Less was more this past Saturday, with the 27th annual Apalachicola Historic Homes and Garden Tour.
That’s because the tour offered only seven homes and two gardens, and it worked out well.
Carrie Kienzle, who oversaw this year’s event together with Karen Kessel, said organizers decided to pare down the number from 12.
“This year was so nice, we got it down to a manageable number,” Kienzle said. “People commented that they loved all these houses and were able to go back to houses they liked
“In the past people just cherry-picked the houses and were very careful about what they picked and and we had the adjacent ones grouped together,” she said. “People cherry pick and they everyone goes to the same ones instead of spreading it around. Everybody just seemed more leisurely this year.”
Kessel said the attendance, at over 700, made for an excellent turnout. “It was fantastic,” she said. “Every single home was very unique and livable. The people said they could each imagine that they lived in that house.
Featured this year was the Labatute-Orman-Zingarelli home, commonly known as the Orman Cottage, a five-bay Colonial Revival, that is one of a very few two-story hipped roof houses in Apalachicola. The house now belongs to a seventh-generation Apalachicolan Sabrina Fornes, and her husband Kai.
Sabrina’s cousin, LaRaela Lee-Coxwell, and her husband Glen, put on display their newly built home on 10th Street on the Hill, which represents three years of weekend work that culminated in a wedding ceremony on the front steps. The couple continues to work side-by-side in creating their vision - a modern home built using architectural salvage. Many of the found materials represent Apalachicola history, such as pecan wood that they transformed into a sink, and an interior brick wall made from reclaimed bricks.
The rectory at Trinity Episcopal Church was on the tour, one of George Marshall’s most interesting Colonial Revival structures, that retains much of the Eastlake-influenced Queen Anne details. Constructed of local cypress and heart pine, Marshall built the dwelling in 1900 after the Ladies Guild of the Vestry raised $800.
The Maddox-Wefing-Schoelles House on Avenue E also showed off the virtues of refurbished materials and salvaged wood that shines brightly in this five-bay Classic Revival Cottage. Initially restored for use as a weekend getaway, the current homeowners, jewelry designer Elly Bissen and husband Curt Anderson, innovatively make it their full-time home, complete with an interesting concrete block addition.
The Susan Williams House, owned by Bob and Carol Hoadley, offers a welcome sign “Ah” that says it all about this simple L-shaped structure that was brought back to life eight years ago. Built probably before 1870, the house’s original occupant was associated in an unknown way with the David G. Raney family. Visitors marveled at the roped beds on display.
Jim Brown and Karen Ventimiglia are only the second homeowners to live in My Blue Heaven, which during their refurbishing, the couple took great care to preserve the charm and unique characteristics of this 1938 English vernacular cottage-style bungalow. This included the original pink and blue tile in the master bedroom’s bath, with basketweave tile. They also added a guest cottage and a boat hosue as part of their modernization.
Leslie and Michael Rindler, himself a former hospital executive, offered the Cumming House, a bungalow of which it is said that Dr. George Weems had built for his eldest daughter and her husband in 1935. Luckily, the original builder’s specs came with the house. The wide front porch, with its distinctive arches, was added in the late 1990s along with custom kitchen cabinetry based on the original design.
The garden of the Porter-Vail-Beck House was a featured stop at this Craftsman-style bungalow. Hollis Vail, a longtime owner of the home, established the landscape’s bones and major plantings. The current owner Catherine Beck and her talented friends complements Vail’s design with a very good example of a “green garden,” no flowers, just green plants and some flowering white plants.
“It’s very peaceful and cool, with different textures,” said Kienzle.
The “eclectic garden,” maintained downtown by Kevin Hand, is the handiwork of a community effort, when at the height of harvest, it isn’t unusual for 25 to 50 pounds of vegetables to be gathered in a day. There’s lots of bicycle garden sculptures, and Hand offered greeters clad in humorous t-shirts for visitors to enjoy.
Kessel said the luncheon sold out, and the silent auction did well, since people had a chance to take in the many items without feeling rushed to see every one of a dozen houses.
Kienzle said monies raised will continue restoration to preserve the early 19th century church and its buildings, starting first to cover the cost of restoration work on the steeple damaged in the hurricane.