Historic homes in Washington open for candlelight tours

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Candlelight tours at two historic homes in Washington County will take visitors back centuries this weekend.

The LeMoyne House, 49 E. Maiden St., and the Bradford House, 175 S. Main St., are a short distance apart and will be open for candlelight tours from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday and 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday. The tours are presented by the Washington County Historical Society.

The cost to tour one house is $5 for adults or $4 for students, or visitors can tour both homes for $8 for adults or $6 for students.

Drop in on the LeMoyne family during Christmas 1869 and hear about the latest trend in Christmas decorations, women's rights and the social scene in the city of Washington.

Vignettes presented through the LeMoyne House will give visitors a peek into a simpler time when Christmas was celebrated with tabletop Christmas trees, holly, ivy and mistletoe, and gifts were more likely to be clothes and books rather than toys and gadgets.

Rooms open in the LeMoyne House include the parlor, the apothecary, dining room, master bedroom and two rooms with military memorabilia.

On display in the apothecary is the time capsule placed in the cornerstone of the city's old town hall by President Ulysses S. Grant, who paid a visit to the city in 1869. Forgotten, the capsule was discovered accidently in 1992 when the town hall was torn down to build the new jail, said Clay Kilgore, director of the Washington County Historical Society. Some items inside included a bottle of Pennsylvania rye whiskey and a set of false teeth.

John Julius LeMoyne, a doctor, built the LeMoyne House in 1812. He and his wife, Nancy, had a son, Francis, and a daughter, Madeline.

Francis LeMoyne, also a doctor, was an abolitionist and opened the LeMoyne home as a stop on the Underground Railroad, despite the risk. The LeMoyne House was the first in Pennsylvania to receive the designation of National Historic Landmark of the Underground Railroad, Mr. Kilgore said.

A member of a prominent Washington County family, Francis LeMoyne aided in keeping Washington & Jefferson College open during the Civil War by making donations to the school and is also noted for opening the first crematory in the Western Hemisphere in 1876.

Visitors can walk a short distance and step back in time again at to the Bradford House, decorated for the year 1788.

The Bradford House tour includes the 18th century tavern behind the house, cooking demonstrations, period music and examples of games children played.

The Bradford house was built by David Bradford, a leader in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794.

"The homes are decorated for the season, all lit by candlelight, and when you enter, you are totally stepping back to a certain time ... . It's one of the few times people get to experience a specific time period," Mr. Kilgore said.

For directions, details: www.wchspa.org.

neigh_south - neigh_washington

Jill Thurston, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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