By Leilani Roberts Ott
The aroma of homemade cookies will warm your senses as the glow of four fireplaces warm your toes when the doors of The Welch House open to the public for the Muskogee Christmas Home Tour.
Darla Fitzgerald, owner of the house at 1403 W. Okmulgee Ave., along with several others are on the tour from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8. Tickets are $10 at the door or in advance at several businesses. The yellow house with large white columns was built in 1903. After several owners and left unoccupied for years, Matthew and Annette Williams bought it as a HUD house in June 2010. They sold it to their friend, Fitzgerald, who moved from her home in Grandview VII in August.
“I’ve always loved older homes,” Fitzgerald said.
She’s having fun decorating for her first Christmas in the house with her two sons, Hayden Fitzgerald, 13, and Sebastian Fitzgerald, 20, who is a student at Northeastern State University. Her parents, Eldon and Phyllis Parker, live a few blocks over and help care for Hayden while she works as a registered nurse in labor and delivery at EASTAR Health System.
Fitzgerald said she and her mother have always loved baking together. She once had her own cookie decorating business called “Sweet Nothings.”
“She’s the baker and I’m the decorator,” she said. “I’ve been blessed beyond measure.”
Because of these blessings and her passion of caring for children, she is happy to have her home on the tour because the proceeds benefit the Kelly B. Todd Cerebral Palsy and Neuro-Muscular Center.
Although the house was on the nighttime home tour last year, it looks very different with Fitzgerald’s furnishings. It’s a “shabby comfortable” style with slip covers over the five new sofas she bought for the home. The house has about 4,800 square feet with five bedrooms and three baths in three floors and a basement. The Williams did a lot of work on the home like four new white columns with steel beams inside, foundation work, new central heat and air, new plumbing, insulation blown in, new roof, new soffits and fascia wood, and a new iron fence built around the property. They also rebuilt the three-car garage. So far, the only improvements Fitzgerald has made is painting the library and Hayden’s room a soft gray.
The original blueprint was found on the third floor of the home and saved by Realtor Donna Elliott. The signature on it reads “C. H. Sudhoelter — Architect — Muskogee IT” for Indian Territory. The blueprint has the rooms named — parlor, reception hall, conservatory and library.
Two large stained glass windows were originally owned by Bacone College. One of them has the words: “Rev. A.C. Bacone” in the stained glass. They hang in the formal living room. New to the living room is a baby grand piano that Fitzgerald bought for $100 at an auction. She likes to play and sing with her mother.
Hayden is having fun sliding down the banister of the house on a cushion. He’ll have to wait until after Christmas, because Fitzgerald has decorated the banister with magnolia leaves from Honor Heights Park added to greenery, lights and white silk poinsettias. The 14-foot tree in the parlor was a $10 find last year. She’s decorated it with German silver ornaments that have a tattered taupe aged look. At the top of the stairs, she plans to have nutcracker ballerinas in the windows.
The family’s nutcracker collection is on the mantle in the library. Fitzgerald said their Christmas tradition starts with nutcracker hospital fixing any broken pieces before putting them up. One of them even has neon paint added to the face by one of the boys when they were small.
In the black and cream kitchen, Fitzgerald has created a centerpiece of vintage cookie cutters, Santa mugs and vanilla. In the side foyer or “ice cream parlor” as she calls it, there will be a cookie tree that she entered in the Philbrook Festival of Trees.
There will be eight large trees in the home for the tour that includes several upstairs where there are five bedrooms accessed from the landing. She’s added a little holiday touch in Hayden’s room using a branch and hanging silver balls on it sitting next to his antique sleigh bed.
“I like old stuff and odd and end tables. I love to come home and move it around,” she said of the furniture.
Her ultimate dream is to one day have tea parties, baby showers and even weddings in the home. She can just envision a bride coming down the staircase.
“I love it all,” she said.
If you go
WHAT: Holiday Candlelight Tour.
WHEN: 7 to 10 p.m. Dec. 6.
ON TOUR: Leo and Pamela Woodard, 6357 W. 23rd Street North; and Jimmy and Leslie Newhouse, 117 S. 14th St.; and Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, 401 S. Third St.
ADVANCE TICKETS: $25, which includes food and entertainment, by calling Donna Taylor, (918) 683-6600.
If you go
WHAT: Muskogee Christmas Home Tour.
WHEN: 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8.
ON TOUR: The Rev. Tom and Micki Shelton, 3408 Canterbury Ave.; Floy Miller, 3411 Georgia Ave.; Bill and Jean Goad, 2902 Irving; Darla Fitzgerald, 1403 W. Okmulgee Ave.; Wayne and Lois Ward, 510 N. 13th St.; and Grace Episcopal Church with Father Bob Wickizer, 218 N. Sixth St.
TICKETS: $10 available at the door or in advance at Economy Pharmacy, Bella Mea’s, Rustic Elegance, Haley and Loyd Jewelry, I’m A Basket Case, Bebb’s Flowers, and Kelly B. Todd Cerebral Palsy and Neuro-Muscular Center.
PROCEEDS: All money goes to the Kelly B. Todd Cerebral Palsy and Neuro-Muscular Center in Muskogee.