Council of Garden Clubs of Sumter hosts 69th-annual Holiday House Tour and Tea


The Council of Garden Clubs of Sumter will host its 69th-annual Holiday House Tour and Tea in Sumter on Saturday, Dec. 7. The theme of the tour is "Christmas Memories," with four featured homes and the Sumter County Gallery of Art. Tour hours are noon to 5 p.m. with the tea from 2 to 4 p.m. at Alice Boyle Garden Center, 842 W. Liberty St., next to Swan Lake-Iris Gardens. Tickets can be purchased at each house on the day of the tour or at the Garden Center from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Houses on the tour are:

Malley and Steve Jennings

515 W. Hampton Ave.

Built circa 1924, the Jennings' home has Spanish Mediterranean architecture with stucco and a distinctive tiled roof. The interior has arched doorways, 10-foot ceilings and stone fireplaces, among other features. Malley, known for her creative talents, has collected and designed d cor to showcase each room with different themes and an abundance of old-world flair.

The living room features a floor-to-ceiling purple-and-gold Victorian Christmas tree, a sleigh and antique furnishings designed and created for large homes. The pink-and-gold dining room also has a Victorian theme with a rose-gold tree accented with garland. The dining table uses gold and white sugar plums.

The next three rooms have totally different themes and d cor: a wild-side room with animal prints and matching Christmas tree; a pink-and-black girl's room with matching Christmas tree; and a master bedroom and bath with visions of black and gold and, of course, a tree.

The breakfast nook, kitchen and backroom are whimsical, fun and heavily decorated with lighted wreaths, trees, poinsettias, old-Christmas Santas, lanterns, red-gray plaids and buffalo checks.

Guests exit through the portico, also decorated with wreaths and a tree.

Dick and Fair Edmunds

106 Chappell St.

After many years of living and working on a Sumter County farm, Dick and Fair have moved into Sumter and are delighted to be near the conveniences found here. Before marrying Dick, Fair had grown up on a dairy farm where she learned "to love Jersey cows and dirt." Fair may have left the farm but not the love of animals and growing things; therefore, finding the home on Chappell Street was what Dick and Fair needed because it offers them a large backyard to grow plants and flowers as well as a large area for her to design and develop outdoor spaces.

Over the past 18 years, Fair Edmunds has been affiliated with a Sumter garden club. During that time, she has won blue ribbons in almost every show that she has entered. She also became an accredited flower show judge and is exceptionally adept at flower design and equally knowledgeable about flowers and greenery. Along with Fair's talents and the expertise of the garden club members, flowers and greenery will be used as Christmas decorations throughout the house. Fair plans to create a lemon and apple tree for the kitchen area.

The couple's furniture includes lovely antiques from their grandmothers, including a side board and china closet circa 19th century that are not only displayed, but also used. They also have portraits of Fair and her mother, a framed hand-painted silk scarf by Carolita Cantrell and a watercolor piece by Rose Metz. Not to be missed is "Julie," the entryway picture of a Jersey cow that reminds Fair of her time on her parents' dairy farm.

Tony and Dale Barwick

10 Swan Lake Drive

Built circa 1950, the home purchased by Tony and Dale Barwick has a rich local history as well as unique features, both timeless and period specific. Originally, the house was built by Matthew F. "Bud" and Elaine "Sunny" Korn. (Chester F. Korn was Bud's father.) With careful renovation and changes, Tony and Dale have modernized the living spaces without compromising the home's original charm.

Permanent architectural features include several fireplaces, including one that is perhaps the largest in Sumter with a double damper for the 7-foot fireplace. In fact, a special door for the wood's storage area is located next to the fireplace. The pegged oak floors are original as well as the tile on the kitchen floor and the two built-in china cabinets. As a period piece, the Barwicks have kept the servant call bell under the dining room table. The crystal chandeliers were already in the house, also.

Tony and Dale have furnished much of their home with antiques, many of which came from their grandparents and great-grandparents. Some of these include a hall tree, secretary, china cabinet, sheet music stand, piano, cane furniture and a repurposed rosewood table made from a grand piano that Dale's grandfather brought home to his mother by mule and wagon in the 1920s.

Of special interest are Dale's collections throughout the house of antique dolls passed down from her grandmother.

Tony and Dale have updated the home with beautifully designed rooms as well as a swimming pool area in the backyard.

Joshua Abernathy

16 Warren St.

Older homes can be records of different eras and family histories. Courthouse records show that Josh Abernathy's home at 16 Warren St. has been a home to several families over the years, including Rosalie and Walter Sowell and their daughters. Apparently, this extended family owned the home for approximately 37 years. Josh, like many prior owners of this home, sees the unique features and details inside as well as outside the house.

Not afraid of challenges, Josh, a master sergeant in the United States Army, also has a background in construction that enables him to tackle home projects with talent and expertise, particularly in renovation and construction. He also has the heart and appreciation for the beauty of his multi-story home.

Details about a home's history may be found in strange places. A decorative black wrought-iron fence with a gate in the front of the house has the letters Ba_nett indicating a possible early owner of the house or land. Other details such as an arched doorway, oak floors, 12- and 14-foot ceilings, plaster walls and an entryway staircase lined with wrought-iron banister suggest prior homeowners' love for fine interior architecture.

Josh, while loving the original home's designs, is also creating rooms that suit his personal style. He has an American room where he displays his military awards and paraphernalia. This room is also where he entertains or where he likes to read. Other rooms in the downstairs floor plan include a much-used living room, dining room, modernized kitchen, downstairs bedroom, game room with recessed lighting and screened-in Florida room.

The upstairs area offers unique qualities, also. While climbing the stairs to the second floor, one can see a striking, stained glass window at the top of the staircase. On bright, sunny days, the window allows the sun's rays to illuminate the stairway area. Of special interest on the second floor are Josh's son's custom created bedroom and media rooms - both of which are a haven for a child. In addition, guest bedrooms are upstairs.

Upon exiting the house, one enters the long, rectangular backyard that has a variety of buildings and garden areas. This area has a garage with a workshop and bathroom, swimming pool, a gazebo with a slate roof, pump house, a building that Josh shares with a neighbor and several garden areas. All in all, the .61 acres for the house and property have changed and developed with each homeowner over the years.

Sumter County Gallery of Art

200 Hasell St.

The Sumter County Gallery of Art is housed in the Sumter County Cultural Center, a grand, old brick building built in 1925. Although always a school, it went through a few iterations before it became Edmunds High School in 1939, when the newly remodeled high school was named in honor of the late Dr. Samuel Henry Edmunds, but the biggest change for Edmunds High School wasn't the name change or even the new additions to the building. It was the fact that it opened as a co-educational school, marking the first time boys and girls attended classes together since 6th grade.

It is a tribute to the vision and foresight of Sumter County Government and a dedicated group of private citizens who, instead of demolishing the building, repurposed it, first in the mid-1980s as a performing arts auditorium, Patriot Hall, and then in the early 2000s when the Sumter County Gallery of Art opened. The Cultural Center is also home to Sumter Little Theatre, the Sumter County Cultural Commission, the Sumter-Shaw Community Concert Band and the Sumter Civic Chorale. In short, the center is a vibrant jewel of the Sumter community.

The Sumter County Gallery of Art is thrilled to be a stop on The Council of Garden Clubs of Sumter Holiday House Tour and Tea. The tour will also coincide with the annual Sumter Artists' Guild Holiday Market at the gallery, so our venue will be especially fun and will provide visitors an opportunity to purchase one-of-a-kind, artisan-made gifts and also Young pecans through the gallery's annual pecan fundraiser.

- By Karen Watson,

SCGA executive director