Cherished heirlooms, decorations with stories, traditional styles and architecture blended with eclectic and modern. Maybe even a live giraffe, deer and other wildlife. All will highlight two of the area’s long-time holiday traditions — the Whitesboro Tour of Homes, hosted by the History Club of Whitesboro on Dec. 7, and the Sherman Altrusa Club’s Christmas Pilgrimage on Dec. 8.

Cherished heirlooms, decorations with stories, traditional styles and architecture blended with eclectic and modern. Maybe even a live giraffe, deer and other wildlife. All will highlight two of the area’s long-time holiday traditions — the Whitesboro Tour of Homes, hosted by the History Club of Whitesboro on Dec. 7, and the Sherman Altrusa Club’s Christmas Pilgrimage on Dec. 8.


Each of the fund raising tours will feature four unique sites. Attendees will have a rare opportunity to view not just holiday décor, but a variety of design styles. Owners will share information on remodels and renovations, Christmas traditions and stories surrounding special items and events. In return, the two non-profit groups will be able to use money raised from ticket sales for scholarships and other local, charitable projects.


Whitesboro Tour of Homes


WHITESBORO — Scheduled from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7, the Whitesboro tour encompasses three homes and a historic Whitesboro church. This is the 23rd year the History Club has held the tour.


Advanced tickets are $6 and can be purchased from any History Club member or at Lovejoy’s in downtown Whitesboro. On tour day, tickets will be $8 and can be purchased at any of the four locations. Maps will be provided with tickets. Proceeds will fund scholarships for Whitesboro High School seniors.


First Christian Church — 204 East Main


Dedicated in September of 1906, the First Christian Church was in operation until around 1970. After that, the eye-catching building had remained virtually empty and was even scheduled for demolition twice. However, it’s received a new lease on life from its new owners. A full restoration is almost 100 percent complete and the building is now going to serve as an event center, called Old Church Restored, and a wedding venue called The Pearl.


Ann Paty, owner, says she’d seen the building often when passing through Whitesboro and finally purchased it in May of this year.


"We looked at it several times when we were driving by. It had been there a long time and nothing had been done. The building had been vacant mainly and was in really, really bad shape. It looked like a huge job, but we finally decided ‘We can do this,’" says Paty. "We have done a complete restoration, but is isn’t completely done, so people on the tour may see a little construction, but the building is just amazing. You need to come and see it!"


As a part of the restoration, Paty was able to save about 40 percent of the building’s original stained glass and replaced the other 60 percent. They also located the original tin ceiling manufacturer and were able to replace the missing tin off the main ceiling.


Connie and Gene Bryan, 2408 Jolinda


The Bryan home will be dressed in its holiday best with an eclectic mix of Christmas favorites. The front yard nativity is a favorite for Connie Bryan.


"We have a lovely nativity scene that we’ll display. It’s really special to me," says Connie Bryan. "We’ve received the City of Whitesboro’s "Meaning of Christmas" award a couple of years for the nativity."


In addition to the decorations, attendees will see collections of old purses, gray granite, crocks, jugs and other items.


Simmons Ranch Guest House – 713 East Main


Built somewhere between 1890 and 1900, the Simmons Ranch Guest House is another renovation success story.


"I always liked this little house. My wife (Lisa) and I thought it would be a great little fixer-upper" says Mark Simmons. "I’d seen it forever when I would come into Whitesboro and it was in really bad shape. It was really run down, but wasn’t for sale. I finally approached the people who had it and bought it from them in February of this year."


The Simmons immediately began a complete renovation which is now complete. Original woodwork, French doors, unique ceilings, and more were fully restored, along with all other facets required in a full restoration.


"It’s really a very unique-style vintage house," says Simmons. "The city inspector referred to it as a new home with a vintage look. And it draws lots of attention. Sometimes there’s anywhere from three to 10 people stopped at the house and wanting to walk through it … It’s really solid, so hopefully it will last another 100 years or so."


Straw home – 2488 Grayson Survey Road


The sprawling, three-story mansion of George Straw sits northwest of Whitesboro, near the Cooke County Line. Perched on a hilltop, the home offers a far-reaching view of the scenic, surrounding area.


Visitors will actually begin their tour on the drive from the roadway to the home. A giraffe, deer and other wild game live on the property and may be spotted by tour-goers.


For more information on the Whitesboro tour, contact Neva Pinkston at 903-523-4258.


Altrusa Christmas Pilgrimage


For more than 50 years, Sherman Altrusans have hosted their Christmas Pilgrimage. This year’s event will be from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 8. Four homes, plus a tea and silent auction at Texas Star Bank, await tour-goers. Overseeing the pilgrimage is long-time Altrusa Club member, Dr. Mary Moses.


