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Old and New on Display on the Fredericksburg Holiday Home Tour, Dec. 1


Gingerbread houses, German pastries and candy greet visitors as they enter the newly-remodeled kitchen of the Armstrongs’ early-20th century home.

Text by Sandra Meineke

Photos by James Fox

 

The Gillespie County Historical Society, located in the Hill Country destination city of Fredericksburg, will open seven of Fredericksburg’s most striking and unique homes to the public for the society’s 55th Annual Holiday Home Tour on Saturday, Dec. 1.

Benefiting the Pioneer Museum, the tour features homes built in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Ranging widely in age and architectural style, each home is as unique as its individual owners, and the decorations vary from elaborate to classically understated. None of the homes have previously been opened to the public.

Three of the homes have a distinct Houston connection. Their owners chose to leave big city life for a simpler, slower pace where every face they meet is that of a friend instead of a stranger. Two of those homes are featured in this article. David and Lisa Bullion and their two teenagers, Shelby and Trent, moved from the Katy area four years ago. Forrest and Carmen Armstrong, the most recent arrivals, came from the Hunter’s Creek area of Houston. Both these families bought property within a short distance of Fredericksburg’s famous downtown shops, which meant remodeling older homes. David and Kathy Black, also from Houston, built a new home on 13 acres in the gated community of Boot Ranch Golf Club and Resort about 30 minutes outside Fredericksburg.

Famed English architect Alfred Giles designed and built the Bullions’ limestone home in 1886 for A. W. Moursund, a flamboyant district judge of pioneer days. The Moursunds raised eight children in the three-bedroom home. The Bullions kept the original three bedrooms, as well as the kitchen and five stone fireplaces — one in each room of the original house. They added bathrooms to the house, which previously had no indoor plumbing, and replaced open electrical wiring that had been installed in 1955. Since the home has limestone walls, there is no way to run wiring through the walls. Bay windows on the front and one side of the home were hand-carved into the limestone, and impressive masonry work is featured on open porches on both levels of the two-story home. Ceilings on both floors are 12 feet high, and the transoms which were built into the home to cool it in hot Texas summers are still functioning. Lisa Bullion keeps Christmas decorations understated so that the family’s striking antique collection is the standout feature of the home.

The Armstrongs’ home was built in 1915 by Friedrich Grenwelge and stayed in the family through the 1990s. It features gingerbread trellis work on the front porch and bead board in the kitchen. Both are original to the house. The Armstrongs added a great room and a downstairs bedroom to the back of the house, doubling the house in size. They copied the gingerbread trellis work on the roof of the new back patio so that it would blend in with the front of the home, and the rear addition was clad in limestone with an aged appearance to blend with the home and the surrounding neighborhood.

Cabinets in the refurbished kitchen are made from reclaimed pine. Wood bookcases in the library are also of reclaimed pine, and the floors are original long leaf pine. Above the stone fireplace in the great room is a painting of the family ranch near Gonzales, done by artist Gabriel Salazar of Donna, Texas, a specialist in landscapes. Carmen Armstrong is a dealer of artisan Mexican silver jewelry through her business, Plata del Carmen, and a member of the Pan American Round table. The couple travels to Mexico several times a year on buying trips and many of the features of their home reflect that culture. Visitors to the home during Christmastime can expect to view many authentic Mexican antiques and decorative pieces.

Other homes on the tour include a limestone farmhouse built in 1882 which features vintage French furniture and antique linens; three new homes in the exclusive Boot Ranch — all with incredible views of the golf course and the surrounding hills; and a 1920 Fredericksburg frame house brought into the 21st century with luscious fabrics, subtle colors and a streamlined floor plan.

The Holiday Home Tour will be held on Dec. 1 from noon until 6 p.m. Tickets are $25 per person and available by calling 830-990-8441 or online at pioneermuseum.net.

Decorated with ornaments from family collections, a Christmas tree graces the corner of the library. The hand-carved nativity scene from Mexico is displayed on a shawl from Bolivia.

An altar rail reflective of those used in Mexican churches fills the stone fireplace in the great room. Forrest’s guitar and the 3-piece Mexican band are from Mexico. The fireplace is flanked by pairs of boots: the steer and cactus cowboots were designed by Carmen and made by James Morado of Houston; the Virgin of Guadalupe boots were designed by Becky Barrales of Luckenbach. Fireplace stones are from Forrest’s rock collection; the key stone was his grandfather’s.

 

(clockwise) The upright piano belonged to Lisa’s grandmother. Built in 1900, the Bullions had it restored inside and out. The hymnbook belonged to David’s father, a pastor. David’s mother plays the old piano every time she visits and the family joins her in singing, whatever the season. v The mantel clock on one of the home’s five fireplaces was purchased by the Bullions in Scotland on an anniversary trip. Each fireplace has its own special mantel clock. v The Bullion home features an extensive collection of Spode china. Lisa began collecting Spode ware before she was married. Christmas salt and pepper shakers were a gift from a friend.


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