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Arts & Entertainment

Academy Hill hosts holiday tour

| Monday, Nov. 26, 2007

Put on your sneakers and get into the spirit of the season for a guided holiday walking tour of Greensburg's Academy Hill Historic District on Dec. 2.

Residents of the Academy Hill district will lead the tours and discuss the history and architecture of the neighborhood, highlighting five historically and architecturally significant homes open for the tour. At each home, the owners will talk about its history and lead visitors through the rooms, which will be decorated for the holidays.

Paul and Nancy Chistolini's house on Walnut Avenue is a fully restored circa 1881 Queen Anne that was once the home of the Kirk S. Nevin family. It was in need of mechanical updates and a major facelift when the couple bought it seven years ago.

Nearly everything inside and out needed either repaired or replaced, from the outdated electrical and heating systems to the roof, chimneys and windows. Historically appropriate railings were added to the front porch, and the whole house was painted in a subdued Victorian palette of beige with green and brown accents.

Inside, the oak woodwork and floors were refinished, including the three original oak fireplaces on the first floor and two pine and poplar ones upstairs. Because of the unevenness of the old plaster walls, the Chistolinis opted to have all the downstairs rooms wallpapered, which only adds to the historical ambience.

Along the same street is Bud and Eleanor Nusselt's meticulously restored 1903 neoclassical revival home. It features oak woodwork in the front rooms, stained-glass windows, leaded glass built-ins, six fireplaces and arched pocket doors.

Electroliers, or combination gas and electric light fixtures, still are present in the parlor and dining room.

The home of David and Vivian Lauffer on O'Hara Street began life as a log cabin on North Main Street. The house was moved to O'Hara Street around 1916 by the Huff family to be used as a "honeymoon cottage" for their daughter. At that time, they added a second story and covered the whole building in stucco. The house is now decorated in a style appropriate to the 1860-1915 era. The owners even go so far as to use gas lights throughout the home. The tour will include two floors of this home.

For those looking to move into the Academy Hill neighborhood, the Nerlove home on Maple Avenue is on the market. The butler's pantry has a built-in desk once used for keeping the household accounts. A servant call panel allows residents to buzz the household help from their bedrooms. It also has an underground tunnel with gaslights leading from the house to the garage, which was once the stable.

One house on the tour is outside the Historic District. The Fite home on Shuey Avenue is a stone Colonial revival begun in 1939. In 1943, the Gallatin family, founders of the Gallatin Bank, moved in. The home features oak woodwork, the original built-in bookcases and corner cabinets, and wormy chestnut paneling. Visitors will be taken to this home by bus to avoid an arduous walk.

Tour groups will leave every fifteen minutes from the Westmoreland Museum of Art. The tour takes about an hour and forty-five minutes and involves a fairly easy walk in a five-block area. Final destination is the YWCA on Main Street, which is included in the historic district. Cookies and cider will be served and a gift boutique will be open.

For those who wish a more in-depth experience, "tea tours" are available on a separate ticket. These will make an extra stop at the home of Mary and David Volker on North Main Street for high tea. The Volkers are well-known music teachers, and their home reflects their passion, with music studios and a music library. Sandwiches and fancy pastries will accompany tea poured from a silver service in this elegant, beautifully decorated home.

Order tickets early, because they are in high demand. Four tea tours depart between 11 a.m. and 3:15 p.m.

Additional Information:

Academy Hill Holiday Tour of Homes

When: Noon-4:45 p.m. Dec. 2

Admission: $15 for walking tour of five homes; $25 for 'tea tour' with a sixth home

Where: Tours departs every 15 minutes from the from the Westmoreland Museum of Art, 221 N. Main St., Greensburg

Details: Contact Dee Cook at 724-832-9095 to order tickets.

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