Since moving into their Washington County house in 2009, the Yocca family has had a 12-foot Christmas tree in their family room. This year because theirs is one of five Peters Township houses on Sunday's Holiday Home Tour, they went bigger. Before Thanksgiving, they chose a 15-foot Fraser fir at Simmons Farm, which insisted on delivering it.
"It's a jumbo tree. You can't tie that on top of your car," John Yocca said, laughing.
His wife Mohylyn and daughter Olivia, 13, didn't find it quite as funny. They spent 12 hours decorating the tree with more than 100 ornaments, countless strands of tinsel and 3,000 white lights.
"What a difference 3 more feet makes," Mrs. Yocca said.
It also means more watering. Mr. Yocca estimated that the massive tree, which stretches past the rafters but is well below the room's 25-foot peak, drinks 1 1/2 gallons a day. Of course, some of that might be lapped up by Bruno, their 1 1/2-year-old French bulldog.
The Yoccas were approached to be on the tour by a friend who is on the board of Watchful Shepherd USA, a child/family abuse prevention program that receives the tour's proceeds. This nearly 10-acre property is one of the better-known ones on Bebout Road because it was previously the Civil War Artillery Museum, a private collection of 1860s cannons, howitzers and mortars.
The collector who owned the museum built this 7,500-square-foot house and a smaller building to house his big guns. Its entrance was a restored 1790s log cabin that was moved to the property from Virginia 20 years ago. The Yoccas, who still receive mail for the former museum, will have the log cabin open for the tour. But visitors will not get inside the most visible building on the property, an 1860s red barn.
The Yoccas say it wasn't the various old buildings or even the impressive main house that first attracted them. It was the pond with a fountain and the acres of lawn and woods.
"I liked the parklike feel of it," Mr. Yocca said.
"I liked the whole view. It's just gorgeous from the trail," Mrs. Yocca said.
Arrowhead Trail, part of the Montour Trail, runs alongside the property. Mr. Yocca sometimes uses the trail to bike to his office on Valleybrook Road. He said it's a 10-minute commute by bike or car because of the traffic lights.
They also liked the eclectic style of the house, which was designed by Gunther J. Kaier Architects of McMurray and built by Martik Brothers of Finleyville. Among the changes the Yoccas made were to add low bookshelves to make a library out of a sunny pass-through that is labeled "love nest" on the architectural drawings. The original library was turned into a bar and poker room, where Mr. Yocca and his friends sharpen their poker skills and watch basketball games.
For other sports and video games, the couple turned a narrow upstairs storage space into a cozy home theater with several cushy seats and a 65-inch screen. A collection of elaborate Legos buildings and monuments are the work of their son Sebastian, 14.
Watchful Shepherd's Holiday Home Tour runs from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets, $25, are available at the Keller Williams Bethel Park office, 1500 Oxford Drive, open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. today and Sunday. Information: 412-608-3300.
Kevin Kirkland: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1978.