Collectors' house on holiday tour today

A couple of landmark houses in Riverside will be stops this afternoon on the Project Beauty Holiday House Tour.

The Willenberg house at 13th and Garland is a well-kept, much-viewed residence around the river bends of West 13th Street. Inside, Realtor Claire Willenberg and her husband, Warren, have arrayed a collection of Christmas items garnered through Claire's childhood and the estate sales that the couple has handled over the years.

The tour will be from 2 to 6 p.m. today featuring three stops: the Willenbergs', at 1402 N. Garland; Julie Sheppard's imposing house on the river at 961 Back Bay Blvd.; and J.R. Koontz Flower Shop, 633 N. Broadway. Tickets are $15 at the door, and the proceeds will go toward a sculpture for the median strip at Waco and Douglas, which Project Beauty tends.

"We have lots of old junk," says Claire Willenberg, though only she would refer to her treasures as "junk." "That's how we got into estate sales __ we started collecting before we got married."

Among the collectibles: old games, toys, holiday decor and crafts. Add to the collectibles items that Willenberg's mother and sister made, and things she picked up on her own travels, including a stint in Germany in 1963. It's all displayed on and around vintage and antique furniture.

"It's an old house with old things," said Willenberg, who lived on the same block as a child and who, along with her husband, is only the second owner of the house at 13th and Garland, built in 1929. Their Christmas items range in age from late 1880s to the 1960s.

"It normally takes me 'til about New Year's to get my stuff up," Claire Willenberg says, but the tour has given her a deadline to get it done earlier this year. She and Warren have given areas of the house themes — the dining room features Madonnas, one corner is devoted to ice-skating, and the den is decorated with creches and Noah and the ark. German candles to clip on the Christmas tree dating from as far back as the late 1800s are attached to a piece of driftwood in the plant room.

"Please feel free to ask questions; we love to share!" the Willenbergs invite on an inventory of items they put together for the tour.