Oh, Christmas Tree

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 23, 2008

When the Friends of the Armstrong Library first approached Edward and Barbara Colwell about opening their home for the annual Christmas tour of homes, the couple was a little hesitant to comply.

But, knowing the tour was a fundraiser for the George Armstrong Library, they agreed to not only be on the tour but also serve as the refreshment center.

“The house was torn up because we were putting in a new bathroom upstairs,” Edward said.

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“It definitely gave us an incentive to get the project done on time,” Barbara added.

And now that most of the dust has settled from the bathroom renovation, the Colwells are busy turning their home — Maywood, 1 Elm St. — into a Christmas wonderland.

The annual Christmas tour of homes is the largest fundraiser for the Friends of the Armstrong Library. The money raised during the tour is used year round to support and enhance the library and its programs.

“We do things like supporting the summer libraries programs, and we buy equipment for use in the library,” said Friends of the Library publicity chairperson Maria Bowser. “We recently bought a rocking chair for the children’s reading area to encourage parents to bring their children in and read to them.”

And that is exactly why the Colwell’s decided to open their home to visitors.

“Our granddaughter loves the library here. She goes to all of the summer programs they have and throughout the year,” Barbara said. “I think it is an underutilized tool and anything we can do to encourage people to use it is worth it.

“It is definitely an asset to the community and a worthwhile cause.”

Accompanying Maywood on this year’s tour will be Myrtle Bank, 409 N. Pearl Street, The Van Court Town House, 510 Washington St. and White Wings, 311 N. Wall St.

Bowser said picking these particular houses adds to the appeal of the tours.

“All of these houses are really unique,” she said. “Many of these houses are antebellum but just not on the pilgrimage tours.”

Friends of the Library President Lucy Miller said having private homes on the tour just increases the appeal for visitors.

“People are going to know all four of the houses,” Miller said. “But they may not have ever been in them. These are homes that you have admired from the curb but you don’t have another way to get into the houses.”

Bowser said that the event is also the start of the Christmas season for many who attend the tour each year.

“People in Natchez just love the Christmas holiday,” she said. “It is a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season while supporting a really, really good cause.”

The Colwell’s are a true example of people who “just love the Christmas holiday.” They have decorated six large trees and several smaller ones. And a large display of Fontanini figurines will be showcased on the piano.

“In a different home we had a large Christmas tree in the formal living area, but we hardly ever got to enjoy it because we didn’t spend much time in there,” Barbara said. “So, we got another tree, and then we thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have a tree in the entry hall. It has just grown over the years.”

The trees are decorated in themes that vary from room to room. The largest tree is decorated with ornaments that the Colwell’s say are “old fashioned.” Many of the ornaments displayed were inherited from Edward’s grandmother.

While the Colwell’s home will be decorated in a grand fashion, Miller said tour goers can expect the same from each of the other houses featured as well.

“They will all be beautifully decorated,” she said. “All of the homeowners are knocking themselves out to get decorated.”

The tour is from 2 until 5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 6. Tickets are $15 each or two for $25.

“You get a twofer price that is a better deal so pair up with anyone,” Miller said.

Tour goers can purchase tickets in advance at the library or at the door to any of the homes on tour.

There is no limit on ticket sales and last year approximately 400 people toured each house.

“The more the merrier,” Miller said. “I’m hoping for a great weather and just a bazillion people.”