People will once again be able to tour historic homes in Devalan this December with the return of the Homes for the Holidays Tour.
On Dec. 1, the community will open to the public some of its finest historic homes, all dressed up for the holidays. The Delavan Restoration Society is sponsoring this festive Christmas tradition.
From 4 to 8 p.m., visitors can relive the spirit of Christmas past. They will experience a candlelight tour of homes along luminary lighted streets. Advance tickets are available at the Delavan City Hall by calling 309-244-7146. Tickets will also be available in the lobby of the First Farmers State Bank the evening of the tour. All homes are east of the business district, which will necessitate some driving.
In conjunction with the tour, “A Silent, Holy Night” will be held from 3 to 3:40 p.m. at the Delavan United Methodist Church. The program will include local musicians and soloists directed by Debbie Tomm Woiwode. As a tribute to the troops and first responders, Jeff Turner will narrate the amazing story of the Christmas truce during World War I, originally narrated by Walter Cronkite. Pastor Steve Waggoner will bring the reading of the 23rd Psalm, with Steve Skinner as soloist. The United Methodist Women will serve a chili/hot dog supper, for donation only, in the fellowship hall following the program. For more information, call Harriet Szadkowski at 309-241-4479.
The Delavan business district, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, will feature an old-fashioned cookie walk at First Farmers State Bank to benefit Girl Scout Troop #4253. Restaurants and businesses will be open, including the Delavan Community Historical Society with a special display of Santas. Both the historic Ayer Public Library and St. Mary’s Catholic Church will be open with coffee and hot chocolate.
“Delavan is always at its best at Christmas time, and it is an honor to show off our homes during this festive time of the year,” said Mayor Liz Skinner. “We are so proud of our community, and we cherish our many traditions.”
One long-lasting tradition began in the 1920s when the townspeople put up a Christmas tree at the intersection of Fourth and Locust streets. And year after year and even today, a decorated tree has been a focal point of the downtown Christmas streetscape.
Homes on the tour this year include The Blevins House, 107 Pieper Circle; The Skold House, 310 S. Cedar St.; The Curtis House, 21724 State Route 122; The Fornoff House, 403 E. Fourth St.; and The Colony House Reassembled, 502 S. Linden St.
The decorated Skold House, Gibson Bluhm was the home of the late-Joseph and Mary Davison Skold. Penny Skold Bright still remembers moving to this large two-story home with her parents when she was only five years old.
“There were many old maple trees surrounding the large lot, and in the fall, the leaves would drop, providing many hours of fun and hard work for me and my sister and two brothers,” Penny said. “In later years, our own children enjoyed this tradition with their grandparents.
“We always had a large garden and raised rabbits and dogs. There was a big front porch, and we had many late summer nights playing games with the neighborhood kids, laying in the grass or counting stars. Later in life, we appreciated the interior of the house, including the woodwork, French doors, and built-in dining room cabinet, which is still preserved today.”
Heather Gibson Bluhm purchased the home in 1998 from Patrick Haynes. In 1999, the siding, front porch, and windows were replaced, giving the exterior of the house an updated look. In 2001, the interior saw a remodeling of the kitchen and a bathroom. A sun room and a deck were also added. Throughout these renovations, particular attention was given to preserving the original woodwork.