Take a carriage ride to another era when Christmas evergreen boughs decorated winding staircases and the homes were bathed in the glow of candles and fireplaces.
People Engaged in Preservation, LaPorte's nonprofit historic preservation group, is inviting the public to take a trip back in time and tour some of the city's finest Victorian homes during the Christmas Candlelight Tour from 4 to 8 p.m. Dec. 4 and 1 to 5 p.m. Dec. 5.
Last year's event was a scaled-back version of the 14-year tradition.
"Last year we got started a little late and couldn't get the houses lined up," Pam Ruminski, co-chair for this year's tour said. "But we still did the carriage rides and one of the churches and the miniature train and Santa's house at the railroad station which had totally been redone."
Tour chair Clara Lawrence said the group was "truly overwhelmed by the expressed regret of the community when, after being held for 13 consecutive years, the tour was canceled last year.
"With that in mind, we are excited to be able to bring the tradition back this year," Lawrence said.
This year's tour will feature two mansions, the Arbor Hill Inn (the former W.A. Jones estate) on Johnson Road and the Rumely Mansion on Rose Street, as well as three private homes.
In addition, this year, for the first time, both the 1872 Swedish-built Carmel Chapel and Trinity Lutheran Church on Michigan Avenue (which is celebrating its 85th year) will be on the tour.
All seven sites will be open for leisurely self-guided touring, and will be beautifully decorated for the Christmas season. Docents from PEP will discuss features and architecture of each home, and owners love to share the stories of their houses.
"It's a nostalgic feeling of going back in time as you ride in the carriage covered with blankets, walk through the houses and churches," Lawrence said. "And then, at the church, we serve hot apple cider, tea and cookies to finish the experience."
Each ticket includes a tour of all seven sites, a printed program documenting the history of each site, live musical entertainment, and refreshments at Trinity Lutheran Church and Carmel Chapel, plus a Victorian-style sleigh or carriage ride through the heart of LaPorte's renowned Avenues historic district.
"Every year we have people from Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana who come to take the tour," Ruminski said.
Advance tickets are $15. Send your check for $15 per person, payable to People Engaged in Preservation, to P.O. Box 853, LaPorte, IN 46352. Day-of-tour tickets will cost $18 and be available during tour hours only at Trinity Lutheran Church, 907 Michigan Ave.
As a special opportunity, for those purchasing tour tickets by mail who wish to join PEP, the group is offering a reduced rate of membership, $10 per person, which will carry the membership through the rest of 2010 and the entire calendar year 2011. Those wishing to pursue this option should include $25 per person with their advance-ticket purchase for each membership sought.
Additional information, including ticket outlets, will be available on the PEP website, www.peplaporte.org, as the tour gets closer. Or for more information, call (219) 851-6978 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.