Church, homes decked for holidays featured on house tour in Norwin

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This year's Norwin Historical Society Holiday House Tour will feature an historic church and decorated homes ranging from a newer Southern Plantation-style house to a 220-year-old home built by one of Irwin's first settlers.

The tour will be held from 3:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday.

A newer home on the tour, the Gary and Lisa Simonetta house in North Huntingdon, has the look of an European estate from the outside, with a front courtyard surrounding a tall fountain.

Inside the foyer, a grand staircase sweeps upward near a crystal chandelier and 9-foot tall "marble" columns skillfully faux painted to match the caramel, white and tan marble top of a Bob Mackie opera table there.

The 13-year-old custom home features white kitchen cabinets with black granite countertops, black double stoves, dishwasher and microwave, and white kitchen furnishings and art with a Tuscan feel.

The formal dining room next to the kitchen features a number of double doors with curving transom windows and a massive mirrored buffet draped with Christmas décor.

Mrs. Simonetta spent eight hours decorating the house for Christmas for her three daughters, ages 7, 11 and 15.

The decorating is all about creating memories for them, and so they will continue their own Christmas traditions in years to come, she said.

The house also features an in-ground pool with its own waterfall, and is surrounded by woods on its own hilltop among other homes.

The tour this year will also include a 1993 Southern Plantation-style home belonging to Dr. and Mrs. Frank Aiello in North Huntingdon.

Hot cider will be served at the home's pool house, Mary Aiello said. The plantation-style home with traditional decor has a wrap-around porch, five bedrooms and four Christmas trees.

A Montgomery Ward bungalow just outside North Irwin that was delivered as a kit in the 1920s is also included on the tour.

Patricia Slye, who owns the Montgomery Ward house, said her late father, Ronald German, built his own Montgomery Ward kit house in Northern Pennsylvania in the 1950s.

The homes, like Sears kit houses, were delivered with every piece needed for construction, including precut roof trusses, boards and siding, windows, doors and nails, usually by train, she said.

Mrs. Slye's "bookcase colonnades"-style Montgomery Ward house features built-in bookcases with glass doors, a built-in drop-down desk in the living room and all-cedar exterior boards.

Immanuel Lutheran Church on Chestnut Street, Irwin, built in the late 19th-Century with Gothic architecture, will also be featured. The church, built by Swedish immigrants in 1875, is decorated for Advent and for the church's traditional Swedish dinner on Dec.13, Pastor Keith Grill said.

The holiday house tour will also include the Brush Hill or Scull House, built in 1792 of brown field stone by John Irwin, an uncle of the John Irwin who founded Irwin Borough.

Other homes to be featured will a newer log home on land with history going back to the 1700s; the historic Shaw House built in 1892; and a retro farmhouse built nine years ago in traditional farmhouse style.

Tickets, $15, are at Norwin Public Library and Norwin Chamber of Commerce. On the day of the tour itself, tickets will be available only at the library.

Those participating must first register at the library Saturday to get a tour booklet and wrist band, which will serve as entry into each home. It will be a self-guided, self-paced tour.

The society is seeking new members. Details:

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Anne Cloonan, freelance writer:


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