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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Reid

Holiday Tour of Homes to feature historic buildings decked out for Christmas

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

Several local residents, along with three churches, will open their doors for a special event just in time for the holidays.

The 2018 Holiday Tour of Homes, presented by the Historic Burke Foundation, will take place from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1. People who take the tour will have the opportunity to explore several historic homes and enjoy their Christmas decorations, according to Kasey Goodfellow, the coordinator for HBF. The build dates of the structures range from 1812 to 1927.

“We think this is a wonderful opportunity for people to see some of the interesting architectural details and structures around the county,” Goodfellow said. “They’re all terrific structures. I hope people will get to see a bunch of different Christmas traditions, and that it will help get them in the holiday spirit.”

Music and refreshments will be provided at some of the locations. Music will be performed by Morgan Jeter and students, cellist Patricia Wright, vocalist Ellen Settlemyer, the Iron Strings quartet and the Freedom High School Choir, directed by Mara Walker.

Advance tickets for the tour are $20 each and can be purchased through the HBF office. The office also will sell tickets the day of the event for $25 each. Proceeds will support the work of the foundation, whose mission is to preserve the history of Burke County.

People who take the tour will be responsible for their own transportation to each location.

Goodfellow provided a description of each house and church on the tour:

» Bridgewater Hall (circa. 1890)

Bridgewater Hall, also known as The Rust House, is one of rural Burke County’s best examples of surviving Victoria-era domestic architecture.The front entrance has an ornate Eastlake-style, bordered by sidelights and elaborated with applied panels with engraved wheat designs and colored-glass Queen Anne upper sash.There are two parallel gabled two-story ells that extend from the back with a wrap-around, two-tiered side porch with turned posts and balustrade. When Bridgewater was a more bustling town and had a rain stop, these ells were more than likely used as rooms for a boarding house, which was reportedly operated by Jennie Rust. Jennie (Virginia Anthony) andher husband, David Lee Rust (1865-1929), were the descendants of some of the areas first settlers and raised 10 children.

» Cedar Grove (1825) Cedar Grove is the ancestral plantation home of the Forney and Bost families. It is very similar in style to the nearby Bellevue Quaker Meadows and Pleasant Valley (destroyed) plantation homes. All have simple Federal-styling, Quaker interior plans, Flemish bond brick work and twin entry doors with rectangular transoms. Cedar Grove is the oldest residence on the tour this year.

» The Capt. Charles McDowell Jr., House (1812)

The Capt. Charles McDowell Jr. House of Quaker Meadows Plantation, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is believed to be the oldest surviving brick structure in Burke County. Built in 1812 by McDowell, it was constructed on a portion of 100 acres deeded to him by his father some 10 years earlier.

The house is built on the “Quaker” floor plan. The two story house is a three - room over three - room structure with four doors on the ground floor; two each on the eastern and western facing facades. There is one central ly located enclosed staircase. The brick veneering is comprised of common plantation brick made by slave labor and laid in a flemish bond pattern of alternating, each course consist of headers and stretchers. In February of 1986, Crescent Land and Timber, a subsidiary of Duke Power Company, deeded the house and 6.1 acres of land to the Historic Burke Foundation.

» The Belle at Avery (1890) The Belle at Avery, built in 1890, is located inhistoric downtown Morganton. The combination of Greek Revival and Victorian - era design elements were maintained during recent renovations. A unique two-facaded house, the Avery Avenue portion is a two-story, frame, hip-roofed residence with Colonial Revival influences; hip-roofed porch with pedimented entry hip - roofed domer. The Lenoir Street section is a one-story, frame, gabled roofed Victorian cottage with a facade-width porch with turned posts and scroll work brackets. This property was formerly a school and a bed and breakfast.

» The Leonhardt House, also known as the Tommy Parker Music House (circa. 1900)

Built circa. 1900, the two-story framed house is one of the county’s most substantial homes. The architectural stylecombines elements of Colonial Revival and Queen Anne. The house has had several owners, including H. D. Leonhardt, who owned and operated the small grocery store that stands across the highway.

