The “something old, something new” rhyme usually is reserved for weddings, but that line also describes the array of homes on Samford Legacy League’s Christmas Home Tour this year.
The Dec. 12 event includes a range of architectural eras and styles, from classic to cutting-edge. In addition to five homes, the tour, which is presented by ARC Realty, includes a spread of seasonal fare at the Samford President’s Home and a curated slate of vendors at the gift market at First Church of the Nazarene.
“Guests will no doubt enjoy the beautifully appointed homes, delectable goodies, holiday shopping and festive atmosphere during the much-anticipated Christmas Home Tour,” said Lisbeth Cease, co-chair of the event. “But there’s more to this event than a treat for the senses. It truly does change lives.”
Proceeds provide scholarship funds for students who have faced tremendous obstacles, including the death, disability or incarceration of a parent; foster care; inner-city violence; parental job loss; homelessness; abandonment; and the sacrifices of full-time ministry in a remote place.
“It is the mission behind the event and the joy of being involved that draw over 250 people serving in a variety of capacities to our volunteer work force,” added Terre Currey, who also is co-chair. “Whether greeting guests, publicizing the event, preparing food or serving in some other way, our wonderful volunteers make the Legacy League’s annual Christmas Home Tour possible.”
To date the Legacy League, a volunteer organization with nearly 800 members, has awarded more than $800,000 in scholarships to help nearly 180 students attend Samford University.
The 2019 Christmas Home Tour includes the Mountain Brook homes of Christine and Mike Denniston, 505 Pine Ridge Trail, and Angel and Jared Lewis, 11 Richmar Drive, as well as the Vestavia Hills homes of Meredith and Jeffrey Lees, 2113 Vestavia Drive; Rushton and Derek Waltchack, 2445 Chestnut Road; and Jeanna and Andy Westmoreland, Samford President’s Home, 1994 Shades Crest Road.
The Denniston Home
A quick Thursday morning stop en route to a tennis match turned into a move for Christine and Mike Denniston, who had been looking for a new house for some time.
“I immediately knew this was it,” shared Christine Denniston about their Pine Ridge Trail home.
Though built in 1985, the two-story white brick residence has a classic feel. The front door is topped with a circular German glass transom window, a nostalgic detail repeated above numerous doors and windows.
Picture frame wainscoting throughout the house provides an elegant backdrop for the family’s art, much of which was painted by southeastern artists.
“We’ve collected pieces as we’ve traveled, and I remember where we were when we purchased each one,” reminisced Denniston. “Others came from Mike’s parents, and we’ve had fun pulling in pieces they treasured and some which had been stashed away.”
While many of the Dennistons’ furnishings were inherited from relatives, they purchased the piano when their boys were young. Both sons started lessons at 4, continuing for many years.
“At Christmastime, that piano has filled our home with worship music, particularly from (Nine) Lessons and Carols,” Denniston said. “That’s what Christmas really is to me.”
Visitors to the Denniston home this Christmas will find a gingerbread house on display in the kitchen, reminiscent of an annual tradition for Denniston and her kids. The Denniston boys, now in college, still look forward to decorating gingerbread houses each year.
“They don’t look like Martha Stewart’s,” Denniston laughed, “but we always have fun.”
The Dennistons also will continue their tradition of decorating their 10-foot tall tree with a combination of ornaments, some passed down from their families and others made by the boys at school. The ornaments, like their art, bring back cherished memories.
The Lees Home
Known as the Goddard-Small House in honor of its first two owners, the home of Meredith and Jeffrey Lees was the first one built on Vestavia Drive. A historic marker out front dates the brick residence to 1926, making it one of the oldest homes on Shades Mountain.
Built in a time of elegance, the house is filled with decorative accents – plaster ceiling medallions, curved doors and detailed trim work. A selection of 1930s-era photographs of front and back views of the house hang in the foyer of the Lees house, and fresh greenery and festive holiday touches have been made for the season.
In the seven years they’ve owned the house, the Lees family has made it their own, updating the kitchen and adding a mudroom, deck and garage while maintaining the historic feel.
“We completely renovated the house from top to bottom,” Meredith Lees explained. “We tried keeping as many original details as possible – the trim, the arches, the (stained) glass.”
Reverence for the past and appreciation for more modern things is evident in the Lees’ Christmas decorations, as well. “I like to mix a little more fancy decorations with family heirlooms,” Lees said. “I use some of my grandparents’ decorations, ornaments made by our son, Goodloe, and decorations that were made by my grandparents.”
To visit the Lees home, guests should park at Vestavia Baptist Church using the Vestavia Drive entrance and take the shuttle to the house. Street parking is available at the other four residences.
The Lewis Home
The Richmar Drive residence of Angel and Jared Lewis is just what you might expect from the founder of Audio Video Excellence (AVX) in Homewood.
