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House Hunting — Of a Sort

Saturday's Herndon Homes Tour is the 20th anniversary of what has become annual holiday tradition.

Ever wonder what the inside of a neighbor’s house looks like? Ever wanted to check out that historic looking house on the corner?

Well, now is the chance.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the annual Herndon Homes Tour where residents can cruise through six selected homes, learning about the history of each structure from guides, as well as a bit about the town's development in the process.

In the past, haunted houses, homes with authentic antique decor and even homes that were built before Herndon was know as "Herndon" have been on the tour.

Last year, the home of Herndon's first mayor, Isaiah Bready — who built the home in 1876 — was on the tour.

Although celebrating 20 years, this year's tour has not slowed down with age. Instead, it is offering a little something old, a little something new and everything in-between.

"We did the tour 12 years ago, for the eighth tour," said Steven Mitchell, Herndon resident whose house is on this year's tour.

Because they enjoyed it so much the first time, Mitchell and his wife Wanda began talking about participating in the tour again two years ago. When they offered their house last year, the homes had already been selected, so they waited for the 20th anniversary event, said Mitchell.

NOT FOLLOWING any theme this year, the 20th annual homes tour instead demonstrates how the town has grown during the last century, said Carol Bruce, co-chair of the event.

"They are all very different this year," she said about the homes.

Sponsored by the Herndon Historical Society, the tour began as an effort to increase interest in and awareness of the importance of Herndon's older homes and buildings. It was also created to focus public attention on Herndon as an original place to live while planned neighborhoods were quickly rising around the longtime farming community.

At its inception, committee members did not think the tour would last longer than a year because there would not be enough homes to tour, said Bruce.

"It's surprising," she said about houses for the tour. "You drive around in areas that you don't normally go and it's surpassing what you can find."

This year, the oldest home on the tour has only had three owners in its 100-year history, according to Bruce.

Now owned by Janet Moore, when she and her husband George Moore, who passed away two years ago, bought the home in the 1980s it was deemed uninhabitable, said Moore.

"We liked the area and the house just had an appeal to us," she said about why they bought the house that was a definite "fixer-upper."

"We could see the possibility in the house," she said.

The Moores lived in the house during the almost 22 years it took to renovate everything from the electricity, which initially came from extension cords run through the walls, to the heat, plumbing and a dramatic two-story addition.

George Moore did a majority of the work on the addition including a large family room, master bedroom and two baths, which he started in 2000, she said.

Because she and her husband were members of the historical society, owning a historic home was a perfect fit. Moore's husband is the man responsible for bringing the red W&OD Trail caboose on Lynn Street to Herndon, she said.

"I'm just very pleased with the way everything turned out with the house," said Moore, now that the renovations are complete.

OTHER HISTORIC STRUCTURES on the tour include a home in the Kingston Chase subdivision, a 1950s cottage off of Park Avenue with foot-thick masonry walls, rough-plastered interiors, and exposed beam ceilings, and the Herndon Masonic Lodge built in 1881 to house St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, with original stained glass windows still in place.

The Kingston Chase house, which is the first house on the tour to be picked from a subdivision in town, was chosen because of its reflection of an older era, said Bruce. Although the subdivision is only 19 years old, the house — owned by a Herndon Historical Society member — offers a gracious appreciation to history through collections acquired overseas during military assignments in places like Tunisia.

Next to the Moose Lodge is another home with few owners since its 1918 construction. Construction on the brick bungalow was started in 1918 by Asa and Ruth Bradshaw. But, it was not until 1924 that the house was completed because the Bradshaws were supposedly embezzling money from the bank where Asa Bradshaw worked. The house fell into receivership until it was purchased by the Horn family in the early 1930s.

As the fourth and current owners, Richard and Michele Zaring have kept the house's history alive by adding their own historic decor to the existing original moldings, plaster walls and 10-foot ceilings.

"Our house has a lot of antiques," said Richard Zaring. "My wife has been collecting them for a long time. Older homes have character and our house definitely has a lot of character."

One of the aspects of the house that Zaring enjoys the most is the amount of space, he said.

"You can entertain very well because of the way the house is set up," he said about the floor plan. "It's deceiving from the front because it looks small, but once you get inside it kind of rambles on."

AS A REPEAT on the tour, the Mitchell household is special because of its customized architectural features, designed and built by Mitchell, said Bruce.

Created with enough room for four children to grow up in — including a special third story suite for Mitchell's three girls — the house includes transoms over the doors, special trim and molding throughout the house to offer a historical feel.

"I used the tastes I've had from building other homes and incorporated some of those styles into ours," he said. "There are a lot of very functional areas. We have doors that can be opened between rooms which offers a nice flow, but they can be closed down as well."

This year, Mitchell said they are proud to have the home on the tour to show the changes that have been made since its debut 12 years ago, including a display of diplomas and photographs from each of the six family members' graduations from Herndon High School over the years.

The reason the Mitchells enjoy participating in the tour? Because it helps "get the season off right."

"Plus, it gives me a reason to fix up the house," joked Mitchell, a current Town Council member.