2014-12-18 / Front Page

Sneak a Peek During Candlelight Home Tours

By Pat Blakeley


Candlelight Tour visitors to Willow's Edge, 42 Second St., on Dec. 27 will enjoy the "keeping room" and many fine details in the 1731 home. Unlike many historic houses, the Quaker colonial remains as originally laid out. (Photo by Ann Ritterbusch) Candlelight Tour visitors to Willow's Edge, 42 Second St., on Dec. 27 will enjoy the "keeping room" and many fine details in the 1731 home. Unlike many historic houses, the Quaker colonial remains as originally laid out. (Photo by Ann Ritterbusch) Those of us with a penchant for peeking into other people’s lives – just a bit – will get a terrific opportunity at the 44th annual Candlelight Tour of Historic Homes Dec. 26-28, when the Christmas in Newport staple offers the chance to do just that, as historic private homes open their doors to the public. Seven different properties will welcome guests during the post-Christmas days from 4 to 7 p.m. – for just $3 each.

Four houses that have not been on the tour before will make their debut this year, along with three favorites, reports coordinator Vance Gatchel. “We have three colonials and four Victorians,” she says. “It is always so interesting to see what people do with historic properties. Some choose to incorporate contemporary features, while others embrace the historic elements in all they do.”


The 1845 Benjamin Marsh House, 20 School St., is the "finest example of Gothic revival architecture in Newport," according to the National Historic Landmarks program. The 1845 Benjamin Marsh House, 20 School St., is the "finest example of Gothic revival architecture in Newport," according to the National Historic Landmarks program. Nancy Stafford and Bill Bagwill will receive visitors on Friday, Dec. 26, but not the sort they are used to. The couple owns the Cliffside Inn, 2 Seaview Ave., and this marks the first time the house, once the residence of artist Beatrice Turner, will be on tour. They bought the 1876 property in 2010 and began a massive renovation project, winning a 2014 Doris Duke Historic Preservation Award for the meticulous restoration. The first floor of the inn will be open, with the library, parlor, kitchen, and one guest room on display.

First time tour homeowner Ed Raymond looks forward to showing the ground floor of his 1895 property, located at 15 Chestnut St., on Friday, Dec. 26. The art lover, who is also an architect and preservationist, said the historic house is heavily decorated and more ornate than others in the area.


The 1725 Isaac Dayton House, at 35 Washington St., will make its tour debut this year. The 1725 Isaac Dayton House, at 35 Washington St., will make its tour debut this year. Also new to the tour this year is Willow’s Edge (1731), 42 Second St., on Saturday, Dec. 27. Two floors of the Quaker colonial style house will be open to guests. Willow’s Edge is one of the few that remains as originally laid out, with the exception of an added back staircase and baths. The large home is not as elaborate as many built by prosperous merchants in that era; it features a “keeping room” showcasing a large fireplace with a beehive hearth and an original pulley system as the focal point.

The ever-popular Victorian showplace J. Griffiths Masten House (1883), 43 Everett St., owned by Jan and Larry Girouard, will be on tour for the 12th time in 18 years on Saturday, Dec. 27. Jan decorates a little differently every season, “just to keep things fresh,” she says. The couple loves to be a part of the program, largely because of the appreciative guests who visit during the tour. “This house cries ‘Christmas,’” she laughs, adding that she begins decorating shortly after Thanksgiving and tweaks right up until the tour.

Suzanne Varisco will welcome visitors to the 1725 Isaac Dayton House, a Newport Restoration Foundation property, on Sunday, Dec. 28. This marks the tour debut of the small house, which is on its original site, unlike many of the colonial era homes still standing. The 35 Washington St. location provides a spectacular view of the harbor, and it boasts original floors and authentic, narrow windows.

The Benjamin Marsh House (1845),“the finest example of Gothic revival architecture in Newport,” according to a National Historic Landmark District plaque affixed to the building, will be open on Sunday, Dec. 28. Owner Kiki Slee McMahon says the craftsmanship of the woodwork, original floors and windows, and fine architectural elements throughout fascinate guests whenever she hosts the tour. Two floors of the 20 School St. home will be open.

Becky and Dan McSweeney will show the Quaker School House (1711) for the third time on Sunday, Dec. 28. The tour is a lot of work, admits Becky, but adds that the house is beautiful and they enjoy sharing it. Two floors of the 33 Farewell St. home will be on display; the exquisite woodwork, intricate dental detail around the fireplaces, and carved paneling in the dining room are particularly noteworthy.

Each Candlelight Tour of Historic Homes property will be marked by a Christmas in Newport flag and a uniformed member of the Newport Artillery Company at the door. The cost to tour each house is $3, payable at the door. As a courtesy to the homeowners, no high heels or photographs are permitted, and children must be at least 10 years old.

Return to top