Advanced tickets are $10 and available from any Sherman Altrusa Club member or at Carol’s Red Apron in Sherman. On tour day, tickets will be $12 and available at any of the tour locations. Proceeds from the tour and auction will support an endowment scholarship at Grayson College, a scholarship fund at Austin College, Home Hospice and Habitat for Humanity.


Joe and Becky Frank – 984 Lakewood Road, Denison


Festive Christmas trimmings inside and even a decorated pool house and outdoor fire (weather permitting) await visitors to the Frank home.


Decorations have always been a fun part of the Frank family traditions.


"The kids always said that Christmas ‘exploded’ in our house," says Becky Frank. "Joe did most of the decorating while the kids were growing up."


This year’s décor was placed by both Becky and Joe, along with the help of family friend, Sarah Reid.


One of the Frank’s favorite holiday decorations is their collection of Amos Pewter ornaments which adorn the dining room tree. Made in Nova Scotia, these unique ornaments feature a different design each year. Joe Frank’s mother started giving the couple one of the ornaments each year, starting in the early 1990s. However, a house fire in 2006 completely destroyed the cherished collection.


"A few summers later, while in Nova Scotia, we visited Amos Pewter and were able to replace each of the ornaments," says Becky Frank.


Topping the tree is a crocheted angel made by Becky Frank’s mother.


"These ornaments and angel will always provide a special memory of our mothers," says Becky Frank.


In addition to the cheerful décor, the Franks also have an eye-catching art collection which can be seen throughout the home, along with a wine cellar that will be open for tour-goers to see.


John and Cathy Van Bebber — 405 Preston Road, Denison


Nestled in autumn-colored woods and featuring large, open windows, the Van Bebber home allows the beauty of outdoors inside in every room. The multi-level home contains an electic, fun mix of décor and ornaments such as the 100-plus snowflakes crocheted by Cathy Van Bebber and adorning the living room Christmas tree. There are also a variety of traditional and unique nativities, angels and other cherished items, even the couple’s very first Christmas ornament from their very first tree.


The Van Bebber family traditionally spends Thanksgiving weekend decorating their welcoming home. While they unpack and place 30 cases of Christmas decorations, family members air out their vocal chords with the Sesame Street Christmas Sing-A-Long CD. It’s a tradition started when their children were small and continues to this day, even though the Van Bebber children are now adults.


The family also has a traditional Christmas feast on Christmas eve. The smorgasbord of food takes the family several days to prepare. After the dinner is over, about 10 p.m., the family then goes to the midnight services at their churches.


Bradley and Tawni Hodge — 1221 N. Hopson, Sherman


The two-story Hodge home will offer visitors traditional Christmas décor in a spacious, gracious living space. Unique antiques and special keepsakes will be seen throughout the home and the upstairs will also be open for the tour.


Robert and Honey Minshew – 206 W. Belden, Sherman


The inviting Minshew home was designed in 1935 by the highly-acclaimed Charles Dilbeck. His dominant style was country French or French Normandy, but he was also noted for his Texas ranch house designs. Whimsical and quirky were two words used in describing Dilbeck’s style. Deliberately crooked shutters, turrets concealing staircases, cupolas and towers were among the traits found in many of Dilbeck’s designs. The Minshew home carries some of these traits.


"I feel like for Sherman to have this house by Dilbeck, I have to share it. It’s too good not to," says Honey Minshew. "And I have the original plans to this house. That’s pretty amazing because most of Dilbeck’s drawings are at the University of Texas."


The Minshews have lived in the home for three years and have done extensive remodeling and additions to the structure, but all following as closely as possible to Dilbeck’s original design.


For the Minshews, Christmas is about family and remembering the reason for the season. Special emphasis on remembering the Christ child’s birth is made through a special tablescape, the meaning of which Honey Minshew will share with tour-goers. Another special scene for viewers will be the Minshew Christmas tree, decorated in favorite family photos and crocheted, snowflake-like doiles.


"There are all types of photos, like the kids’ first date, some with one of the kid’s when they got their head stuck in a gate," says Honey Minshew with a laugh. "We add a few new photos each year and my kids look for the news pictures on the tree."


On tour day, Altrusans will also be holding a tea and auction at Star Bank, 800 Sam Rayburn Freeway, in Sherman. All tour attendees are encouraged to come and enjoy hot tea and homemade cookies and even get a little Christmas shopping done ahead of time by bidding on a variety of auction items.