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December 3, 2013

Homes for the holidays: Ellwood City house tour provides doses of Christmas cheer

NEW CASTLE — One was a stagecoach stop and tavern. Another is 87 years old. The third is more contemporary.

But the common denominator is that those three houses will be dressed in their winter finery for the Ellwood City Municipal Woman’s Club house tour.

This year, the homes are joined on the tour — which is 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday — with Stramba Farms, Alpaca and More.

Nancy Walton is chairwoman, and Phyllis Conway and Nancy Fenton are co-chairing the event, and money raised benefits the club’s gazebo funds and civic projects.

It’s the perfect way to be infused with a dose of cheer, Conway said.

“The house tour gets you in the holiday spirit,” she noted, adding it’s wonderful seeing the homes decorated so beautifully and the warm hospitality of the owners who open their homes to the public.

The home of Mary and Herk Hooker at 151 Wurtemburg Road was built as a stagecoach stop and tavern by George F. Rapp in 1849. It was operated as a hotel by William Wilson in 1867 until it became a single-family dwelling in the late 1800s or early 1900s. H.W. Hooker purchased the house in 1939 and lived there until his death in 2008. Then the house was renovated by the current owners.

Dean and Valerie Custozzo’s home at 404 Jefferson Ave. was built in 1925 as a home for local steel workers and has been theirs since 1997.

Even then, Valerie envisioned where the Christmas tree would stand and looked forward to decorating the fireplace mantel. Since then, multiple trees have sprung up all over the house.

“I love Christmas and think about new ways to decorate every year,” she said.

The living room tree features ornaments from tag sales and craft shows. The small tree in the kitchen has edible-looking cinnamon sticks, gingerbread people and cookies.

In the dining room, there’s a village, a pencil tree with various homespun ornaments and antique buffets all dressed for the holidays with Santa, dishes and greenery. Upstairs, three bedrooms and a bath all have their own trees.

At 709 Morningstar Drive is the home of Ann and Jim Mason.

It was built in 1991 and is beautifully decorated for the holidays. That includes two live Christmas trees — a formal one on the main level and a children’s tree on the family room level.

There are live Christmas flowers on the “Romeo and Juliet” balcony, swags on the stairs and highlighted holiday decorated areas.

The home also features a pottery collection, monk-themed items and mission clocks.

Stramba Farm Alpacas & More is family owned and operated and started in business in January 2006. The 16-acre farm also includes a fiber mill and fiber processing.

The gazebo at Five Points in Ewing Park is a result of club members’ efforts. It was dedicated July 1, 1989, and is maintained by the club, and used for wedding and graduation photographs, meetings and as a stopping place for people who walk in the park area.

The club’s civic projects include the Ellwood City Public Library, Ellwood City Food Bank, Salvation Army, Yellow Ribbon Girls and Rita Hazen Education Fund, and new Christmas decorations in the downtown area.

In conjunction with the tour, many area businesses will offer various discounts and drawings that day.


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