The Butler Symphony Orchestra's biggest fundraiser of the season -- the annual Holiday Tour of Homes -- will feature a half-dozen homes in a program that mixes the historic with the modern.
Maxine Rapp, a member of the house tour committee, said she is hoping for a turnout of 700. Last year, attendance was about 500. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 on tour day, Nov. 17. The hours of the self-guided tour are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This year's tour, the 23rd, features two bed-and-breakfast locations and one historical home:
• The Applebutter Inn, located south of Slippery Rock, was built in 1844 as a six-room farmhouse of brick. A restoration that began in 1987 maintained the chestnut and poplar flooring.
Constructed by Michael Christley on land granted to encourage westward settlement, the farmhouse was built of bricks formed and fired on the premises. The 12-inch brick walls set on the 18-inch solid, hand-cut stone foundation have sheltered the families of Christley and Plenty Watson Steele. The sitting room has stenciled walls and wing chairs; guest rooms show canopied beds and antique chests; featured are period wall coverings, decorator linens and rag rugs.
• The Old Stone House, located three miles from the Applebutter Inn, was built in 1822 as a stagecoach stop for travelers. Owned now by Slippery Rock University, the property was restored in 1963 by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. During the tour, a colonial cooking demonstration will be staged at noon.
During its long history, the Old Stone House has served as a local post office and was used as a muster point during the Civil War. Local history tells tales of the inn being visited by highway bandits. It even is said to have been a hangout for two gangs of counterfeiters, one of which was led by a sinister figure whose cold demeanor earned him the nickname "Old Man North Pole."
The building also has been rented as a family farmstead.
Following a restoration by the conservancy, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission operated the site as a museum for 20 years until the early 1980s when the commission decided to sell, sparking outrage in the local community. The conflict ended when SRU entered into a lease agreement with the state museum authority.
• The Hill-McKnight home on Haverford Drive north of Butler was built in 1956 as a "modern" home that was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School. The single-story, three-bedroom home stretches more than 100 feet and features two pavilions. It sits on 8 acres.
Owned by Cynthia McKnight and David Hill, it is known locally as the Hoffman House and was designed by Whitney Murphy of Butler for Paul and Mary Hoffman. The house is virtually unchanged since its completion.
The house is hidden within the city of Butler. The driveway from Haverford Drive descends to a crescent-shaped clearing at the center of the lot. The exterior shell of red Roman brick encases an open-planned home with a continuous cathedral ceiling, built-in shelving and a full-length south window wall. Major furniture pieces are by Eames, van der Rohe, Nelson and Noguchi.
• The Mainstay at Saxonburg was built in 1835 and took turns being used as a residence then a store then a residence and now a bed-and-breakfast. It is a Victorian-style home and was built initially for the Helmbold family. The current owners are James Stanek and Brian Oxendale.
• Ken and Sue Leader's home on Ridge Road in Zelienople -- a "mountain" home that took four years to plan and build -- was completed in May 2010. The exterior is tumbled brick with cedar beams framing garage doors and the front porch. It has a 400-pound Mexican mesquite door used as the dining table. The house is heated with geo-thermal energy.
Located on 5 acres, the property is distinguished by a long, winding driveway. Doors and windows have brick "soldiers" for definition and limestone windowsills. The cement patio, walks, porch and parking pad were dyed and stamped.
Inside the distinctive home are three bedrooms, each with a private bath.
The master suite is on the main floor. The main living area is an open design with a great room, kitchen and dining area sharing the space. Each area has a different ceiling height. Numerous windows allow a full view of the outside, and the wood floor is of eastern white pine from Vermont. All cabinets and woodwork were custom designed and built, and eight paint colors are used to create distinct personalities in separate rooms.
A front hall staircase leads to a guest suite above while the back hall has access to a laundry room, garage and a staircase to the mother-in-law suite over the garage.
Since 2010, 90 evergreen trees have been planted around the property along with 70 shrubs and numerous perennials.
• Jim and Joy Mulkern's white pine log home, built in 2004 on Evans City Road in Evans City, features a gas log-burning fireplace finished with Appalachian dry stack stone.
The story-and-a-half structure has three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms atop a 1,200-foot basement. The burgundy and light yellow tones accent the log interior.
In addition to the tour, the symphony association will sponsor a cookie reception from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m at the Faith United Presbyterian Church at 1329 N. Main St. Ext., Butler.
A luncheon will be offered from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the church, and the Hill Youth Chorale will perform. The cost of the lunch is $5. Symphony holiday baskets also will be on display at the church.
More information: www.butlersymphony.org or 724-283-1402.
Karen Kane: email@example.com or 724-772-9180.