BELLEFONTE -- The quaint little town of Bellefonte, located about 12 miles northeast of State College, is home to a variety of bed and breakfasts, restaurants, shops, an art museum, a cidery and the Big Spring distillery, which is currently on pace to be to be one of the first LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) distilleries in the country.
Each year, people come from miles around to attend the annual “Bellefonte Victorian Christmas,” which features horse drawn carriage rides, walking tours, musical entertainment, plays and so much more. This year’s family friendly event runs from Dec. 11-13 and offers a reason to visit the historic area in the next few weeks.
The Victorian Christmas Homes Tour
One feature that sets Bellefonte apart from other towns is its magnificent Victorian architecture and a highlight of the annual festival is the self-guided Victorian Christmas Homes Tour. Sponsored by the Bellefonte Women’s Club and Homes Tour Committee, the tour will be held from 2-7 p.m. Dec. 12. Stops include four homes, a church and a rehabilitated industrial complex which once housed a match factory and is now home to the Big Spring Distillery and the American Philatelic society.
“Our Fair Lady”
Built in 1883, by Bellefonte lumberman John Ardell, the home located at 313 E. Linn Street, is crafted of the finest hardwoods and features chestnut clapboards, a black walnut front door, poplar pocket doors with original hand stippling and floors made of both red and white oak.
Bob and Tami Schuster purchased the property in 2007 and transformed it into the Bed and Breakfast that it is today. The couple, who met on the set of My Fair Lady, chose the name as a tribute to their initial meeting and burgeoning romance. Part of the exterior restoration included scraping more than 100 years’ worth of paint off the chestnut siding, restoring it to its “painted lady” colors and replacing the roof.
The “Molly Fisher,” located at 177 E. Linn Street, was built in 1872. When Molly and her husband Jay Roland Fisher purchased the property, it had been carved into apartments. With hard work and determination, the couple succeed in restoring it back to its former glory as a single-family home.
Guests will see original floor-to-ceiling windows and oak floors, which were uncovered and refinished. They will also learn about the Herculean kitchen restoration where 3,000 pounds of tile, linoleum and underlayment were removed to expose the pine floors, which have since been refinished.
St. John’s Episcopal Church
The cornerstone of the Victorian Gothic Church located at 128 W. Lamb Street, was laid in 1869 and construction was completed in 1871. In 1884, steam heat was installed and electric lights were added, making it one of the first churches to have electric lighting.
Located at 229 West Linn Street, the brick Burnside/McCoy house was built in 1869 and named “Pisgah,” for the mountain where Moses was permitted a glimpse of the Promised Land. The house sits on a rise overlooking Spring Creek.
Each year, Dr. Kevin and Carol Burke welcome visitors to the 16-room mansion they have filled with antique furnishings, objet d’art, oriental rugs, books and Hudson River Valley paintings.
Gary and Susan Hoover
This home, located at 136 E. Burnside Street, was constructed in the late 1800s and is an example of a Second Empire cottage style home, which had faded in popularity by the 1890s.
The Hoovers, who purchased the house in 1999, are dedicated to respecting the history of the house while also making it livable for a growing family.
The American Philatelic Society
The American Philatelic Society’s headquarters, located in an 1899 industrial complex, was once part of the Pennsylvania Match Company. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, today the complex is home to a variety of businesses and the American Philatelic Society, which includes various exhibits, along with a research library.
Enjoy Victorian High Tea at the Reynold’s Mansion
Operating now as a B&B, The Reynold’s Mansion, located at 101 W. Linn Street, is a stunning example of Victorian architecture. Listed on the National Historic Register, the Inn was built in the 1880s and has been historically preserved as a single-family home. Described by some as a “museum piece,” the B&B will be the site of this year’s Victorian High tea, with appearances by Dicken’s characters, musicians and a chamber ensemble. For reservations and ticket sales, visit their website at reynoldsmansion.com
Those are just a few of the highlights of the annual celebration, which begins on Friday evening December 11 and ends on Sunday, December 15. This year’s grand finale will take place on December 13th at 7:30 with the cast of State College Community Theater performing Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol, which will be followed by a sing along.
To purchase tickets to the home tour or tea, or to learn more about this fun-filled event, visit www.bellefontevictorianchristmas.com.