Sewickley house tour shares Santas, funds scholarship

| Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, 8:56 p.m.

Thousands of hand-crafted Santas fill seven rooms in the Sewickley Christmas House. The house tour funds a scholarship to be awarded to a high-school senior to honor Edgeworth Garden Club founder Marcena Neil.

“Marcena lived to be 103 years old, and was active in the club almost until the time she died,” says Pat Happe, club president. “This is our creative way to honor her and share the joys a visit with this collection brings. When members have visited this house at Christmas they have said, ‘Oh, I would love to bring my daughter, grand daughter, or dear friend here.' Now, they can, and help support the community.”

The Christmas House, at 213 Quaker Road in Edgeworth, is the home of garden club member Vicki Werner and her husband, Joe. Just as a garden grows, so did this holiday collection.

“We really did start out modestly — but that was 40 years ago. We started collecting during my husband's sales meetings that were all over the country — and it just started to grow,” says Werner, a retired Moon School District teacher and librarian.

Each Santa is different, “except for two,” Werner says. “This is not a modern collection. We strive to find Santas that are hand-carved by artists from all over the country.”

“I'm overwhelmed by the size of the collection. There are so many exquisitely carved Santas,” garden club member Kathy Kruse says. She is one of more than a dozen members who helped unpack boxes and arranged Santa Clauses.

“Vicki also does beautiful needlepoint, with ornaments for the trees and “The Twelve Days of Christmas” for the walls,” Kruse says.

Even practical items are holiday themed in the Sewickley Christmas House, including Santas on the curtains, appliance covers and seat cushions.

“My sister is a quilter, so she makes us items that are Christmas on one side and the rest of the year on the other,” Werner says.

High-school students are involved in this first-time event, too. The Quaker Valley Key Club and other students are guiding tours. They helped set up the trees, and Santa's Garage and driveway next door, where the tour ends with cider, cookies and raffle baskets.

Neil, who died a year ago, started the club as the Quaker Valley Garden Club in 1954, when Edgeworth was a farm community with dirt roads.

“It was a group of neighbors who loved to plant and support the community,” Happe says. “They put all of their money into community projects. They didn't have a budget for speakers. They went to the library, got a book and learned from each other. We still do that. Garden clubs today have more of an environmental and agricultural focus, and involve a community. We want to return to our roots.”

Jane Miller is a contributing writer to Trib Total Media.

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