By Donna Cornelius
Most merchants start the holiday merrymaking early, with gifts and garlands filling store aisles well before Thanksgiving. But for many Birmingham residents, the Independent Presbyterian Church’s Holiday House Tour signals the official start of the season.
The IPC tour has become a seasonal tradition; this is the tour’s 67th year. Those who attend year after year see houses decked out in holiday finery. The church opens its doors, too, for Christmas tea.
The tour is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 10 and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 11.
Read more about the home of Laura and Jesse Vogtle, one of the houses open this year,
nearby. Other homes on the tour include:
James F. Carter, 3731 Montrose Road
When Carter, an architect, bought a Crestline Village cottage in 2000, he planned to tear it down and rebuild. He started the project 13 years later, building a graceful Georgian house with whitewashed brick and a roof made from reclaimed slate. His longtime friend designer Jane Hoke Bynum helped with the interiors, which hold his extensive collections of antiques and books.
Mr. and Mrs. David Hillegas, 4445 Clairmont Road
A clapboard Colonial known as Pineapple House drew decora- tor Heather Chadduck Hillegas and her husband, photographer David Hillegas, to Forest Park in 2012. Originally known as Potato Hill, the house was built by Golden Flake founder Leo Bashinsky. The couple bought the house from the Johnston family, which lived there for 67 years.
Tour-goers will see sunny rooms with a palette of blue, green and white as well as a collection of family heir- looms, flea market finds with updated upholstery, and fine art photos taken by David Hillegas on his world travels. Original bookcases in the stair hall hold a collection of taxidermal examples, hunted on safari by David’s late grandmother. Heather Hillegas, a longtime magazine photo stylist and former Southern Living style director, recently transformed the garage into her design and art studio.
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Spotswood, 2749 Abingdon Road
The Evans Dunn family lived in this house, one of the first in Birmingham’s Abingdon section, for more than 50 years. Mrs. Dunn was an avid gardener, and much of her horticultural legacy still remains. The house, built in 1928, is in the Shingle style, an American architectural style made popular by the rise of the New England school of architecture.
Architect Bobby McAlpine in the late 1990s converted a family room addition into a striking kitchen. After a fire destroyed the house’s art studio and garage in 2013, the space was remodeled into a new art studio. A new side entrance, garage, laundry room and two master bathrooms also were added. Rosalie Holman of RGH Garden and Design designed the driveway, enhanced the entrances and assisted the homeowners in redesigning and remodeling the pool house into a more usable space.
Independent Presbyterian Church, 3100 Highland Ave.
The church, founded in 1915, was designed by Warren, Knight and Davis architect William Warren. IPC members will decorate the sanctuary and parlor for the tour.
While it’s fun for tour-goers to see the houses and the church, the event has a charitable purpose, too. Proceeds support three IPC missions: the Children’s Fresh Air Farm, Open Door Ministry and Stair reading program.
The Children’s Fresh Air Farm has a summer learning program for under- served children in the Birmingham area. The six-week program includes classroom instruction and activities such as drama, science and swimming. IPC has operated the farm since 1923.
The church’s new Open Door Ministry, which started in August, provides adults in Birmingham’s Kingston and North Avondale communities with free GED, basic literacy and English as a second language classes. The ministry’s aim is to help participants achieve their goals of education, employment and family stability.
Stair, founded in 2000, aims to improve second-graders’ reading skills and self-esteem. Volunteers work closely with Hayes K-8 School students. This year, 56 second-graders graduated from the program with reading gains on an average of 86 percent.
Holiday House Tour tickets are $30 and available at ipc-usa.org/holiday-house, at the church’s reception desk and at the church and at each house on tour days.