In the 300-year-old coastal town of Edenton, North Carolina, beautiful homes on the annual Christmas Candlelight Tour beckon visitors back in time to enjoy the beauty and grandeur of holidays past. Step into a pair of historic dwellings, dressed in their festive finery and brimming with the spirit of the season.
For more than 30 years, this homeowner has organized the annual Christmas Candlelight Tour, a fundraiser for the Edenton Historical Commission that welcomes visitors into a dozen splendid residences and beloved historical spaces. In her own home, the storied Skinner-Paxton House, natural elements add to the spirit of this glorious season.
Claus for Celebration
A timeless collection of ceramic Santas earned a place of honor under the den’s generously decorated Christmas tree. These jolly pieces and a cherished angel tree topper are now beloved remnants of a lifetime of Yuletide memories, as they are the household’s only holiday trimmings to survive Hurricane Isabel in 2003. For each passing birthday and Christmas since the loss, friends have gifted the homeowner a new keepsake ornament for the family tree.
From an array of apples and lemons tucked in beds of pine and magnolia leaves on the dining room table to urns of towering plumes that add drama to the mantel all year, elements from the outside world play a big role in this magnificent dining room. Candles cast a radiant gleam on a collection of sterling bird figurines, candelabras, and silver-potted amaryllis and topiaries. Greenery flecked with miniature lights above the hearth balances a similar display in the adjacent living room
At the Skinner-Paxton House, part of the homeowner’s holiday routine includes filling garlands with cuttings from her large magnolia trees and decorating with fresh flowers. She especially loves amaryllis and decks the halls with plenty of potted bulbs; white star lilies create a stunning contrast against the red walls of the living room. Green apples, lemons, and Leyland cypress offer brilliant color and textural beauty as well as staying power.
Dressed in all its finery for Thanksgiving dinner, the Christmas Candlelight Tour, and other seasonal soirées, the home radiates a warm glow, echoed by twinkling lights and a roaring fire. “We sit there at night with the fireplace going and turn off the lights,” she says. “It just makes it so cozy.”
Anne and Hood Ellis fill their home with Christmas decorations that celebrate generations-old traditions. Stockings for their children, grandchildren, and pets hang along the mantel; though the children are all grown, the Ellises have carried on the practice.
Hood inherited the tree stand from his grandfather’s home, Oakley Hall in Portsmouth, Virginia. “It’s so much fun,” says Anne. “It’s not easy to get the tree into [the stand], but I love it.” Before the first frost, she and a friend harvest hydrangeas from their gardens and use them to create dried trees for the guest room and entryway.
Silver and Gold
Silver cups abloom with posies and water goblets engraved with the initials of the Ellis children mark the place settings for the Christmas Eve meal. From the buffet, a gilded set of the Magi that once belonged to Anne’s mother-in-law presides over the celebration.