For the 2013 Christmas season, Preservation Williamsport is telling the community, "Buon Natale!," as they prepare for the 15th annual Victorian Christmas.
Buon Natale (pronounced bon nuh-tal-aye) means "Merry Christmas" in Italian, and it's an appropriate motto, since the 15-year milestone is celebrating the area's Italian heritage.
The highly anticipated annual event, which focuses on emphasizing Williamsport's rich architectural history, including the nationally-recognized Millionaires' Row, will give tours of the historic mansions, homes, churches and museums, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 23.
This year's Victorian Christmas will celebrate Williamsport's Italian heritage with a theme of “Buon Natale.” Shown at the Dr. Charles Cipolla house on 201 E. Third St. from lower left, is Bev McCauley, chair of the Cipolla House, Jill Confair and Nan Young, co-chairpersons of the Victorian Christmas house tours. Top left is Dr. Anthony Cipolla, son of Charles, current owners Jon Bogle and Deborah Caulkins, with Harry and Anthony DiSalvo. The house is one of 13 homes and six churches that will be part of the Victorian Christmas tour to be held on Nov. 23.
"Our goal is to promote the history of Williamsport through architecture and the forefathers and their craftsmanship ... we don't use the natural resources that they used back then to build a house," said Nan Young, Preservation Williamsport chairwoman.
Expanding on that, the website, victorianchristmaspa.wordpress.com says, "the life, people, food, wine, music, art, language, architecture and faith are all the Italian influences we love."
The website goes on to list prominent Italian families in the area, including Bennardi, Campana, Casale, Danieli, DiSalvo, Girio, Miele, Morrone and Perciballi, some of which are associated with the locations on the tour, like Neil Casale, who owns the building that is occupied by The Mulberry Street Cafe, located in what's left of Williamsport's very own Little Italy.
The tour includes 13 mansion tours and six church tours. Additionally, there are a plethora of other associated events, like "Food on Fourth," which includes various churches and more who will serve specialty Italian dishes.
A special event called Finale Feast at 33 East will offer a Castiglionese dinner, which is described as a "unique and authentic cuisine from the foot hills of the Grand Sasso Mountains, Italy."
Other locations aside from Millionaires' Row include Vallamont, Newberry, the James V. Brown Library, the Thomas T. Taber Museum and the YWCA. Preservation Williamsport says that the locations "have great architectural interest and detail, some with modern adaptations, some with historical significance and some with legendary interest."
"The (James V.) Brown Library is delighted to be a part of the Victorian Christmas again this year," said Robin Glossner, James V. Brown Library's development director.
Visitors to the Moltz Rotunda reading room, which is located inside of the Fourth Street entrance to the library, will find a Victorian-style tree and decorations, and various books that specialize on Italian topics, including food, travel and history. Recipes from local Italian restaurants also will be available for visitors to take with them.
Additionally, she said, information about the Italian marble statues from James V. Brown's home will be available.
"Inside of the foyer, we have Ruth from the Old Testament and Beatrice Portinari, Dante's muse. Inside the Rotunda, there is a lovely marble of Christopher Columbus as a young boy," Glossner said.
An Italian heritage dinner was held as a kickoff event at the Sons of Italy on Nov. 9, where many who have an Italian background, like Casale and Mayor Gabriel Campana, discussed and shared stories of their Italian backgrounds with attendees.
"It goes way back. The Italian people that came here were very instrumental in making this community the community that it is - doctors, lawyers - parents all worked hard to educate them," Casale said in an earlier Sun-Gazette article.
A special goal this year is to reach a younger audience to educate them on the importance of the area's history.
"We want to encourage children to appreciate the architecture and also to see how things were built in those days," Young said.
One of the oldest structures on the tour, and one of the oldest standing historic structures in Williamsport, is The Reighard House, located on 162 E. Third St., owned by Christina and Jonathan Kohr. It was constructed circa 1840.
According to the Victorian Christmas official brochure, The Reighard House, located in Williamsport's Little Italy neighborhood, was owned by Giuseppi and Fortunata Biffarella and then Domenico Cuzzupi, before sitting vacant for a decade.
It was purchased in 2008 by Jonathan Kohr, a professional in historical renovation. This is, of course, only one of many interesting stops on the tour.
A trolly shuttle will be available to take participants to all of the stops.
Advance tickets are available for a fee; students and children can take the tour for free.
Tickets can be bought at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St.; The Genetti Hotel, 200 W. Fourth St.; or by telephone at 800-358-9900. They also are available the day of the tour at The Transportation Museum, 810 Nichols Place; the aforementioned locations; and at the mansions.
For more information, contact Yvonne DiRocco at 570-772-5671, Nan Young at 570-419-4915, or visit victorianchristmaspa.wordpress.com, where a full list of events, locations and other information about the 15th annual Victorian Christmas can be viewed.