The West End neighborhood of Winston Salem is an intriguing mix of beautiful historic homes, apartment buildings, and dilapidated rental properties. It was planned in 1890 by Jacob Lott Ludlow.
I feel as if I was born to live in the West End; I just haven't been able to make that happen yet. So with my first Christmas in Winston Salem drawing near, I partook in the annual Historic West End Holiday Tour 2008 last Sunday.
My friend and I began at the Bahnson House, where we registered and picked up information. We spent the afternoon going from one home to the next; quickly falling into a comfortable rhythm of critiquing exterior structures and landscaping as we approached each tour site.
Once inside, conversation flowed as as we discussed aspects of light, open space, and "souls" of houses. Sometimes we had less than positive opinions about what owners had done, but tried our best to be discreet. After all, we were extremely grateful they had opened their homes to us.
Well, we were mostly grateful.
One site on the tour was leased by businesses. Upon entry, we were invited to provide our e-mail address so local merchants could contact us. Um, no thank you.
After a quick look around I wanted to leave immediately. Something about the house felt sterile, and I'm thinking this property shouldn't have been on the tour. There's a time and place to hawk and peddle wares, but this didn't seem like a good one.
It seemed like a classic bait and switch; the bait being an old house. When my friend was cornered by a docent-saleslady, I fled outside like the true friend I am and waited in the cold for her to emerge.
At another tour site, a compelling photograph of a bride in her gown held my attention for an inordinate amount of time. I stood looking at it for what seemed five minutes or so when I noticed a docent eyeing me suspiciously. Quickly, I moved on to another part of the house.
There were memorable rooms in various houses: two baths in a home that shared delicious views of the same old tree. A gorgeous family room with huge windows. A dining room I hated to leave; beautiful in milky paint and sparse, perfect accents of furniture and accessories.
In one residence, we laughed at our frequent and gushing use of the word "love." "I love this table," and "I love those windows!" Then, "I LOVE that paint!"
I hope to make the Tour a yearly holiday ritual. Thanks to all involved for a wonderful day.