A glimpse of history and a view of today

Holiday Homes Tour opens doors to public
News Staff Reporter

Two mansions, separated in time by more than 100 years, are featured in this Sunday's Historic Ypsilanti Holiday Homes Tour to benefit Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels.

For the first time since its completion last year, the Eastern Michigan University president's house, dubbed University House, will be open to the public without invitation. Also open for the first time since its reconstruction is the historic Glover House on South Washington, which will be decked out for public viewing.

Though "historic" appears in the tour's name, the list of featured homes has always included a few newer residences, said tour co-chair MaryBeth Straffel.

"One of its appeals is the historic homes ... but it's really to showcase the variety of decorations that people do to enhance the holiday spirit," Straffel said.

In years passed, Straffel said, homes have featured everything from elaborate nativity scenes to Barbie doll-themed wreathes.

"The tour comes early in December, so it puts everybody in the holiday mood and gives tourgoers an idea of what they can do in their own homes. There's everything from wise to wonderful and whimsical," Straffel said.

Doll-themed wreaths probably won't be included at the University House, but a team of designers will be working with interim president Craig Willis' wife, Marilyn, to ensure the house is prepared for the holidays, said Cynthia Ellis, director of special events and public engagements for Eastern.

Ellis said the president and his wife will be at the home to greet visitors, who will be able to tour the public areas of the house, from entertainment and office spaces to the guest apartments.

"We believe that this will be a great opportunity for EMU to team up with Ypsilanti and the other surrounding communities to benefit Meals on Wheels," Ellis said.

The tour has raised money for the Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels each of its eight years; the organization has been the tour's sole beneficiary since 1999.

Anne Harris, executive director of Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels, said the tour usually brings in around $8,000, but she has higher hopes for this year.

"We're already approaching $7,000 in sponsorships," Harris said, adding that the tour tickets, which cost $15 in advance and $20 the day of the tour, will bring in even more. "It all goes to support meal delivery of hot nutritious meals to individuals that are homebound."

Steve Pierce, owner of the Glover House, said helping raise money for Meals on Wheels is one of the driving forces behind his digging out the traditional family ornaments collected by his wife, Maggie Brandt, to deck the halls of the home, which was built in 1893 for Charles Glover.

The house features the original, turn-of-the-century molding, intricate woodwork, wallpaper, fireplaces and hardwood floors. Almost every room in the house is trimmed in a different species of wood native to Michigan, from maple to pine.

The whole first floor of the house, including the front parlor, music room, lounge, office, dining room and kitchen, will be decorated and open for public viewing, Pierce said.

The house also was on the tour in 2000, just after Pierce and his wife bought it. Before then, it had been used as office space for United Way since the 1960s. In 2000, the remodeling hadn't yet begun, so Pierce said this year's tour will be a wonderful opportunity for people who came five years ago to see how it's changed.

"We had so many people walk through and say 'Oh, it's so beautiful,' " Pierce said, adding that if they thought it was nice then, they'll love it now. "This house is a treasure and we love sharing it with the community."

Allison Heinrichs can be reached at or (734) 482-2263.

© 2004 Ann Arbor News. Used with permission

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© 2004 Ann Arbor News. Used with permission.
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