House tours let communities strut, bond, fundraise

May 19, 2015, 6:12 AM
This April 26, 2015 photo provided by courtesy of the Larchmont Historical Society shows, visitors ...
This April 26, 2015 photo provided by courtesy of the Larchmont Historical Society shows, visitors on the Seabreeze House tour sponsored by the Larchmont Historical Society in Larchmont, N.Y. "Our annual spring house tour is our main fundraiser of the year," said Nancy White, president of the Larchmont Historical Society in New York. "And it's a really wonderful way of bringing the community together." (Rosemary Mancino/Larchmont Historical Society via AP)
(Rosemary Mancino/Larchmont Historical Society via AP)

Across the country, spring is the season for house tours, a chance for the house-proud to strut their stuff, and for communities to bond, celebrate and fundraise.

The tours, which generally raise money for historical societies, garden clubs and other non-profits, also provide communities with a chance to celebrate the season by basking in the aspects of their towns they hold dear, and in the beauty around them.

“Our annual spring house tour is our main fundraiser of the year,” said Nancy White, president of the Larchmont Historical Society in New York. “And it’s a really wonderful way of bringing the community together.”

The theme of this year’s Larchmont event was “Seabreeze House Tour,” and it featured self-guided walks through five elegant homes along or near Long Island Sound, followed by a reception at a yacht club.

Tours don’t have to be quite so swank, though, to celebrate a community’s character.

Lexington, Virginia, just held its 82nd annual house tour, hosted by the local Blue Ridge Garden Club in conjunction with a statewide “Historic Garden Week.” During that week last month, over 3,000 volunteers at 47 clubs raise an estimated $600,000 for preservation of historic gardens around the state, including important restoration projects at Monticello, Mount Vernon and at the governor’s mansion in Richmond.

With the theme “From Old Roots, New Shoots,” Lexington’s tour this year featured four newly renovated old homes along Main Street. There was a bluegrass band and plenty of fresh flowers picked, donated and arranged by an army of passionate volunteers.

Joan Harden, co-chair of the tour, said that one year the tour featured log cabins, and next year’s theme will be vineyards and gardens.

“It takes about 16 different committees to pull off a good house tour. It’s a ton of work and takes about a year, but everyone has a great time,” she said.

Although many communities plan annual tours between April and June, they can also be held less frequently and at different times of the year.

“It’s not easy to get houses for tours so we make our tours less frequent, but very specific,” said Janet Lindstrom, executive director of the New Canaan Historical Society, in Connecticut. The town is famous for its midcentury modern homes, and tours are held only once every other year.

Organizers across the country say they occasionally opt for kitchen tours or even seasonal tours, for example in winter to show off holiday d

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House tours let communities strut, bond, fundraise