A drive through Brunswick’s historic district is like taking a trip back in time. Antebellum-style homes draped in Spanish moss dot the streets, standing as a testament to the history of this coastal town.
For Sandy Dean, it has always been a special place, one she enjoys sharing with others. One way Dean has done that over the past decade is by serving as the chair of the Magnolia Garden Club’s Annual Christmas Tour of Homes. She has overseen the event for most of its years.
“I believe I’ve been the chair for the last seven years and we’ve done it for nine years,” she said. “We work hard on it. We start in January, then the committee meets every couple of months to make sure everything is getting done.”
While it takes a lot of effort to organize, presenting the homes to locals and visitors is incredibly rewarding. This year, Dean expects it to be no different.
“There are all these special, wonderful homes in the historic district,” she said. “They have so much history and the owners stay in the home during the tour so they can answer questions.
“This year we have a lot of different homes on the tour. For example, we have the Livery, which looking at it from the outside, you would never think that it is a loft apartment inside.”
When the team selects the crop of homes for the tour, there is no specific criteria to meet. Dean said they approach homeowners with the hope of providing a variety of styles.
“We don’t say, for instance, that the homes have to be built in the 1800s. We like to have different homes. We have had everything from grand Victorians to shotgun shacks,” she said. “Some will be completely redone and some will be original.”
The renovations homeowners take on can showcase the versatility and potential of historic homes. Dean said sometimes the work on a home can delay its appearance on the tour.
“For some, we’ve been asking their owners for three or four years and they say ‘we’ll do it but we aren’t done yet,’” she said.
One such home is finally making its grand debut. That is 1027 Union Street, known as the Morgan House.
“It is a gorgeous house and they weren’t done with it until just recently, and we are so excited to finally get it on the tour,” Dean said.
There is another new item as well. But she notes it is not a “house” per se.
“The library called us and wanted to put their dollhouses on the tour. We talked about it and decided it was a wonderful idea so this year the library is a stop on the tour,” she said.
There are also a couple of returns to the tour. Brunswick Manor is one of these and will serve as a holiday focal point. It is a feature nearly every year.
“Everyone loves going there ... it is decorated to the hilt and you never get to see it unless you are staying there,” she said.
The holiday spirit will be a reoccurring theme, as will history. The tour route will also feature stories about important events that shaped both individual homes as well as downtown as a whole.
“We did that with the Dubingon House and talked about their wedding there and people loved it. We did the same at City Hall so we will keep doing that,” she said. “A lot of people come from out of town — Waycross to Savannah to Ponta Vedra — so we like to share that with them.”
A few of the stops on the tour include:
1. Old City Hall, 1229 Newcastle St., Brunswick: This Brunswick staple was built in 1889 by famed coastal architect, Alfred Eichberg of Savannah. It is an example of Richardsonian Romanesque design with Queen Anne affinities. It was built with a mixture of Terra cotta, brickwork and stone. The original cost of construction was $30,000.
2. The Livery, 1212 Newcastle St., Originally, this building, constructed in 1892, likely held the horses that assisted the city’s fire brigade. The animals were critical to putting out blazes like a major fire in downtown in 1884.
3. The Morgan House, 1027 Union St., this impressive home first belonged to J.H. Morgan, a liquor and beer salesman, who built it in 1912. Originally a single story, it has grown and changed since its construction. At one time, it served as an apartment building, giving shelter to those who came to the city to construct Liberty Ships during World War II.
4. The Atkinson House, 802 London St., this home, built in 1890, was constructed in the Southern folk Victorian style. It features the decorative “stick styling,” where pieces of wood are fitted together to create a pattern within the body of the house.