dining hall table during the tour.

“I’m a real…advocate for Frederick…it’s just a beautiful place to live,” Grimes said. Smariga and Angelique Hoffman of Silk & Burlap provided the décor for the Wards’ home.

The home of David and Melanie Williamson, which was built in 1915, had decorations and designs for the tour by interior designer Cynthie Corcoran of Interior Design of The Loft at Al. The home featured nature-themed holiday décor with spray-painted pinecones and a Christmas tree with bird, snow, fabric and twig ornaments.

“For me, [working with the tour] was fabulous,” Geernaert said. The only home on West Third Street shown during the tour, the home of Thomas and Lynne Severn, was originally built in 1820 with a carriage house behind it. The house was then renovated in 1910 and the carriage house became part of the kitchen of the main building.

The brick archway in the kitchen of the Severns’ home is part of the wall of the original building before the renovations. Also, behind a wall in the kitchen is a hidden stairway that leads up to the third floor. The stairway was built so workers renovating the home in 1910 could work without disturbing the homeowners’ family.

The tour “shows the history of Frederick,” Grimes said. The Severns’ home was decorated by interior designer Bradd Hammond.

“I’d rather have the tour in September or October,” Whitaker said.  The Candlelight House Tour was hosted by Celebrate Frederick, a non-profit organization, and The City of Frederick’s Office of Special Events.

Celebrate Frederick operated a tent Saturday night and Sunday to offer free hot chocolate, cider and cookies to guests as they made their way through the tour. During the Saturday night house tour, guests were allowed to take free horse and carriage rides.

On Saturday, local musicians played live music for the tour guests in each of the seven homes. Live music was played Sunday in the Severns’, Harts’ and Wards’ homes. Also, Old World Troubadour John DuRant, dressed in colonial garb, played the lute on Rockwell Terrace and West Third Street Sunday afternoon.

Tickets for the tour cost $20 and its proceeds will fund free public events for the Frederick community throughout the year such as In The Streets, summer concerts and children’s concerts. “I think it was very profitable for the community,” Geernaert said.

A line of six of the houses on the 2011Candlelight House Tour, photo by Sam Yu, courtesy of The Frederick News Post.

Finely Finished Designs assists people in crisis, establishes enjoyable environments


Jan Nicholson of finelyfinisheddesigns llc, the interior designer who decorated the home of the Geernaerts for the Candlelight House Tour, works with clients who are going through major life changes or crisis in order to help them create a positive atmosphere for their home.

“I’ve been through each and every one of those…stages of life,” Nicholson said, “so I can relate back and really empathize with clients.” Nicholson is able to travel outside of the state for her business. She added that her work “helps to deflect some of those cumbersome memories” that her clients have.

Nicholson, a graduate from the University of Missouri – Columbia, has been working with interior design for 30 years. Nicholson said that she first decided to become an interior designer when, in high school, her father urged her to decide on a plan for the future.

Nicholson said that the tour is “a nice touch so that the homeowner can show their home” to the community. This year’s Candlelight House Tour event was the first that Nicholson worked with. She said that, if the Historic Frederick Committee will want her to, she would like to work with the tour next year.