For 15 years, the Onancock Christmas Homes Tour has been a not-to-be-missed event. Truly, this year is no exception. On Saturday, Dec. 12th, from 1 – 5 p.m., six cherished, transformed residences will open their doors to reveal treasures within.
Onancock is listed by Only in VA as one of ten “Most Beautiful, Charming Small Towns in Virginia” and by Washingtonian as one of 27 “Great Small Towns Near Washington, DC”; by Virginia is For Lovers as one of “22 Virginia Small Towns You’re Going to LOVE” in 2014; first of “Top 14 Small Cities In Virginia” by Cities Journal; and as one of “America’s Coolest Small Towns” by CBS News. It has been featured in Chesapeake Bay Magazine more than once. What makes this town so appealing? Its unique situation on Onancock Creek and its three main branches means Onancock is literally enveloped and embraced by the Creek’s waters. Each branch stretches and curves to grace this Eastern Shore bayside town with a bounty of waterfront properties. Three such residences and a fourth that overlooks the Creek are featured on this year’s tour.
“Appearances can be deceiving” fits this 1920’s Dutch colonial located in Mt. Prospect on Central Branch. Visitors will find it wonderfully serendipitous — a reflection of the owner‘s love of her house and gardens. This house bursts with art: it is a virtual gallery brimming with colorful paintings from all over the world of whatever caught the homeowner’s eye. The house overflows with antiques — found pieces lovingly-collected over more than half a century. There is a desk dating back to the 1600’s. The inviting, sun-filled back room addition is built of wood salvaged from an early 1700’s barn once located on the owner‘s family farm. Look for two of the barn’s unique old doors re-purposed in the room. This is a home that is filled with memories and it shows in so many ways.
Located in the heart of Onancock on lower Market Street with views toward the town wharf is Dunover II, a 1920’s foursquare. Originally a part of the Cokesbury Methodist Parsonage, the property served as home to the Wescott family for decades before it was acquired in December 2011 by an Eastern Shore native with roots in Accomack County dating back to the 17th century. Dunover II was completely restored in 2012 when the owners redesigned the house with entertaining family and friends as a top priority. The open, state-of-the art chef’s kitchen is the focal point which leads to a casual dining room. Original floors, moldings and staircase have been preserved. In 2015 an extensive landscaping project was completed which includes an expansive patio, pergola and outdoor dining area.
Just around the corner from the Onancock town wharf is a gingerbread-trimmed, weatherboard residence built in 1885 by ship Captain Thomas Johnson for his daughter. In 2014 the house, under new owners, underwent dramatic changes, starting with being raised several feet and being gutted down to the studs. The result is a charming, inviting home designed to capitalize on its premier waterfront site while still respecting its past. Look for cherished family antiques, including a corner cupboard built by a grandfather and dining table built by a great grandfather. Note the Nelson milk bottles that came from a great grandparents’ business — Onancock Dairy. The homeowners are a talented young couple: she an author and he a landscape architect. Do not miss the clever family tree display created by her, the front and backyards created by him, and the lovely view of the North Branch beyond.
Our Exposition House was originally built for the Jamestown Ter-Centennial Exposition of 1907 which marked the 300th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown and the Virginia colony by settlers from England. The following year, the dwelling was barged to Onancock from Norfolk. In the 1930’s the house was moved once again: this time in two pieces to its current King Street site on the North Branch. Recently-purchased by new owners, the house is now undergoing a total transformation focused on going “green” — energy efficient and low maintenance. While the front portion is restored to its 1907 appearance including a traditional front porch, the owners have chosen an all-new rear addition and an interior that boasts cathedral ceilings, extensive built-in bookshelves and an open floor plan. This “green” house is a work-in-progress.
On Lee Street, a once busy main thoroughfare for children walking from Market Street to their schoolhouse on Ker Street, is our fifth Tour home, Powell Residence. Nothing from the outside of this 1912 foursquare hints of the many surprises that lie beyond the front door. Modern and unique may best describe this delightful residence. The author homeowner has created an art gallery, a professional floor-to-ceiling library with double-shelved books, a music room dominated by a professional grand piano, a one-room authentic post office containing an incredible stamp collections of the world‘s great artists and “a tour of Greece“, … Fascinating art objects abound at every turn. Expect to be delighted with this one-of-a-kind, do-not-miss home.
Hendrickson House, ca. 1900, is another traditional center passage foursquare, mansard-roofed structure. But beyond the front door is a stunning, exquisitely-decorated home. The use of art to define space will capture the visitor’s attention and draw him or her through this beautiful Market Street residence filled with light. Birds, both carvings and paintings, fill the home. Take special note of the flying carved pelicans in the sunroom, the delicate flying terns and flying baby barn swallows (“Mosquito Mania”), on the second floor, the painting of a singing Luciano (not the opera singer himself) in the dining room, the “Time Flies” crow in the main hall, and the whimsically neck-tied bird on the stairway. Soak up Christmas everywhere. There is even a professional pottery studio located in an addition off the back of the main home. This is yet another most treasured home that is an absolute must-see.
Historic Cokesbury Church, conveniently located on Market Street beside the town square, is the venue for this year’s Music Festival, which is free and open to the public. A variety of musical performances is planned from 1-5 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to drop-in anytime throughout this event.
Tickets are $20. Tour tickets are available on the day of the tour at Ker Place or at the Historic Onancock School. For more information, visitwww.onancock.org or call 757 710 6353. Sponsored by the Onancock Business and Civic Association, this year’s profits benefit Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper. Over the past 15 years, OBCA’s Homes Tour has donated over $100,000 to various charitable organizations.
Other town activities this day include:
10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Eastern Shore Waterman’s Museum, 6 College Ave., displays history and heritage of the Chesapeake Bay watermen.
11 a. m. – 4 p.m., Historic Ker Place Museum Open House, with Christmas display, children’s activities, and photo op with Santa. Free.
11 a.m., Noel Morning. Santa arrives by boat at our town dock to listen to children seated on the Liar’s Bench beside the Harbormaster’s building
1-5 p.m., Holy Trinity Episcopal Church’s Open House, 66 Market St,
8 p.m., North Street Playhouse’s holiday production “Elf Jr“, www.northstreetplayhouse.com/