Homes offer holiday tours

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

DEMOPOLIS &045; Area historical landmarks and homes are decked out in the holiday spirit for Christmas in Canebrake and are offering tours this evening.

As part of Christmas on the River, three historical homes of Demopolis will be on display filled with holiday dcor and entertainment. Gaineswood, along with the Marengo County Historical Society (MCHS) historic houses, Bluff Hall and Lyon Hall, will be candlelit and decorated period-style in natural greenery and fruit.

This year will mark the 31st candlelight evening at Gaineswood. Tours will be held from 5:30 until 8 p.m. tonight at Gaineswood.

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Highlighting activities at Gaineswood will be the return of Civil War re-enactors and the music of the First Baptist Church handbell choir directed by Dr. Ed Rush.

Re-enactors will be at Gaineswood throughout the evening while the handbell choir performs in the ballroom from 5:30 through 7 p.m. The &8220;Singing Carolers&8221; from U.S. Jones Elementary will follow with a 7:30 p.m. vocal performance.

While bringing back some of the older traditions, Gaineswood is not abandoning its newer traditions.

The costumed Gaineswood Belles will serve as guides and hostesses.

The evening marks the debut of the Belles’ understudies, the Gaineswood Junior Belles. Comprised of young ladies ages 8-12, the Junior Belles will shadow the Belles as they prepare to become full-fledged Gaineswood Belles.

Civil War re-enactors include Mike Graham of Livingston, Tim Williams of Demopolis, and others. Although no Civil War battles occurred in Demopolis, Confederate forces formed a parole camp in Demopolis, and General Leonidas Polk made Gaineswood his headquarters briefly in early 1864.

Hartzell said one of the reasons Polk headquartered at Gaineswood was because his aide-de-camp, Francis Eugene Whitfield, had married Gaineswood owner-architect Nathan Bryan Whitfield’s daughter Betsy in 1863.

Admission to each of the three historic houses is $3 per person, with ages 11 and under admitted free.

MCHS also invite the public to experience Christmas Past and Present at Bluff Hall and Lyon Hall during Christmas in the Canebrake. These historic antebellum houses will be decorated in period fashion with fresh cedar, smilax and berries among other native naturals, and aglow with soft candlelight. Area talent will fill the air with the sounds of Christmas as choirs sing, musicians play and bells ring. Christmas in the Canebrake will also include many sweets and savories each prepared by society volunteers. Tours will be held at Lyon and Bluff Hall from 5:30 to 8 p.m., tonight. Admission is $3 per person ages 12 and up. For more information, please contact the society at 334-289-9644.

Hartzell encourages those who cannot make it to the Candlelight Evening to visit Saturday, December 2, from 1 – 3 p.m., when the mansion hosts open-house tours.

For more information about the 31st Candlelight Evening, contact Gaineswood at 334-289-4846.