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It’s beginning to look a lot like ... tour time

Library’s Holiday Tour of Homes is set for Saturday

November 25, 2012
By JANICE R. KIASKI - Herald-Star community editor ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - The annual Holiday Tour of Homes, sponsored by the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County, will combine two tour favorites with three new stops to put visitors in the home appreciation and holiday decorating spirit.

This year's tour - which features three locations in Steubenville, one in Richmond and another in East Springfield - is set for Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Participants who are library card holders - or who want to sign up for one - will start at the main library at 407 S. Fourth St. and be given instructions on their destinations, with some going in one direction, some the other.

Article Photos

Francesca Carinci of Steubenville

There is a $20 donation to participate, and those interested in being a part of the popular holiday event should make reservations by Friday by calling the main library at (740) 282-9782.

"The library tour of homes is part of our Out 'n About series that takes programming out of the library and onto the road. This is the fifth tour of homes the library has offered to its card holders," said Jennifer Cesta, the library's public relations coordinator.

"Do-it-yourself books and videos are popular items that customers check out at the library. The tour allows customers to see beautiful and diversely decorated spaces to enjoy and possibly create for themselves," Cesta said.

"The library is grateful to home owners and businesses who literally open their doors for our customers. Much time and energy are taken for this to happen each year. Many of the people who go on the tour have been participating since it was first organized in 2008. They enjoy it, and it has become tradition for them," she added.

New this year is the library hosting holiday music at the main library Saturday at 10:30 a.m., courtesy of Steubenville High School's brass ensemble under the direction of Zac Taylor.

"The public is welcome to attend, and participants of the home tour are encouraged to listen to the music before heading off to the homes," Cesta said.

Here is a look at what home tour participants can expect.

Bob and Mona Rowley live at 621 Market St., Steubenville, across from the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce office and in what some downtown shoppers might remember as the building in which Johnson's Kitchens and Baths was located.

The couple turned an unusual space into a livable space and have resided there for the past two years. They live in about one-sixth of the building.

"We transformed a cinder block warehouse area into a living space," explained Mona. "It is about a thousand square feet and just a great room, kicthen, a nice big bedroom and a huge bathroom, and that's what makes up the space," she said.

There's also a deck that the couple have come to enjoy, including for the view.

That they're on the tour as a new attraction is more about the space, the I-wasn't-expecting-this-in-here factor, and less about the holiday decorating.

Visitors can expect simplicity, understated red and gold decorations and the surprise factor.

Mona is retired, and Bob is an electrician out of the IBEW Local 246.

"I'm excited about being on the tour and sort of panicked because there are big houses on the tour," Mona said with a laugh.

The Bayberry Properties Garrett House Bed and Breakfast also is a downtown Steubenville stop, one that has been part of the tour in the past.

It is located at 741 N. Fourth St. in Steubenville's Historic District and is an 1870s Italiante Victorian home decorated in an eclectic Victorian style. Traditional Christmas decorations are used throughout the public rooms of the home with a 10-foot Christmas tree in the bay window.

"It will be a fun event," said owner Scott Dressel. "It's a good event for the library. We will have everything decorated for Christmas, and it will be a chance to see the house. We may even have the other house open, too, the Westfall house two doors up," Dressel said, referring to the other bed and breakfast that's part of Bayberry Properties.

"It's a chance if you haven't been here to see the restoration work that went into this," Dressel said.

"We have had several thousand guests stay now from all over the world. It's been an amazing year of world travelers from Russia, China, Japan, Switzerland, Portugal, Germany, Canada, Mexico, and every state in the U.S.," he said.

The guests are visiting the Franciscan University of Steubenville, for example, and the Portugal visitors were in the area for a conference in Pittsburgh and wanted to go somewhere the day before.

They chose the Garrett House.

Dressel said many of the visitors came to the area because of the presidential campaign. "There were a lot of journalists from all over the world coming through, and they stayed here. It was fun."

The house was built in 1870 and was abandoned around the 1980s. Its restoration got under way in 1996 and took nearly 14 years. It has been open as a bed and breakfast for three years.

"The roof had caved in, and it was a huge mess so there's a total reproduction on the first floor with the second floor more original," Dressel said.

"We brought it back to the original floor plan. We had the trim remilled at DeNoon's - they did a wonderful job - and tried to bring the house back to what it would be as a new Victorian true to the period. It has five guestrooms here, and our jacuzzi suite is in this house. The kitchen is pretty phenomenal with a nice fireplace and granite countertops," he said.

"It's just fun to have things in here," Dressel said, noting the four fireplaces in the house will be on for the tour.

