Editor’s Note: Christmas in Gonzales … Excerpts from a Texas Homes and Living article written by Barbara Priesmeyer Crozier, Dec 2007… ring more true today for the 2023 Winterfest Holiday Home Tour than it did then.
Today, the lights shine brightly in Gonzales, illuminating the homes and almost two hundred years of Christmas traditions for visitors to this fascinating little city that is the heartland of Texas and its history — Gonzales.
Dressed in holiday splendor, these homes, churches, and public buildings will fling open their doors to greet the season and share their history Dec 2-3 during the Winterfest 2023 Celebration. If visitors haven’t already bought their home tour tickets online at gonzaleshistorichomes.org they can start at 827 Saint Joseph Street in 1914 Frank Fly House (now Laurel Ridge Inn and Christmas) to grab their tickets and get a glimpse of the historic property.
Journey just a few blocks north on the avenue to 1027 Saint Joseph, and visitors can step into the 1913 W. F. Robertson House. The delightful property with the period additions to the original home, along with outdoor gardens and the curious tree in the middle of the street creates a sentimental snapshot of the generations who have lived, loved, and decorated there.
Tucked between two monumental 19th Century homes and a short five blocks away, sits the charming T R Skinner cottage at 205 Saint Andrew Street. Built in 1914, this delightful Queen Anne cottage was headed for demolition twenty years ago. Today, its lovingly restored long-leaf pine interior welcomes visitors from far and wide.
Travel a few blocks to the East on the corner at 521 Saint Peter Street, and visitors will discover the 1868 John Fauth Cottage. Its inspired renovation features a state-of-the-art “Chef’s” kitchen with imported Italian marble and appliances, along with spa-inspired baths and contemporary stained glass.
As is often typical of a historic Texas cottage, one enters through a wide central hallway now filled with the owner’s religious art and artifacts. The 14-foot ceilings create an almost dizzying space and showcase a bronzed metal ceiling and hanging period lanterns.
Round a corner and on the avenue at 903 Saint Lawrence Street, visitors enter the mahogany-paneled reception hall of the magnificent R S Dilworth House. The home, designed by noted architect J Riely Gordon, was completed in 1911 after over 3 years of planning and construction.
The house is three stories with a full basement and is enclosed in brick and wrought iron fencing with an ornate gate leading to marble steps and a terrazzo porch. Once inside, the sweeping stairway forms a graceful bow in front of original stained-glass windows.
Trek a few blocks south to one of the highest vantage points in the inner city and the pristinely preserved J B Wells House awaits the visitorat 833 Mitchell Street. Constructed of long leaf pine hauled by ox teams from the port of Indianola, much of the interior woodwork and furnishings are crafted from local black walnut. The recently recognized house-museum belongs to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and is managed by the local chapter.
Rounding out the 2023 tour are two of Gonzales’ early churches showcasing not only their sanctuaries, but their magnificent organs.
On Saturday, Dec 2nd at 4:30 PM Chris Oelkers, visiting from Good Shepherd Austin, will be the featured organist The Gonzales Presbyterian Church, 414 Saint Louis in a free concert.
As the church, erected in 1925, approaches its centennial anniversary, ten memorial stained glass windows bathe the sanctuaries with luminous light.
At the Episcopal Church of the Messiah, 721 Saint Louis Street, the Pilcher organ was one of only five in Texas when it was presented to the church in 1928. On Sunday, Dec 3 throughout the 2 to 6 PM tour hours, visiting organist, Richard Zabransky, will be playing the magnificent instrument.
The Church of the Messiah, completed and consecrated in 1885, has been completely restored this year. In the restoration the original tongue and groove ceiling was uncovered. And now, above black walnut paneling, original stained glass, a spectacular hand-carved black walnut angel lectern, the original vaulted ceiling graces the interior.
These jewels of Texas Christmas reflect not only the history of Texas, but shine a light on the inspired Texans committed to their preservation. The homes stand as tangible evidence of Gonzales spellbinding past, and illuminate a future filled with the hopes and dreams of the intrepid, imaginative, resourceful people who live, love, and celebrate Christmas in them.