By Rita J. Egan
The folks at the Three Village Historical Society are busy getting ready for a holiday favorite, their annual Candlelight House Tour scheduled for Dec. 1 and 2. This year the theme will be Visions of East Setauket: Then & Now, and the tours will include five homes on Shore Road in East Setauket and Poquott as well as a stop at the St. James R.C. Church Parish Center. The event provides the opportunity for participants to explore historic homes and properties and enjoy stunning holiday décor.
Steve Healy, president of the historical society, said this will be the 39th year the society is hosting the event, and he looks forward to it every year. “We get a great response, the houses are all different, and it’s a very festive occasion,” he said.
This year’s tour is the sixth one organized by co-chairs Patty Cain, historical society vice president, and Patty Yantz, a former president. Yantz said when it came to this year’s theme the pair were inspired by the book published by the organization, “Then & Now: The Three Villages,” which includes photos of various locations in the area as they looked in the past and how they appear now.
“We always like to highlight our archives and what we’re about,” Yantz said. “We like to take historic areas and look at how it’s developed.”
The tour has been filled with historic homes since its beginnings when decorator Eva Glaser and Mary Lou Mills came up with a way to raise funds for the Setauket Neighborhood House, which was in disrepair at the time. The structure, located at 95 Main Street, was the original home of the Three Village Historical Society’s headquarters.
The major fundraiser for the society, both Cain and Yantz said over the years more and more homeowners have offered their houses to be put on display. While decorators work on each home, many homeowners contribute input when it comes to the decorating.
Cain said she is always looking for homes to include, and when residents offer up their houses for the event, she takes into consideration its historical importance and what other structures are already included. The co-chairs and decorators work for months to prepare for the weekend, and Cain said they always worry if they did enough and if there are an adequate number of volunteers. However, every year the first night proves all the hard work was worth it.
“When it’s 6 o’clock Friday night, and the candles are lit in the houses, and the first guests come in, to me that’s the best part,” Cain said.
For many who participate in the tour, it’s an event that kicks off the holiday season; something Yantz agrees with. “I’m always amazed at how beautifully decorated the homes are,” she said. “That to me is why I just can’t wait to see them. For me personally, it just sets off the whole holiday feeling and brings back childhood memories. It’s inspiring to me,” she said.
Cain said they try to mix older and newer homes on the tour; however, the newer ones must be on historic properties to be included.
Among the homes decorated for this year’s tour will be one on the land known as Tinker Bluff, which is named after the first homeowner Henry Champlin Tinker, who built a summer home overlooking Port Jefferson Harbor in the late 19th century. Another home’s west end is its original mid-1800s structure, while one house sits on a land parcel where its dock attracted Joseph Elberson, proprietor of the once local rubber factory, to buy the property to use it for a transportation line.
“There’s a lot of history here,” Cain said. “The land is history, so you may have new homes on historic land that was once a huge farm or huge shipbuilding company. It’s historic in that respect, and we’re able to bring that history to people that might not know about it.”
Visitors to St. James R.C. Church Parish Center on Route 25A will discover the church’s presepio, a tableau of life in Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth. A unique Italian art form, the scene goes beyond the traditional nativity and fills an entire room.
The Dec. 1 tour includes wine and hors d’oeuvres at each home from 6 to 9 p.m. and ends with a buffet and wine reception at the parish center catered by Express Catering — a branch of Setauket’s Bagel Express — from 9 to 11 p.m. Saturday includes two options of an early breakfast at the Old Field Club in East Setauket and tour or tour only. The Saturday tour ends at 4 p.m.
Tickets for Friday night and the breakfast and tour are sold out, but plenty were available for the Saturday tour at press time. Ticket prices range from $45 to $110 per person. For more information, call 631-751-3730, email [email protected] or visit www.tvhs.org. Tickets may be picked up at the Three Village Historical Society, which is located at 93 North Country Road, Setauket.