A trip to Christmas Past

Three vintage houses decorated for the holidays are open for tours this weekend in Delano.

12/02/2011 5:00 AM

12/23/2011 7:30 AM

Three Christmases ago, Leandra Baker won an Eagle contest for most beautiful Christmas tree. Her “big tree” looks even more beautiful in person, reflected in an oval mirror perfectly placed on the wall in Baker’s 102-year-old living room on South Handley Street.

You can see the tree and Baker’s house in all its finery — along with two other houses decorated for the holidays — this weekend on the Delano vintage home tour. The first-time tour is part of an expanded Christmas in Delano celebration today in the neighborhood just west of downtown.

The home tour will take advantage of both daytime and evening hours to play up the magic of the Christmas lights. It will be today and Sunday from 1 to 8 p.m. There is no admission charge, but donations will be accepted at all three houses for the Historic Delano neighborhood association. Free trolley rides between the houses will be available from 1 to 3 p.m. today; you can park at Senior Services of Wichita at 200 S. Walnut (across the street from Baker’s house) and pick up the trolley there or at any of the houses.

“You get to see Christmas just about everywhere” in the home of Charles and Jane Thronson at 124 S. Charles, Charles said. Their house was built in 1906, and the rooms have various themes. The dining room is the snowman room. On the landing of the staircase is “the primary-color tree,” Jane said. “I’m drawn to bright colors and jewels.” The guest bedroom features original plaster walls, a Christmas quilt, an old sled at the foot of the bed and a tree decorated with ornaments representing hobbies.

The Thronsons take turns choosing a dominant color for the Christmas lights. This year was Charles’, and he picked his favorite red. You can see it reflected in the outside lights and on the trees in the living room and the master bedroom.

Part of Jane’s family history is on display in the form of an Avon nativity set arrayed on the top of a piano in the living room. Jane said that there were 10 children in her family, and her mother worked as an Avon representative for 30 years mainly so that she could buy Christmas things for all of her children, mainly from Avon. A complete crèche was one gift she made to all 10.

Most of the trees in the Thronson house are of the Alpine kind, with plenty of ground clearance under the bottom branches.

“We have nine grandkids, and we put presents everywhere,” Jane Thronson said. “It takes all of the trees to put them under.”

Leandra Baker and her husband, Roger, live at 301 S. Handley, and their big old house twinkles with gold lights on the banister, a teacup Christmas tree (Leandra twists the artificial tree’s branches up to secure the teacup stems), a tree of pocket-watch and other timepiece ornaments skirted with vintage neckties, an original fireplace, a Christmas village in the sunroom, and a silver pompon tree from the 1950s that has vintage toys displayed under it.

The other house on the tour, at 305 S. Elizabeth, was recently converted to a bed and breakfast.

Elsewhere in Delano today, shops will have open houses, Santa will be at Central Plains Novelty, 905 W. Douglas, from noon to 3 p.m., and there will be children’s activities including ornament making, storytelling and letters to Santa. There will be carolers and other musicians and entertainment. A scavenger hunt will have a gift basket as its prize. Donations of pantry food items and gently used coats, blankets, clothing and toys will be collected around the clock tower at Douglas and Sycamore. A lighting ceremony will crown the day at 5 p.m. at the clock tower.

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