The arrival of fall has brought a cornucopia of ways to spend the pleasant temperatures outdoors, and members of the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation hope people will use the weekend to attend the third annual Fall Tour of Homes.
The event, which showcases 11 historic homes this year, begins Friday morning and continues through Sunday afternoon. Although the annual Spring Pilgrimage offers a glimpse of pre-Civil War architecture, the fall tour is unique in that it is one of the few opportunities people have to peek inside some of the city’s antebellum and Victorian homes.
One new home on the tour this year is Ole Magnolia, located at 1219 Third Ave. N. and marked by the stately magnolia tree which graces the expansive lawn.
Owner Lee Tortorici, who moved to Columbus with her husband, Pete Tortorici, last May, said she is excited about the chance to show visitors the home she loves.
In many ways, owning the 1854 Greek Revival house is a dream come true for the former Charleston, S.C., resident. Tortorici said she always wanted to own an antebellum home, but she had no idea how quickly she would grow attached to the house, which was built by former Columbus Mayor David McClanahan for his wife and 10 children.
Everything, from the Victorian-style additions McClanahan installed to the massive upper- and lower-level bow windows, is a testament to the magical alchemy of homeowner pride and deliberate craftsmanship.
“Every addition was done with such intelligence,” Tortorici said Wednesday afternoon. “The house has an incredibly warm feel to it. It’s very much a home. It doesn’t feel like a museum, it just has a really warm vibe to it. It’s very obvious that it’s been deeply loved and appreciated.”
The rooms are filled with the artwork and antiques Tortorici loves, including a sideboard that dates to the 1700s, but it is the stories about the home that make it come to life. Though her own history with the house is relatively young, Tortorici — a former tour guide and docent — has spent months delving into the past, learning every nook and cranny.
“Living in this house, I feel a real sense of duty to it,” she said. ” … I did not realize I would have that feeling.”
Columbus, which boasts three National Register historic districts featuring almost 650 properties, is a treasure trove for history and architecture buffs, many of whom are already planning trips from far-flung states to attend the tour, said Nancy Carpenter, executive director of the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau.
On a weekend where Mississippi State University’s football team is playing away from home, and the Legends concert is taking place, it’s a good time for visitors to get a taste of the diversity Columbus offers, not only in its architectural styles but also in its entertainment and cuisine options.
“It is unique and it’s nice to come and maybe do a tour, walk around downtown and shop,” Carpenter said Wednesday. “A lot of the shops are not only dressed in fall (colors), but some are already getting the Christmas decorations out. (They can) eat a delicious meal, take a carriage ride … I just think it’s unique that in a town the size of Columbus, there’s something unique going on for everybody. Our town and our people are as diverse as our cuisine. You can eat soul food, fine dining, crawfish etouffé, or a down home meal.”
Tours will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets are $15 for adults, $14 for military members and seniors, $10 for students ages six and older, and free for children five-years-old and younger.
The following homes will be open for tours: Rosedale, Ole Magnolia, the Stephen D. Lee Home and Museum, Rosewood Manor and gardens, Temple Heights, Whitehall, the Jackie O’ House, Summertime Cottage, White Arches, the T.O. Burris Home (Painted Lady), and Waverley Mansion.
Visitors can ride in a horse-drawn carriage or on the double decker bus for $5.
For more information, please visit www.columbus-ms.org or call 1-800-920-3533.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.
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