Step back in time and experience Christmas as it was celebrated in the Homesteads Community in the 1930s and 1940s. The Cumberland Homesteads Tower Association will present its Christmas Tour of Historic Homesteads Homes Saturday, Dec. 8, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 9. from 1 to 4 p.m. The Tower Museum and the Homesteads House Museum are included in the tour along with a number of homes not previously open for viewing.
The unique Homesteads cottage-style stone houses were built during the Great Depression as part of FDR’s New Deal. The Cumberland Homesteads project is often referred to as the “show place” homestead project of the many such projects undertaken across the country. Some 250 homes were completed here on the Plateau based on 13 different floor plans and utilizing native sandstone and pine, oak and poplar woods taken from the project property.
At the insistence of Eleanor Roosevelt, the homes were built with amenities that were modern for the time. During construction, the homes were wired for electricity, even though it was not yet available on the Plateau. In addition, indoor plumbing serviced both the kitchen and bathroom by way of a water storage tank in the attic. Filling the tank was generally the chore of one of the male children of the family. About 200 of the Homesteads homes remain today.
One of the homes on the tour, known as the Guest House, was used in the early days of the Homesteads project as lodging for government bureaucrats, dignitaries, consultants and other visitors to the project. The present owner has meticulously restored the house to its original condition. Among the other homes featured on the tour, some have had extensive additions and renovations, while others have been either maintained true to the original floor plan or have been restored to original 1930s condition.
The Homesteads House Museum on Pigeon Ridge Rd., which was badly damaged by the tornado that swept across the area Nov. 10, 2002, has been restored to original condition and contains furniture and artifacts of the period. Still functioning is the refrigerator with a dent in the side that occurred when a piece of lumber flew through both the outside and an inside wall of the house propelled by tornado-force winds. Many of the holiday decorations used at the House Museum are authentic to the 1930s and 1940s while others reflect the style that was used in those days on the Homesteads.
Refreshments will be served at both the Tower Museum and the Homesteads House Museum, and tour participants are encouraged to take some time to watch the short video and to view exhibits at the tower to learn more about the history of the Homesteads. Those visitors who are in good condition might also want to climb the 97 steps to the top of the tower for a panoramic view of the area. The tower gift shop will be open for visitors to browse and perhaps find some items for holiday gift giving. There are books by local authors that relate to the Homesteads as well as a commemorative cook book. Special pricing will be available on some items.
Tickets and a self-guided tour map, which are good for both days, may be purchased beginning Dec. 1 at the Tower Museum. Adult tickets are $10 and student tickets are $6. The museum is located at the junction of Hwys. 68 and 127 S. All proceeds from the event go to support the mission of the Cumberland Homesteads Tower Association, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and equal opportunity employer and provider. For further information, call the Tower Museum at 456-9663 or visit the CHTA website at www.cumberland homesteads.org.