There’s nothing like the splendor of a Victorian Christmas, with carolers, carriage rides and welcoming neighbors who open their exquisitely trimmed homes to share in the magic of the season.

That’s the atmosphere created two weekends in December by Cumberland County’s neighbors to the east. 

Residents of Rockwood and Harriman have been planning for the cities’ Christmas home tours since before Halloween. Some spend more than a month trimming trees in their Victorian homes, planning elaborate decorations and themes.

The tours are self-guided, allowing for visitors to admire the décor and ask questions at their own pace. Some homeowners open the whole house, with others concentrating on a few rooms to create a warm, welcoming Christmas charm. 

Goodies will abound, with cookies baked and decorated to perfection, warm cider and hot chocolate.

Rockwood’s Dec. 7 tour is the city’s official kickoff to the holiday season. Eight historic homes will be decorated and open from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. EST. Take a carriage ride to admire the downtown area, where carolers will present sounds of the season and Those on the tour are welcome to take a break for the city’s Christmas tree-lighting ceremonies at 4:30 p.m. Area band and chorus groups, including the Celebration Singers, will set the tone for a festive event that includes a visit from Santa Claus and the official tree-lighting event at 6:30.

Home tour tickets are $15 and may be purchased at www.Rockwood2000.com or the day of the event at Live and Let Live Drug Store at 225 W. Rockwood St., where an old-fashioned soda fountain is operated for an air and taste of nostalgia. (The cherry smash comes highly recommended.)

Head to Harriman the following weekend to see the Town that Temperance Built decked in holiday style. The self-guided tour from noon-6 p.m. EST Dec. 14 and 1-6 p.m. Dec. 15 starts at the Harriman Public Library, 601 Walden Ave. The building is an original Carnegie library, built in the early 20th century from funds donated by businessman and phlanthropist Andrew Carnegie. It is one of only four public Carnegie libraries still in operation in Tennessee.

Two historic churches and 10 historic homes built circa 1890s-early 1900s will be open for touring. Harriman, founded as a utopia of temperance in 1890, was a planned city from industry and business to schools, churches and the homes its founders built for themselves. The downtown residential area they planned is known today as Cornstalk Heights, taking its name from the former home of Frederick Gates, one of the chief organizers of the East Tennessee Land Company which founded Harriman.

Tickets to the Harriman home tour are $15 for adults, $5 for ages 11 and younger, and may be used both days of the tour. Tickets may be purchased at the Harriman Public Library before embarking on the tour. 

Those going on the tour are advised that some sidewalks in the historic town are brick and may be uneven. Some homes will have stairs to navigate.

Home tour proceeds from each respective town benefit nonprofit agencies Rockwood 2000 and Harriman’s Cornstalk Heights Historical Community Organization. Both are devoted to historic preservation and the unique cultures of their towns.

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