Antebellum homes ready for COTR tours

Published 11:46 pm Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Behind the scenes, there is a lot of work and many busy hands getting ready for Christmas on the River. Some of those working behind the scenes have decorating skills that Demopolis’s historic landmark homes truly benefit from.

Over at Gaineswood on Tuesday, a few dozen of those skilled people showed up to deck the halls, the mantles, the doorways and even the outside before the kickoff of Christmas in the Canebrake, involving Gaines-wood, Bluff Hall and Lyon Hall.

The volunteers who lend a helping hand to make sure these magnificent old homes are decked out in their Christmas finery include Linden Garden Club, the Southside Garden Club and even a home-schooled 4-H Club. While the garden club members clipped greenery and red berries for various rooms inside Gaineswood, the 4-H group was outside hanging bird-friendly ornaments from evergreen tree branches.

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“This is the 33rd year Gaineswood has participated in Christmas on the River,” said Eleanor Cunningham, the site director for Gaineswood. “We’ll be open for tours, and our decorations are kept close to the Victorian period, or at least what we think is appropriate. We are using fresh greenery and red velvet ribbon.”

Hundreds tour the three historic landmarks open during Christmas on the River every year. It is a busy time for volunteers and directors alike. Thursday’s offering is a candle light tour that begins at 5:30 and ends bout 8 p.m. Cunningham said last year was her first Christmas on the River as director of Gaineswood.

“We were busy, but it wasn’t hectic,” Cunningham said. “It was a fun time for me, getting to know the different groups and working with volunteers.”

This year, Cunningham said is really excited about the expanded gift shop at the Gaineswood site. “ We have Christmas ornaments with a Victorian flavor and nearly everything here is a Victorian theme,” she said, pointing to coloring books and paper dolls, as well as lovely Victorian-looking jewelry and Christmas ornaments.

Admission to these historic homes is $3 per house for adults during COTR and those 12 and under get in free. For more information on this popular part of he Christmas on the River week-long event contact the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce at 334 289-0270 or visit the COTR site online at