Hearth & Tinsel Historic Home Tour in Palestine
By Dana Goolsby
PALESTINE- During the first weekend of Christmas In Palestine I had the opportunity to take the Hearth & Tinsel Historic Home Tour. As a resident of Palestine’s historic district, there is not a day that passes in which I don’t think to myself, “I would love to go inside that house,” as I pass the Victorian wooden castles on my way home. When historic home owners open their doors, I like to be first in line. The homes were as magnificent and and romantic as I had imagined, and among the most finest and most beautiful historic architecture in the state.
On this particular tour, transportation via trolley was arranged to take tourists to the historic homes. The trolley picked tourists up in front of the Historic Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Earlier that day, three of the town’s churches opened their sanctuary doors for tourists to marvel their lovely stained glass windows.
The first house on the Hearth & Tinsel Tour was located at 212 W. Reagan St. This lovely home was built in 1885. In 1904 it had a serious renovation. The home is currently owned by Ken Cook and Scott Haseltine. Mr. Cook owns a local auction house and in an antique dealer. The owners are in the process of completing renovations, but have made great strides in restoring this historic two-story gem.
The tablescape at the this home was adorned with beautiful china, carefully coordinated with hues of green and gold between the living and dining room, separated by lovely French doors.
The second home on the Hearth and Tinsel Historic Home Tour, located at 616 S. Sycamore St., immediately transported visitors into a place which had all the magic of a life-size gingerbread house. This house was the most elaborately decorated house on the tour. The owners love this time of year and have transformed the home into a menagerie of holiday wonder.
Long since a Palestine Landmark, the home at 616 S. Sycamore is today additionally noted for its annual Christmas decorations – both inside the home, and the extensive array outside. Originally a single-story frame building, the house was built about 1897 by Dr. Thomas Milton Colley for his son, Paul Sims Colley. The 1920’s brought multiple changes to Sycamore Street, including the arrival of potable water, sewage system, and paved sidewalks and streets. The changes encouraged Paul Colley in 1929 to make major alterations to his home, where he modernized the kitchen and bath, and added a music room to the front and south side of the building. A high peaked roof was added over its original one-story frame, and brick and veneer was added to convert it to a Tudor-revival style dwelling. The present owner acquired the home in 1984 and had made many lovely improvements.
The entire house was was decorated, from top to bottom. An impressive nutcracker collection lined the beautiful wooden staircase leading to the second story. Each room had its own Christmas theme. The deep red dining room was draped with garland, gold accents, around a beautifully set antique table.
The third home on the tour is a house I have always admired and hoped I would get to tour. Located at 412 S. Royall St., the unique steam-boat reminiscent home stands as a reminder as to Palestine’s historic splendor.
Georgia native Nathaniel Royster Royall (1846-1905) and his wife Annie Richardson Royall built this house in 1883-84. Local historians suggest that the house incorporates elements Galveston homes Mr. Royall had seen; the fanciful original paint scheme (red and white) was indeed suggestive of a summer resort hotel. A Confederate veteran, Mr. Royall moved to Palestine in 1873 and purchased a one-third interest in a general mercantile and banking business. The house remains in the Royall family.
As I climbed the stairs to the Royall house I felt that upon entering the house I may very well step across a threshold capable of transporting me back in time. The huge windows looking outside across the front lawn were as impressive from the inside as the out. Transoms above every door in the house were open, and quite to my surprise the house was as warm as my heart after a good dose of Southern hospitality.
The home was decorated perfectly for the season, with real holly branches, garland clad antiques, and tablescape laced in gold.
The Hearth & Tinsel Historic Home Tour in Palestine was an incredible experience, and only made me fall in love with Palestine even more. The historical architecture of the city, second only to galveston in numbers, is a gem that has been tucked behind the pine curtain. With locals’ efforts to restore and share the history the historical gems of Palestine are ready to shine bright, like a beacon in the pines.
Make plans to take the Hearth & Tinsel next year during Christmas In Palestine.
For more information about visiting Historic Palestine, Texas visit www.visitpalestine.com and start planning a trip to Palestine today!