The 31st Annual Decatur Tour of Homes Shows the Historic District

The City of Decatur has just celebrated its 31st Annual Holiday Candlelight Tour of Homes. The tour took place on December 6th and 7th from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Each year the tour features a neighborhood in Decatur. This year’s neighborhood was the Historic District. The Historic District goes from Sycamore St. to the Square. Sycamore Street was the original Main Street of Decatur.

The buildings featured in the tour included seven homes, the Decatur Rec. Center and the store SQ/FT. Erin Villines, the Volunteer Chair holder for the Decatur Tour of Homes, said that homes are usually chosen when homeowners call to participate.

Villines also stated that some homeowners participate because they want people to see their artwork or because they want to help the community since the money raised goes to charities.

There is also a housing committee for the Tour of Homes that looks for potential houses to be shown on the tour. “Renewal Design-Build called me and asked if we wanted our home on the tour and we said yes,” said homeowner Amanda McMillan. Renewal Design-Build is the company that renovated McMillan’s home in 2012.

“Before we moved to the townhouse complex on the corner of Sycamore and Commerce, I lived in the Historic Decatur Condos. My unit when I lived there was on the Tour of Homes, so I had done it before. This time, I received a note through our mailbox asking if we were interested in participating,” homeowner Mark Minick said.

“I think the committee liked our townhouse, possibly as a counterpoint to the other houses which were much larger, generally older, and grander in scale. They also liked our extensive art collection of mostly accessible local artists,” Minick said.

People move to Decatur for various reasons. McMillan and Dau moved to their home on Candler St. because it was close to the Square.

“The location and basic construction were very desirable, right at Sycamore and Commerce a block from the Rec Center and we realized that with some renovation, it could be exceptionally livable,”Minick said.

 Valerie VanSweden is another homeowner whose home was featured on the tour.

“I always say that I got the last good deal in Decatur,” VanSweden said. “We bought our house in Decatur for just over $100,000.  The location is unbeatable, I walk downtown for everything from meals to haircuts.  The City of Decatur itself has been a magnetic force too.  Our population is diverse, smart, friendly and creative.  I love the constant supply of positive energy and community-building opportunities.”

The Decatur Tour of Homes has been running for over 30 years now.

“The Tour of Homes was originally established to bring new people to Decatur. It was novel at the time because no other neighborhoods had a tour.”  Villines said. She felt that with the tour they had really achieved their goal of bringing new people to Decatur.

 According to Villines the tour typically brings in around 500 people per night with a total of about 1000 participants. The Decatur Tour of Homes costs $20 in advance or $25 on the day of the event to go and visit the homes. The ticket gets checked off by a volunteer at each home and provides information such as where is each home and a brief summary of the home.

The event money benefits the Wylde Center, the Decatur Youth Fund and the Decatur Education Foundation. Villines estimated that they raise a total of $10-12 thousand each year which is then given to these charities.