‘Underground Railroad’

Victorian Christmas celebrates city's underground history

Showcasing a vibrant array of craftsmanship, local history and artistry — and of course, the rich visual history of Williamsport’s Victorian homes and churches built in the bygone era of lumber baron largesse — the 19th annual “Victorian Christmas” presented by Preservation Williamsport begins Friday and ends Nov. 19.

Featuring a full slate of tours, educational discussions, museum exhibits, shopping, live music, dining and entertainment, Victorian Christmas offers activities for the whole family to enjoy.

“Victorian Christmas is a great way to kick off the holiday season,” said Peachie O’Connor, one of seventeen volunteer committee members who help coordinate this annual event.” It is a wonderful opportunity to experience our architectural wonders, learn about our local history, interact with talented musicians and artisans from our area, and support the preservation of historic homes,” adds O’Connor.

This year, eight homeowners will open the doors of their historic properties to the public for tours all day on Saturday.

“There are such treasures in the design of these beautiful structures,” said Nan Young, one of the original co-founders of Victorian Christmas.” The owners willingly decorate their homes and make them available for people to share in their cultural heritage. In addition, there will be live instrumental music to add to the ambience. This event allows us to bring to light the Victorian era architecture in our city.”

New to the Victorian Chris­tmas schedule of events this year is a juried Victorian Artisan Market hosted at the YWCA on from 2-7 p.m. Friday. The Artisan Market will feature a wide range of hand-crafted gifts and articles including glass jewelry and ornaments, handmade soaps and lotions, home decor and ceramics, and fiber arts such as Kuntzie’s Kimonos — hand tailored wraps with antique accents.

Additional events and activities include a tree lighting and carol singing, the Duboistown Garden Club’s “Holiday Cheer,” Toy Train Expo, Williamsport Symphony Orchestra Billtown Brass Band, Billtown Christmas Parade, and Food Around Town including Peter Herdic House, Chef Hosch & Ann Catering and Franco’s.

The purpose of Victorian Christmas is to foster public awareness and appreciation of fine architectural heritage in the Historic District and Williamsport proper, as well as to educate children, instill knowledge and appreciation of Victorian architecture — and the importance of its preservation.

Last year, the committee decided to expand their focus to include an educational component, or theme, to provide local visitors and tourists the opportunity to walk through Williamsport’s history with a deeper appreciation of those who helped create the community we call home.

The educational theme of this year’s Victorian Christmas is the Underground Railroad. Karen Frock will host discussions entitled “Williamsport in the Underground Railroad” at the Thomas. T. Taber Museum at 6 p.m. on Friday and from 9 a.m. to noon at the James V. Brown Library Rotunda on Saturday. The discussions are free and open to the public. Victorian Christmas has arranged for free trolley rides to Freedom Road Cemetery to pay respects and visit this property once owned by Daniel and Annie Hughes, who operated an Underground Railroad station to help enslaved African-Americans find safety and freedom.

Young feels it is important to add the educational component, and continue to grow the offering and enrichment that Victorian Christmas provides visitors each year.

There is a cost for tickets per adult, which are free for children through age 18, as well as student with college ID.

Tickets may be bought in advance at the Historic Genetti Hotel & Suites, 200 W. Fourth St., or Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St.; tickets bought via credit card may be processed at Lycoming County Visitors Bureau 102 W. Fourth St., or by phone at 570-327-7700.

Tickets also may be purchased onsite at the historic homes on tour, or at the following locations: Lycoming County Visitors Bureau, 102 W. Fourth St., and Historic Genetti Hotel & Suites, 200 W. Fourth St., The Transportation Museum, 810 Nichols Place.

Proceeds will be used to beautify the Historic District with flower baskets on lamp posts during the summer months and Christmas wreaths and lights in the winter months. A rose garden also is planted and maintained at the historic district portal on West Fourth Street. The arrangements are created and cared for by Lady Di’s Floral and Garden Art.

The following homes, churches and museums are included in the 2017 Victorian Christmas Tour:

• The Rowley House, 707 W. Fourth St.

• The Elias Deemer House, 711 West Fourth St.

• Weightman Block Apa­rtments, 770 W. Fourth St.

• Backhouse Cafe Coffee & Tea, 901 West Fourth St.

• Fink/Youngman House, 601 Sixth St.

• The Culler House, 855 Vallamont Dr.

• Huffman/Myers House, 225 Grampian Blvd.

• The Plankenhorn/Lu­ndy/Ros­en­thal House, 235 Grampian Blvd.

• Otto Bookstore, 107 W. Fourth St.

• Genetti Hotel & Suites, 200 W. Fourth St.

• The FCFP Philanthropy Center, 201 West Fourth Street

• The Thomas T. Taber Museum Lycoming County Historical Society, 858 W. Fourth St.

• Freedom Road Cemetery

• Christ Episcopal Church, 426 Mulberry St.

• Trinity Episcopal Church, 844 W. Fourth St.

• City Alliance Church, 380 W. Fourth St.

• St. Joseph the Worker Church, 702 W. Fourth St.

• Covenant Central Pres­byterian Church, 807 W. Fourth St.

• Ebenezer Baptist Church, 527 Park Ave.

• Bethel AME Church, 601 Hepburn St.

• Shiloh Baptist Church, 433 Walnut St.

For more information about this year’s schedule of events and activities, visit the Victorian Christmas website at www.victorianchristmaspa.wordpress.com.