» Slades Chapel AME Zion Church (1881)

The church was founded in 1881 by the Rev. Mayhue Slade, who served as a pastor. The original members came out of Gaston Chapel AME Church across the street. Selfless members and friends of the church built the first simple wooden structure. In 1968, the Rev. J.F. Willis challenged members to either build or purchase a parsonage. The new parsonage was purchased on Bouchelle Street. The old parsonage was torn down and a parking lot was built were it stood. In early 2000, the Rev. Samuel O. Richardson headed up vast renovations to Slades Chapel. Phase I included renovating the parsonage, installing a sound system in the church, erecting a steeple, installing gates at the entrances to the parking lot and carpeting the fellowship hall. On June 2, 2004, the congregation held a ceremony outside of the entrance of Slades Chapel to mark the renovations of the exterior, which were to include a brick tower to enclose the elevator, with a second matching tower to be constructed on the opposite side of the church entrance that was to enclose a unisex handicap rest room and enlarge the church vestibule.

» Gaston Chapel AME Church (1863)

Gaston Chapel is Morganton’s second oldest church building and the oldest black church in the county. Members constructed the church of handmade brick, employing Gothic design elements. Six stained glass Gothic windows line each wall and a tripartite Gothic window adorns the facade. Circa 2001, an addition to the fellowship hall, classrooms and offices to the north and east was completed. This addition created a new altar area. The stained glass windows on the north are now backed by a wall.

» The Historic Burke County Courthouse (circa 1832-37)

The current structure on the historic courthouse square in downtown Morganton is the fourth courthouse built in Burke County. James Binnie and Federick Roderick supervised construction. Stone was quarried 5 miles outside of Morganton on Daniel Forney’s plantation one wagon load at a time. Stucco was applied to the exterior in 1885, and the baroque-style cupola was added in 1901.

The courthouse was used until 1976, when the new courthouse was built at 201 S. Green St. The building sat empty for about 10 years, leading to deterioration and risk of demolition. The Morganton Service League and concerned citizens eventually formed the Historic Burke Foundation and successfully saved the building.

» A. M. Kistler House, First Baptist Church (circa 1927)

The house was built circa. 1927 by Andrew Milton Kistler and his third wife, Mary “Mamie” Collett Kistler. It, like several other West Union Street houses, is believed to have been designed by Louise Asbury, as architect from Charlotte. In 1953, First Baptist Church purchased the homes of Harry Lewis Millner, John Henry Pearson and the Kistler home. Both the Millner House and the Pearson house were razed to make way for the church and a parking lot. When the church was completed in 1967, the Kistler Home became the detached annex to the church. Today, First Baptist Church uses the Kistler house for receptions and classrooms. Betty Day is responsible for designing and decorating the house for Christmas, assisted by members of the Koinonia Sunday school class, church youth and Jerry Buchanan, the building superintendent.

Goodfellow acknowledged the many community partners who have teamed up to present the tour: Michael Gavin, Nina Ramseur Warren , Samatha Reid, Bridget and Rex Robinson , Slades Chapel AME Zion Church , Gaston Chapel AME Church , First Baptist Church of Morganton , Becky and Edward Phifer , Phifer Lumber Co. , Food Matters Market, King’s Christmas Trees, The News Herald, Morgan Jeter and students, Paddy Wright and Ellen Settlemyer, Iron Strings, Freedom High School Choir and HBF volunteers.

“Without these wonderful people, this tour wouldn't be possible,” Goodfellow said. “Thank you tremendously for your support.”

She encouraged people to take the tour and help preserve Burke County history.

“Your support helps us keep the doors open to the Historic Burke County Courthouse and preserve historic structures in Burke County, including the Historic Burke County Courthouse, The C apt. Charles McDowell Jr. House, Quaker Meadows Cemetery and Belvidere Cemetery,” Goodfellow said.

To learn more about the tour or to purchase tickets, contact the HBF office at 828-437-4104. The office is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Staff writer Tammie Gercken can be reached at

Tammie Gercken Staff Writer

Nov 20, 2018

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