The Golden Isles is filled to the brim with tradition. From Fourth of July fireworks to the Jekyll Island Shrimp and Grits Festival, our events draw families from near and far to Georgia’s coast.
One of the most celebrated is the Christ Church Tour of Homes. The springtime fundraiser, hosted by the Episcopal Church Women, became a part of the community in 1953.
This year will mark the 70th anniversary of the tour and a welcome return after a three-year hiatus. It was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, which also continued into 2021 and 2022.
But at long last, it is back. The tour will be from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 18. While the event is steeped in history, there will be a number of new elements this year.
For starters, all of the six homes will be located on Sea Island. Participants will be offered the convenience of parking at the church or its neighbor, Wesley United Methodist, to board the buses to be shuttled to the private location, courtesy of the Sea Island Co.
The streamlined approach isn’t the only change. According to Sharon Altenbach, who is co-chairing the event with Gayle McAlister, there will be additional points of interest at the historic church, which was founded in 1736.
“One of the things that is different this year is that the tour is also focused on the church itself. It will begin and end at Christ Church, which has not happened in the past. Previously (attendees) boarded buses at Gascoigne to go to Sea Island,” Altenbach says.
“We’ve also added some special historical narratives that will be taking place in the church’s cemetery. Those will be really interesting and helpful in understanding the historical facts and figures that are important to the location.”
Another addition will be food trucks that will offer tour-goers a bite to eat before or after their trip to Sea Island.
“There’s also going to be hospitality in the parish hall. Then, outside we’ll have the food trucks, which will be new,” she says.
The six Sea Island homes are varied in styles, locations — marshfront, lakefront, oceanfront, and design — but Altenbach notes they’re all fabulous.
“They’re really special and there’s no two alike,” she says.
One stop that’s quite unique is a newly-constructed guest house. The three story design offers ocean views from its top level along with its own putting green on the ground floor.
“For another we have, the owners have gone in and recreated or brought back historical components from their trips to Israel. One room is a chapel inside the house. They’ve recreated a lot of mosaics in the floors that are representations of mosaics in and around historic sites in Jerusalem and in Magdala,” Altenbach says.
Another home features other pieces including a family painting that dates back to the 1700s.
“They have a long, local family history and one of the paintings is of Captain Demere,” she says.
The homes, the decor, collections, and gardens are sure to impress and inspire. And while that’s certainly a major element of the tour, the true meaning goes deeper. Ticket sales and money raised from sale of the church’s beloved cookbook go to local charities. Each year, the event raises upward of $100,000.
“The proceeds go to support local charity, focusing on women and children primarily,” Altenbach says.