"It's cozy - a great place to come and relax and sort of get away from it all even though we do have wireless Internet and one TV and some cable, you can still completely unplug here if you want and avoid the rush of the world," Dressel said.

He said he believes that whoever built the home had family in mind.

"It's an interesting floor plan considering it was 1870, and the Civil War had just ended but like this arch here," he said, pointing, "it may have had French doors on it at one time, but there's no evidence of it when we started. This house never had pocket doors like a lot of places did. It's a pretty open plan, considering it was built 143 years ago," Dressel said.

The home of local attorney Francesca Carinci is the other Steubenville stop at 3135 Sunset Blvd.

Carinci resides there with her mother, Mary Carinci.

"This is my third time on the tour, and I really look forward to it," she said. "My mother and I love this. She sees a lot of people that she hasn't seen in 40 years, and we look forward to doing this because we love having people in the house."

Welcoming visitors to the home has always been Carinci's intention.

"When I bought this house, my idea was to open it up to do a lot of things because so many people were always curious about this place," she said.

Carinci said when Joe Pierre built the house, it was patterned after a home he fell in love with in Beverly Hills, Calif., "like one from the Rat Pack era."

It was in the 1940s, Carinci believes, that Pierre started building the home.

From conversations with neighbors, Carinci came to believe Pierre always intended the home to be used. "I just think that he always really intended for this to be a place that was used, but he never did," she said.

"When I bought it and restored it, I just said it would be used, and I have done that so I really look forward to sharing that because he put a lot of time in this house. I still feel his influence in this house a lot, and I see all the little touches he did because this is a very different kind of house. I always say I think he would love this," Carinci said, noting Pierre's daughter is happy knowing that what was once her father's home has been restored.

Big on decorating, Carinci will have on display memorabilia from her world travels, including an India-style Santa, and a table that brings to mind the Taj Mahal and a nativity set from Germany.

Her mother's love of angels is reflected in the living room, a space deliberately void of TVs and telephones. "She loves angels so every year I pick up an angel or something for her because that's her favorite thing and this year that's new," Carinci points to a large angle in the center of the room.

"This is my favorite room - this is our family room where family gathers, and we cluster and talk. The sunrises are miraculous through that window, just amazing," she said.

The fireplace is unique, too, she said.

"He (Pierre) actually had this fireplace slab shipped over just like this - there are things I have had contractors say cannot be replicated, the materials don't exist any more. The granite for this particular house they said cannot be found. It's a really kind of strange house," she said.

Carinci takes visitors on a guided tour and answers what typically are a lot of questions.

"I take them from room to room. What we do is we start here in the family room, and when I take them up the stairs and we go around the house and go through the maid's quarters we end up in the dining room where there are always the homemade Italian cookies. My mother and I bake up a storm. We always have great food. We love it and look forward to it," Carinci said, emphasizing that her home is a home, a lived-in home, not a showplace.

"It's just a house, but people like it here because it's just a fun place," Carinci said.

The home of Mark and Gina Judy of Richmond brings the tour out of Steubenville and into a more country setting of Jefferson County.

The Judys resides at 8519 state Route 152 and have two daughters, Stephanie and Kim.

They moved into the house in 2005 - a house designed by Mark, an electrical eningeer by trade "but I learned from my dad and my grandfather. We've been building things for many years."

Mark is an engineer with Richmond Engineering.

Artistic influence comes from Gina, an art teacher of 27 years, instructing students in grades six, seven and eight at Indian Creek Middle School.

"We're happy to help. Obviously the library is a worthy cause," Mark said of their motivation for being first-time tour participants.

"And we like to promote education," Gina added.

The majority of the house will be open with traditional decorations, including a 14-foot live tree in the great room.

There also will be other artificial trees up and decorated.

Lee is a 40-year employee of Arcelor-Mittal, and Sharon is self-employed, which includes giving riding lessons.

"It'll be interesting being on the other side," Sharon said as the couple have gone on the home tour, not been one of the stops.

Sharon typically begins decorating after November arrives and devotes a couple of weeks to the effort. Lee is part helper, part observer.

Five big Christmas trees, including an upside down one, and several little trees are part of the decorations with the bulk of the house holiday festive and open for the tour.

It is a living space with a mix of Old World, French-English country style featuring antiques, collectibles and auction and yard sale acquisitions that will give visitors much to see and appreciate.

Among their collections are cookie jars and tobacco tins, and one room is coined "the girls lounge" or granddaughters' room in honor of their granddaughters, Abigail Booth, 11, and Emileah "E" Booth, 8.

The Rairighs have a son, 1st Sgt. Christopher Rairigh, who is in the Army stationed in Fort Knox, Ky., and a daughter, Melissa Booth of Annapolis.

(Kiaski can be contacted at

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