WEEKEND: Port Townsend dons its Victorian best Saturday for yuletide home tour
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Penny Ridderbusch, left, and Kathleen Croston engage in some Victorian hat play in anticipation of Saturday's home tour, in which they are participating, opening their house at 2030 Monroe St.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — This city's Victorian architecture captures the attention of locals and visitors alike.

On Saturday, everyone can get a look at what's behind some of those walls as they celebrate Port Townsend's Victorian Yuletide Festival.

A tour of three of the town's Victorian homes will take place between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., with visitors treated to music, history, ambience and refreshments at each location.


“People pass by these houses and want to look inside, but since these are private homes, the opportunity is limited,” said Pat Durbin, president of the Northwest chapter of the Victorian Society in America, which is sponsoring the tour.

“This year, we are presenting a nice overview of the homes that are in town.”

Each year, the society selects three homes as participants, requesting that the residents open their homes for the day.

The homes must be in good condition and maintain the period atmosphere, Durbin said. They can't look too modern.

There are dozens of houses that would qualify for the tour, but not every resident wants to host such an event and open his or her home to strangers, Durbin said.

Selecting three houses and limiting ticket sales to 150 keeps the event small and easygoing.

Participants are encouraged to spend some time enjoying the atmosphere rather than rushing from one place to the next, Durbin said.

Tickets going fast

As of Wednesday, about two-thirds of the ticket quota had been sold, Durbin said.

Tickets cost $25 each and are available for cash or check only at Vintage Hardware, 2000 Sims Way.

Online, they're at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-Home-Tour, where credit cards are accepted.

The three houses on this year's tour are the Captain Thomas Grant House, 731 Pierce St.; the Francis Wilcox James House, 1238 Washington St.; and the J.W. Griffiths House, 2030 Monroe St.

These houses have all been on previous tours, but the sponsors strive to use different houses each year and wait three years between showings.

Three years ago, the Griffiths House was in bad disrepair, as it had just been purchased at a foreclosure sale.

It was on the tour to display as a “before” demonstration, Durbin said.

Although not yet in the “after” phase, the house's owners have renovated three rooms back to their Victorian state as a work in progress.

Propane tanks

When the potential owners first looked at the house, they noticed several outside propane tanks, causing them to wonder “what it was going to take to heat this thing,” according to co-owner Penny Ridderbusch.

It turned out that the tanks were in place to support a massive marijuana-growing operation that was shut down twice by police and led to the house's foreclosure.

Kathleen Croston, who co-owns the house with Ridderbusch, has completed much of the carpentry work herself; her last job prior to retirement was renovating homes for Habitat for Humanity.

Croston said they want to “restore rather than remodel” the home into its Victorian glory, although there are some modern touches.

The inefficient oil heater was replaced with a forced-air system, and two rooms were combined to create a master bedroom — a modern convenience.

The lights are controlled by dimmers. While not in use during the house's early days, they help to provide the proper atmosphere, Croston said.

And the attic has been converted into a warmly carpeted playroom with a wide-screen TV that hosts the women's grandchildren when they come to visit.

Nebraska roots

Durbin said her interest in Victorian houses dates back to her Nebraska childhood.

“When I was a little girl, I lived in a neighborhood where there were lots of Victorian houses. I used to imagine what they were like inside,” she said.

“I would visualize them in their prime, where a horse and carriage would come up to the front and elegant people would emerge.”


Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 12. 2013 11:12PM
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