LAURINBURG — Though the night before Christmas is still weeks away, there were plenty of stockings hung by chimneys — possibly triggering visions of sugar plums — on display during Tuesday’s Laurinburg Junior Service League Christmas Tour of Homes.
Whether curious to see the interior of some of Laurinburg’s most visually striking homes or on the hunt for decorating ideas, those participating in the 35th annual tour all got an eyeful.
“It’s lovely: most unusual with the pool in the middle,” said Courtney Carmichael of Susan McArn’s Gilchrist Street home. “I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
The lap pool is situated at the center of the McArn home, inside a vast atrium that would, on a sunnier day, have let in a cascade of light through the glass-ceiling.
“It’s unusual, isn’t it?” mused Jean Edge, who expressed admiration for all six of the homes featured on this year’s tour.
“They’re very pretty — Bill Carmichael’s house was beautiful, probably the prettiest one we’ve seen so far.”
At the four-bedroom Carmichael abode in the Balmoral neighborhood, tourists were welcomed with samples of butternut squash soup courtesy of Frances Willis and Wild Flour Catering, and Christmas decorations paid homage to the homeowners’ livelihood with cotton stalks woven into the traditional red-ribboned pine garlands on the stairwell.
Live guitar and piano music kept the mood in each home festive, whether with a stirring rendition of “What Child is This” or “Carol of the Bells” or an upbeat run through of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
Returned to the tour for a second year, the home of Eric and Teresa Locklear on Scotland Farm Road attracted its share of approbation with an array of themed Christmas trees. Tour participant Bernie Williams counted the Locklear home as his favorite, but admits it was a difficult choice.
“All these places are beautiful,” said the awestruck Williams. “Some of these houses, every piece of furniture in these houses is antique.”
Several participants appreciated the tasteful level of decoration in the homes featured on this year’s tour, which complemented rather than dominated characteristics of the houses themselves.
Frescoes and delicate decorative molding on ceilings in the 111-year-old Church Street home of Paul Tate — and the original deeds and blueprints framed on the wall — drew as much appreciation as a small army of nutcrackers, pine boughs on the mantelpiece, and formal holiday place settings.
“It’s very nice – the ceilings in the rooms over there are very unusual, but maybe not for the time,” said Lucy Canty.
Tate, a retired U.S. Army colonel, lived in a house nearby upon his initial move to Laurinburg. But he became acquainted with the owners of the 1904 home and eventually purchased it, filling it with artifacts acquired over a global military career: from West African art to Russian nesting dolls.
“We travelled all over the world, so a lot of this stuff is just junk from everywhere,” said the self-deprecating Tate, who in the historic Scotland County home found an exhibition space for a lifetime of treasures.
“The most important thing is to make sure the community recognizes the importance of sustaining historical buildings for this community.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.