Nine TVs, the largest being 98 inches, are among a plethora of custom electronics with which the house is outfitted. The heat and air conditioning, lighting, shades, stereo, TVs, garage and security cameras are all controlled digitally.
Contemporary doesn’t end with the gadgets; it carries on to fixtures and finishes. With clean lines, a neutral palate and an open style, the home’s décor has a Scandinavian influence. It features a hidden powder room door, a double-wide fireplace and several custom-built pieces of furniture, including a steel table, lamps and a cabinet that houses a retractable TV.
This modern residence was once a ranch owned by Jared Lewis’ grandfather. Three Lewis generations have lived in the house, which has been through two major renovations.
David Sherrod of BRBC Construction brought the Lewises’ vision to reality in the most recent transformation.
“Our goal was to come alongside Jared and Angel to fulfill their goals for their home,” Sherrod said. “Jared has an incredible eye for details, and ingenuity was required to execute his vision.” The finished product “has unbelievable curb appeal, allure and a subtle ‘wow factor.’”
The Waltchack Home
When Rushton and Derek Waltchack first moved into their Chestnut Road home in Vestavia Hills, they had one child. Eleven years and four kids later, they knew that two bedrooms and one bath weren’t adequate.
So, in February 2017, they moved out. The renovation turned into a rebuild, and another child joined the family through adoption. Last December, the family of eight – with children ages 14,12, 9, 8, 6 and 6 – finally moved back home.
The Waltchacks aspired for their new home to be “happy and livable,” described Rushton.
“Our big family means we have a lot of chaos. We wanted our home to be fun and calming. We prayed it would be a place where people could come and be refreshed,” she said.
To accomplish that goal, they built a house with lots of natural light, decorated with fun rugs and whimsical art, and bought washable furniture.
Their modern farmhouse has many special features: a ladder to a loft for the two boys, a hobbit door between the girls’ rooms and a nook under the stairs for their bunnies.
The spacious kitchen includes a mammoth island and a 72-inch round table to accommodate all the members of the family.
The adjoining family room has a sloped ceiling of reclaimed wood, a comfortable L-shaped sofa and a large stone fireplace.
With construction complete, the Waltchacks look forward to bringing back their Christmas light show, a tradition that started as a joke.
“Wouldn’t it be fun to put up inflatables and have a tacky yard?” Rushton had laughed one year. With Derek’s motto of “Go big or go home,” the idea grew, and now the Waltchacks have a man come from Louisiana each year to program their light show.
“It’s a crazy tradition that requires a special computer, but it makes us laugh,” giggled Rushton. “We’re both kids at heart.”
The Samford President’s Home
With themed trees scattered throughout the Samford President’s Home and more than 120 feet of garland gracing the bannisters, every room has festive touches.
More than 10,000 visitors tour the house each year, with no time fuller than the first two weeks of December.
The house, set atop Shades Mountain in Vestavia Hills, is home to the Westmorelands, Samford’s first family, and has anchored the Legacy League tour since its inception.
Guests take an around-the-world tour as they view unique crèches and other treasures from numerous international locations. Jeanna Westmoreland’s extensive nutcracker collection is always a favorite of visitors’ during the holiday season.
Along with viewing elegant furnishings and holiday décor, guests to the Samford President’s Home can partake of seasonal treats served in a large heated tent as Christmas music is played throughout the day. The tent is being provided by premium sponsor PRE Event Resources.
The Holiday Gift Market
Tickets to the Christmas Home Tour also include admission to the Legacy League’s Holiday Gift Market, which features nearly two dozen merchants. Items at the market include art, jewelry, books by local authors, food and home décor. A complete listing of vendors may be found by going to samford.edu/legacyleague, then clicking on “Attend an Event,” then the Christmas Home Tour “Learn More” link.
The market has expanded and moved to the First Church of the Nazarene, which is across the parking lot from the Samford President’s Home. The market will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Houses will be open for touring from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Advance tickets are available for $30 through Dec. 10 by going to samford.edu/legacyleague, then clicking on “Attend an Event.”
Tickets may be purchased at the door of homes during tour hours for $35; limited quantities are available.
For the fourth year, ARC Realty is the presenting sponsor for the Christmas Home Tour.
“ARC is a relationship company,” said Beau Bevis, ARC Realty CEO and qualifying broker. “We value our relationship with Samford and the Legacy League and the work they do in our community. We are always grateful to be part of this wonderful event, knowing that it helps young people who could otherwise not afford a university education.”
Premium sponsors are AllSouth Appliance Group, BRBC Construction, First US Bank, Long-Lewis Ford and PRE Event Resources: A Tailgate Guys Company.
Article submitted by Sharon Smith, director of development, Samford University Legacy League