For a couple precious weeks each year, we can enter the homes of complete (and, sometimes, not) strangers and gawk at their stuff. To ensure that you satisfy your curiosity, we offer a brief guide to the prime snooping—err, tours.
By Scott Edwards
‘Tis the season to scope out some of the most inspiring halls around us, public and private. And, of course, soak up some holiday vibes. But, let’s be honest, we drag the dog out for a walk out most nights as a convenient excuse to peer through our neighbors’ floor-to-ceiling windows. These are the couple of weeks of the year when we can drop the act and walk right in. What follows is a guide to the season’s most promising house tours. Rest assured that every property will be decked out. You’re probably more interested in what lies beneath the garland, though. As are we.
Newtown Historic Assoc. Holiday Open House Tour | December 3
Six homes and seven public buildings, all in Rockwell-ian Newtown Borough, comprise this year’s self-guided walking tour, which dates back to 1963 (when admission was a buck-fifty; it’s $30 now). You’ll find some of the most impressive examples of colonial-era architecture in Bucks County among this collection.
Chadds Ford Historical Society Candlelight Christmas Tour | Dec. 3
Several historic Chadds Ford and Pennsbury township properties will be decorated and awash in candlelight—or, rather, sunlight; the tour starts at 1 p.m.; but candles will be burning, or plugged in, at least—for the self-guided tour. This one’s most appropriate for the history savant. Most of the featured stops played a role in the 1777 Battle of Brandywine.
Chestnut Hill Community Assoc. Christmas-Holiday House Tour | Dec. 3
Navigate the five featured homes on your own, by car, or aboard one of the trolleys that’ll be tracing the route throughout the day.
Fonthill Holiday Lights Meander | Dec. 10
There’s only one stop on this tour, but it’s a doozy. In broad daylight on an average Tuesday, Henry Mercer’s personal castle in Doylestown, Fonthill Museum, is akin to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, if Wonka was a freak craftsman instead of a sugar fiend. Adorned with garland, candles and designer Christmas trees, it’s sensory overload.
Haverford Holiday House Tour | Dec. 11
Five homes, the oldest dating back to the 19th century. Expect lots of wide-plank floors, short doorframes and built-in shelving and cabinetry. In other words, the kind of authentic nuances that, despite our boundless innovation since their inception, have become impossible to replicate.
Pottsgrove Manor by Candlelight | Dec. 11
On the 12th day of Christmas, the English colonists got down with their God-fearing selves—indulgent dinners, lavish parties. So, here, actors will be recreating some of those scenes throughout the 264-year-old mansion of Pottstown’s founder. There will be something on all three floors—dancing in the parlor, cooking in the kitchen and, we’re expecting, a secret rendezvous in the servants’ quarters.