Never pass up a great chance to snoop — with permission.
This is the best perk of going on a homes tour. While holiday tours get a lot of buzz, some organizations have chosen autumn as their perfect season.
“You have the fall colors, you get to see private homes on this tour you would never get to see otherwise, and the gardens are beautiful,” says Barbara Treese, homes tour president of the Lake Lotawana Community Club, which has its biennial tour on Oct. 4. “Oh, and it’s not smoking hot,” she adds with a laugh.
An interesting twist on this tour: You can actually float by boat to the homes, most of them contemporary.
For many of the other homes tours, the slant is toward preservation.
The Lexington Old Homes Tour, which wraps up today, features six of the town’s most historic homes.
Byron Nicodemus hopes that the tour, held every September, will teach visitors that the area is full of history. Lexington was founded in 1822 as a major river port.
“Most people don’t know that we have more antebellum homes than any city in Missouri,” says the executive director of the Lexington Tourism Bureau. “The homes on our tour have been restored and most will be furnished in period pieces — though they are set up for the 21st century.”
People on these tours are fascinated with history, and how people lived in the old days, he says.
And Chery Holtman, a member of the Clay County Museum and Historical Society in Liberty, knows a lot about the way people lived back then. The historical society is hosting the 2014 Historic Homes Tour, which will feature six homes.
She will be a docent at the Gittings house, a historic home built by Darius Gittings that, until she sold it recently, had been in Holtman’s family since it was built in 1868.
“I have so many memories of this house,” she said, noting that the craftsman who is restoring it is doing an amazing job.
Those touring homes in Liberty might note that most homes are still works in progress. This tour offers homeowners a chance to see what goes into the process of restoration, Holtman says.
The owners of two homes on the Northeast Kansas City Historical Society Fall Homes Tour, also featuring six homes, will tell you that restoring these gems takes time, patience, and often more money than you expect.
The two homes sit a half a block apart. Though the exteriors of the Victorian homes bear similarities, the interiors teach visitors a valuable lesson: Not every home built before 1900 has to look the same.
Leslie Caplan decorated her home, built in 1895, mostly with antiques, period pieces and family heirlooms.
“I’ve been a docent on these tours, so when I was asked if I’d consider it, I thought, sure, because people love looking at these old homes.”
People come to study craftsmanship used in the day, she says, lifting a tiny kitten she’s recently adopted from a shelter.
Caplan moved into the 5,500-square-foot home a little more than four years ago and faced what many homeowners of old houses realize: There’s no rest for the weary.
“I’ve done a lot of painting, insulation, plumbing and electrical work,” Caplan says, adding that she hired a contractor to remove a room that was added in the ’20s and “simply didn’t look right.”
Caplan, who works for the nonprofit Mattie Rhodes Center, points out her favorite details of the home. She spends a lot of time in the bright sunrooms at the front and back of her house.
She points to a gossip bench in the foyer that came with the house; it’s tucked into a perfect spot. Many of the other pieces that blend into the house were purchased from estate sales or online.
She loves her modern kitchen and side porch, including their shared original brick floor. She also points out details like tooled-leather wainscoting you won’t find in modern homes, along with intricate wood carving on the banister and door frames.
“All the work I put into it made it worthwhile, because I love living here,” she says. “This is such an amazing, diverse community.
“For people who see a house like this, I just want them to know it’s doable,” she says. “It won’t happen in a day, but it’s so wonderful to hold onto a treasure like this.”
Right up the road at the home of Dylan and Lindsey Smith, the vibe is much different.
The young couple has lived in the house, built in 1895, for three years.
Their intention, Dylan Smith said, was to flip the home after a couple of years. They had restored an old home in Waldo, so they had the tools and experience.
But watch their 6-year-old daughter, Phoenix, skid across the spacious atrium in stockinged feet, and it’s clear what made the couple change their minds.
“We fell in love with the community, so we decided to stay,” Dylan says, adding that the tour is important in part because few know of the historical treasures in the area.
“I like the age of the neighborhood and the diversity, but there are also a lot of cool amenities,” he says, pointing to fountains children can run through, Frisbee golf courses, parks and the nearby Kansas City Museum.
This house was likely damaged by a fire, he says, pointing to burn marks on door frames. Because most of the interior was redone, from plastering to floors, the couple’s contemporary furniture fit right in.
What catches the eye first is artwork by Lindsey, who has an art degree. An enormous painting of her grandmother hangs in the atrium, visible from the entryway.
After they moved in, the couple was pleased to find that some of the most important home repair projects had already been tackled. When the electrical work is sound and central air is in good shape, it’s easier to conquer things like replastering walls.
Lindsey’s artistic touch shows up in a mural along the wall of their daughter’s room, where the focal point is an enormous Victorian dollhouse passed from mother to daughter. Artistry and hard work also transformed the dining room punctuated by the a huge chandelier that came with the house.
“I thought it looked fine when we moved in, but Lindsey polished every bit of it, and now it’s really brilliant,” says Dylan, proudly adding that his industrious wife also sanded and finished the floor.
Lindsey, a manager at Webster House, and Dylan, a senior art director at VML, are proud to show off their home.
Dylan Smith has done a lot of research about the house and guesses that many areas once had a different look. He points to a photo he found in the Special Collections room at the downtown Kansas City Public Library that shows the sunroom in bright light. “I’m thinking that at one time it had a glass roof,” he says.
“If you really study these old photos, you can see what these old houses once looked like,” he says. “It still interests me to see what’s behind the plaster in the dining room. It’s a lot of fun to live in an old house like this.”
Open the doors
to historic homes
When: Saturday and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.
Details: Six Lexington historic homes and the Old Cumberland Church (now the Lexington Museum). The homes range from 1840s to the late 1800s. Buses start at the Lexington Tourism Bureau, Main Street.
When: Oct. 4 and 5, 1 to 5 p.m.
Details: Six homes, including the Three Gables House, which as two original rooms built in 1824, making it the oldest standing structure in Kansas City.
Tickets: $12 advance; $15 day of tour. Available at Clay County Museum, 14 N. Main St., Liberty.
When: Oct. 4, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Details: Offers six historic homes. Janssen Place will be host to food trucks, a beer garden and local bands. Additionally, a candlelight event on Oct. 3 will showcase four additional homes.
Tickets: $12 advance ($10 seniors/children); $15 day of ($12 seniors/children). Candlelight showcase: $30 Friday only. $35 Friday and Saturday combo ticket.
When: Oct. 4, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Boats rides are available for homes tour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and depart from the Marina Grog and Gallery.
Details: Six homes.
Fall Parade of Homes
When: Sept. 27 to Oct. 12, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
Details: Featuring 307 new homes by 84 builders in seven counties across the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Tickets and info: Free. Free Parade Guides available for pickup at the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City (Interstate 435 and Holmes) and at all Parade homes. Or visit KCParadeOfHomes .com for a map and database of featured homes.
Northeast Kansas City
When: Oct. 18, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Details: Six historical homes, all within walking distance of one another in the Scarritt Renaissance neighborhood. Tour starts at 301 Gladstone Blvd.
Tickets: $12 advance; $15 tour day.
Editor’s note: House & Home editor Cynthia Billhartz Gregorian’s home will be on the Hyde Park homes tour. She did not edit this story.