This holiday season, for the ninth year, the Magnolia Garden Club will offer the Historic Brunswick Christmas Tour of Homes. Through the tour, garden club members hope that attendees will come to appreciate the diversity of downtown residences.
About 400 people from nearby and as far as Florida, Savannah, even Atlanta, attend the tour each year. The garden club hopes to showcase the abundant local history, according to Sandy Dean, a Magnolia Garden Club Tour of Homes committee member.
Dean’s residence — a modern loft in a 1908 building — is on the tour along with a downtown church, cemetery chapel, grand houses, quaint cottages, and a ranch-style home.
“In the past, we’ve used larger Victorian homes (on the tour),” Dean says. “Now, we have added a loft and cottages. There are smaller ranges (of homes in downtown Brunswick), and they’re done beautifully.”
Additionally, storytellers will be stationed at several sites on the tour to speak about the history of the structure or area.
“(The tour) shows the vitality of the district,” Jan Galloway, tour committee member, says. “You don’t have to have a huge mansion to live here. You can have a nice home in a warm, welcoming community.”
This year’s Christmas Tour of Homes is set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7. There is no specific starting point for the tour; attendees can peruse the homes in any order they choose. Tour-goers can walk, drive, or take the available Red Bug electric vehicles between sites. Many locations on the tour comply with federal Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m, an accompanying bake sale will be held at First United Methodist Church. It will include cakes, cookies, breads, pies, jams, jellies, and more, all baked by garden club members and festively packaged.
Tickets are $25 in advance and are available in Brunswick at Dot and Army at 1426 Newcastle Street and at Merle Norman Cosmetics, 250 Golden Isles Plaza.
They are available on St. Simons Island at G.J. Ford Bookshop in the Shops at Sea Island and Righton Books in Redfern Village.
Tickets are $30 on the day of the tour and can be purchased at First United Methodist Church of Brunswick.
Tickets are $20 per person for groups of 10 or more.
The Magnolia Garden Club puts funds raised from the tour back into downtown Brunswick through their plaque program. They install signage to document the history of the city’s buildings, as well as assisting with landscaping, the Signature Squares program, and the restoration of Oak Grove Cemetery.
First United Methodist Church, 1400 Norwich Street
This year, the tour includes First United Methodist Church of Brunswick. The congregation dates back to 1838. The current structure, circa 1907, is an example of Gothic Revival style, which is rare in Southern states, according to information provided by the garden club. It features pointed stained glass windows and buttress supports, which are key elements of the genre.
The Rain House, 1500 Mansfield Street
The Rain House/Chapel has been a presence in Oak Grove Cemetery for more than 120 years. With its pitched roof, eclectic stick work, and skirted sides, it is an example of Folk Victorian style, according to the garden club. The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps show it as a shed, then an office. In the 1890s, a group of ladies, called the Oak Grove Cemetery Society, got the deed for the structure from the city, reconstructed the building, then returned the deed to the city. The Rain House, circa 1898, is intended to shelter the grieving as necessary before they go into the cemetery to bury their loved one.
The Dexter House, 928 Union Street
The Dexter House, circa 1875, is a beautiful example of the Folk Victorian style. The recent renovation by owners Chris and Ally Moline modernized the structure, while making sure to maintain the house’s historical ambiance.
The Howe Street Cottages, clustered on the corner of Ellis and Howe Streets
The Howe Street cottages date back to the late 1800s to early 1900s, and were recently revived. These shotgun houses are decorated with a sophisticated charm, adds Galloway.
Brunswick Manor, 825 Egmont Street
The over-6,000-square-foot Downing House, also known as Brunswick Manor, circa 1886, is built entirely of Stratton red brick. With its center window arch, decorative brickwork on both sides of the façade, and tall chimneys, the structure is an example of the Queen Anne style. Further, architect Alfred S. Eichberg, who designed this house, also designed Old City Hall on Newcastle Street. During the holidays, the 12-foot Christmas tree, with 10,000 lights and 2,000 European glass-blown Christopher Radko ornaments is the main attraction — it was featured on TLC’s “Extreme Christmas Trees.”
1604 Newcastle Street
The Loft at 1604, Dean’s residence, at 1604 Newcastle Street, is an example of a modern living space in a historical building. It was constructed by brothers C.H. and L.J. Leavy in 1908 to house The Brunswick News, the local newspaper they established. The publication remains owned by the Leavy family, and is one of the oldest family-owned newspapers in Georgia. The building’s current owners, Sandy and Greg Dean, have their business, Information Technology Management, on the street level, and live in the upstairs loft.
401 Second Avenue
Owner Stacy Bass’ ranch-style house dates back to 1955. The wide lots sold in the 1940s and 1950s were the perfect size for these long, one-story houses. Inside, the house is decorated in the mid-century modern style, and furnished with articles of that time period.