Tour three of WPI’s most beautiful and historic properties all done up for the holidays during Preservation Worcester’s annual Holiday Stroll, this Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. The Stroll includes the residences of President Laurie Leshin and Provost Bruce Bursten, as well as the International Scholars House.
Opening the homes gives the public an opportunity to “see the architecture, see a little of the personality of the people who live there,” said Linda Looft.
“We thought it was a lovely way to give back to the community,” says Linda Looft, WPI assistant vice president for government and community relations. Opening the homes gives the public an opportunity to “see the architecture, see a little of the personality of the people who live there, and see the neighborhood,” she adds.
The annual Holiday Stroll, a fundraiser for Preservation Worcester, features historic homes in a different Worcester neighborhood each year, according to Deborah Packard, the organization’s executive director.
The homes on the tour are decorated in the style of the people who live in them, rather than in the period when they were built, says Packard, noting that some have a Christmas theme, others Hanukkah. However, in each home, student actors from Holy Cross College in period costumes will play the original owners, and carolers—including some from WPI’s choral groups—will sing along the Stroll route, lending a nostalgic touch.
This year’s Stroll includes eight homes. They are all part of the Massachusetts Avenue Local Historic District, an area conceived by Stephen Salisbury III as a grand-scale neighborhood in the early 1900s. The area is the subject of a recently published book, Living at the City’s Green Edge: Bancroft Heights, a Planned Community in Worcester, Massachusetts, by Preservation Worcester’s education director, Susan Ceccacci.
Looft says Preservation Worcester first approached the university about including President Leshin’s home in the Stroll, “and our president graciously agreed.”
“It’s a historic, beautiful home, and we were happy to do it,” Looft says.
Known as Jeppson House, the residence at One Drury Lane has housed WPI presidents since 1943. The Renaissance Revival-style house was designed in 1914 by Lucius Briggs, who also designed the Worcester Memorial Auditorium and many other important buildings in the city.
The area of Sunday’s Holiday Stroll is the subject of a recently published book, “Living at the City’s Green Edge: Bancroft Heights, a Planned Community in Worcester, Massachusetts,” by Preservation Worcester’s education director, Susan Ceccacci.
The organization subsequently asked to include the provost’s home, as well as the International Scholars House.
The provost’s home, known at WPI as the Houghes House, was built in 1919, also by Briggs. It was donated to WPI in 1958, according to Packard.
The president’s and the provost’s homes have been decorated in the styles and tastes of the residents. Members of the Holiday Stroll committee, including Christopher Sawyer, who works for Ralph Lauren, helped with ideas and designs, Packard says.
The International Scholars House, at 4 Regent Street, is known historically as the Earl Francis Thayer House. The Italian Renaissance-style home, designed by Edward Topanelian, was built in 1916 for woolen manufacturer Earl Thayer. WPI bought the structure in 1965.
Because the International Scholars House does not have permanent residents, Looft and her assistant, Mary Centrella, agreed to decorate it with help from Preservation Worcester as well as Denise Hein, of Hein Sight home staging, says Looft.
“We had to beg and borrow decorations, but make it look like it belonged in the house,” says Looft. “Denise also brought in some incredible decorations. They’re funky and different, but beautiful.”
“All three homes look quite beautiful,” she adds, noting that more people will be able to enjoy the decorations during subsequent holiday parties held at each residence.
The Holiday Stroll runs from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, December 6. Antiquarian Hall, located across from the International Scholars House, will also be open for touring, 2–5 p.m., Packard says.
For tickets, call 508-754-8760, visit http://www.preservationworcester.org, or purchase them on the day of the event at 10 Cedar Street.