WASHINGTON — Sue Freeberg isn't guided by a real estate agent's mantra of "location, location, location" when she organizes the Christmas Tour of Homes presented annually by the Washington Historical Society.

"Location isn't a concern. I'm looking for variety," she said.

Variety she has this year for the 33rd annual tour, which features three historic and two contemporary homes. Each home is decorated for the holidays and will be open for tours from 1 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 11.

While location isn't a factor when Freeberg chooses five homes annually for the tour, four of this year's homes are near the downtown Washington square.

"Coincidence," she said.

The historic homes on this year's tour are at 110 N. Elm St., owned by Jerry and Cindy Hamilton; 201 S. Main St., owned by Tom and Judy Gross; and 116 N. Elm St., owned by Brent Goken and Rich Ellis.

The Hamiltons' home, built in the mid-1800s, was visited by Abraham Lincoln on his way to the Metamora courthouse.

The Grosses' home was built in the 1870s by banker Charles Anthony.

The home owned by Goken and Ellis was built in 1906 by A.J. and Hattie Myers, who owned a hardware store on the square. The home's second owner, Richard Tanton, was Washington's fourth mayor.

Also on the tour are homes owned by Nick and Pam Ripley, 410 South St., and Dale and Megan Sparks, 300 Diebel Road.

The Ripleys' home was built in 1991 on land owned by Pam Ripley's great-grandparents since 1901. The Sparkses are celebrating their second Christmas in their home, built in 2016.

The tour is the major fundraiser of the year for the Historical Society, which was established in 1981 and has about 200 members, many of whom work on the day of the tour.

The Historical Society purchased the Dement-Zinser House and neighboring doctor's office at 105 Zinser Place and 101 Zinser Place in 1995 "and our ongoing mission is to acquire, preserve and display Washington history," said Toni Minton, the organization's president since April.

The Dement-Zinser House, built in 1858, and the doctor's office, which arrived at its Zinser Place location by train in 1905, are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Folks on the tour can stop in at the Dement-Zinser Home for refreshments.
"We're a not-for-profit organization, so we really appreciate how the community supports our tour and the homeowners who agree to have visitors go through their homes," Minton said.

Freeberg, a Historical Society board member who has been organizing the tour for about 10 years, said at least 450 people go on the tour each year. The most tickets sold since Freeberg took charge of the tour was 565 in 2007.

She said some people open their home for the tour voluntarily, and some homes are recommended to her.

"I'm not looking for mansions. This isn't a Grandview Drive tour," she said. "We want homes where people can see how they're decorated for the holidays and get ideas for their own homes."

This is the second time the homes owned by Goken and Ellis and Tom and Judy Gross have been on the tour.

"Our home, which has a finished basement, has been completely remodeled and restored since the last time we were on the tour, 11 years ago," Goken said.

"Each inch is brimming with holiday spirit. We have more than 20 gilded trees, from a 10-foot tree in the living room to a lit and decorated one-foot tree that's used in one of dozens of tablescapes."

Goken said the living room tree has more than 3,000 lights and about 300 retro, glass-beaded ornaments.

Upstairs in the master bedroom is a bird-themed flocked tree with a battery-powered musical train underneath. There's even a tree decorated in golds and crystals in the upstairs bathroom.

Each room in the home has multiple trees. All three floors will be open for viewing, Goken said.

Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or stevestein21@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.


If you go

What: 33rd annual Christmas Tour of Homes presented by the Washington Historical Society.

When: 1 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 11.

Where: Five homes decorated for the holidays and open for tours.

Tickets: $17 in advance at the Washington Chamber of Commerce, 114 Washington Square; Home Spun, 121 Washington Square; Kimpling Ace Hardware, 1880 Washington Road; and Studio 901, 901 Peoria St.; also via PayPal at washington-historical-society.org; $20 on Dec. 11 at the Dement-Zinser House, 105 Zinser Place.