Hundreds strolled through Wilmington’s streets over the past weekend during the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society’s annual Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour. This year’s tour featured ten sites, including six private homes, St. Stephens A.M.E. Church, the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, the AKA Sorority House, and the Latimer House. Proceeds from the Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour further the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society’s mission of “keeping the past alive” by disseminating knowledge of the region’s historical significance and preserving the 1852 Latimer House. Behind the Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour are dozens of volunteers who worked diligently for months preparing for hundreds of guests. The Lower Cape Fear Historical Society would like to thank each and every volunteer whose endeavors made this year’s tour a rousing success.
Several interior decorators filled the Latimer House with holiday cheer. Beginning in the north parlors, visitors were greeted with a stunning, historically-accurate portrayal of a Victorian Christmas prepared by LCFHS archivist Carol Bragale with the assistance of florist Julia Thomas. Bragale and Thomas presented a pink and white color scheme using roses, fresh garland, and a table-top Christmas tree with Victorian-inspired ornaments. Opposite, in the south parlors, Janet Farrior, Pam Schumpbert, Susan Nettleman, and Heda Wadrep offered a graceful touch of holiday elegance to the informal family parlors with magnolias, poinsettias, and fresh fruit. Finally, downstairs in the dining room and warming kitchen, Mary Ellen Black and Dianne Lynch displayed dozens of gingerbread houses thematically showing our guests that “gingerbread is ageless.” Of the many gingerbread houses, some were constructed by residents from Elderhaus Senior Care while others were created by the youngest of Black and Lynch’s kin. Together, the interior decorators filled the Latimer House with aromas that danced through the parlors and created a festive atmosphere for the guests.
Outside, beautiful decorations entertained guests’ eyes while they awaited a tour of the Latimer House. Decorations included wreaths on each of the windows with fresh pine and magnolia garland spiraling up the hand railing. The outside decorations were prepared by a group of volunteers led by Linda Snider, the past chairperson for the Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour. Snider’s passion and years of experience are an indispensable part of the tour’s continued success. One outside decorator, Alan Armstrong, regularly volunteers as the Latimer House gardener. Armstrong’s hours of hard-work in the Latimer House’s beautiful Victorian gardens was appreciated by hundreds of guests meandering through its paths. Trickling throughout the garden was the voice of John Golden, a folk singer and guitarist who serves on the LCFHS board of directors. Golden, dressed in period attire, enchanted guest with song while they navigated the paths leading to the slave quarters or awaited a tour of the home.
Inside, posted throughout the Latimer House, were volunteer docents responsible for guiding guests throughout the home and providing historical information about the Latimer family and how their Victorian Christmas traditions differed from our twenty-first century holiday. The docents included LCFHS board members Martie Rice, Charky Armstrong, Frances Wray, and Raymond Stone. Other docents included weekly Latimer House volunteers Susan Wolf, Kristen Nawn, Morgan Nelms, and Helena Hadley. Each of these ladies provide daily tours offered at the Latimer House Museum and having their expertise available to share during the Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour was invaluable. A great friend of LCFHS and President of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society, Elaine Henson, volunteered with her husband, Skip, as did another great friend to the LCFHS, Mike Kaczynski, who recently helped republish The Latimer House: A Living Museum. Other docent volunteers included Brenda Shadrack, Esther Partlow, Debby Lane, and Tom Snider. Many docents were in period costume, organized under the leadership of Linda Lashley, a cherished LCFHS volunteer. The docents greeting guest in top hats and hoop skirts included husband-and-wife team Donald and Martha Watson, Ginger Berry, and Cathy Tigham. Finally, LCFHS board members Gloria Degnan and Joe Whitted, along with volunteer Mike Walz, braved the chilly weather and sold tickets on the front porch during the tour. Even their spouses, Lynda Whitted and Murray Degnan, came along to help out! Yet another thank you is extended to LCFHS President Tom Crittenden, who welcomed every guest to the Latimer House on behalf of the LCFHS Board of Directors.
Much appreciation is owed to the Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour committee who spent months collaborating to ensure the tour’s success. Tour chairwoman Carol Bragale led a committee of nine, including LCFHS Vice-President Marjorie Way and LCFHS board members Charky Armstrong, Jerry O’Quinn, Frances Lewis, and Suzanne Smith. Other committee members who graciously volunteered their time and efforts included Lynda Whitted, Linda Snider, and Joyce Nunes. As Site Ambassador Chairwoman, Joyce Nunes secured representatives for each of the ten tour locations. The site ambassador’s responsibilities included organizing volunteer docents and acting as a liaison between the site owners and the LCFHS. Many thanks goes out to the following site ambassadors: Carol Bragale, Cara Walz, Kristan Phillips, Suzanne Smth, Hilde D’Ambrosia, Alice Evans, Ivy Murrain, Cindy Brown, Marsha Seaton, Libby Canavan, and Marge Wyatt.
Finally, without the following individuals, who opened their homes to the community, spreading holiday cheer unto neighbors and tourists alike, this year’s Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour would not have been a success. The Lower Cape Fear Historical Society would like to thank the ladies of the AKA Sorority, including Ivy, Cynthia, and Marguerite, for welcoming the community into the AKA Sorority House on Red Cross Street and enlightening our visitors of AKA’s role in our city. Thank you to the congregations of St. Stephens A.M.E. Church and the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd for offering their sanctuaries for this year’s tour. A special thank you goes out to Frieda Johnson, the spouse of Reverend Wayne Johnson at St. Stephen A.M.E. Church, for all her tireless efforts. The Kirkegaard, Beck, and Sullivan families invited Wilmington into their homes for the Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour, showing our community the value of preserving architecturally-significant homes and raising children in their historical splendor. Our community owes a debt of gratitude to families who preserve Wilmington’s treasures as private residences. A final thank-you is extended to Dr. Frank and Dr. Betsy Hobart for welcoming guests into their exquisite home on Oleander Drive and Marsha Seaton for extending her home in Forrest Hills to the Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour.
Lastly, the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society would like to thank everyone who attended this year’s Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour. Without your support and contributions, the LCFHS could not continue its mission of disseminating the region’s historical significance or offer tours of the Latimer House Museum.
Please visit our website at www.lcfhs.org, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram or Twitter, so you may join us again!