By Erika Webb
Halls throughout Lake Helen are being decked for this year's stroll back in time.
"Come join us as we relive a traditional turn of the century Christmas. The streets of Lake Helen will be bustling with the spirit of holidays past," the Lake Helen Tour of Homes and Churches flyer beckons.
For 30 years, DeLand and Lake Helen have alternated hosting the annual tour event.
History buffs and holiday magic seekers can spend from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, and Sunday, Dec. 8, exploring the stories of eight historic homes, five churches and three other buildings.
Lake Helen Tour of Homes and Churches Chair Tracey Word will open her home for the second time.
Mrs. Word and her family moved to Lake Helen in 2010 from Orange City where they own CiCi's Pizza.
"We love Lake Helen," Mrs. Word said. "We always used to drive through the town and we really wanted a historical house. We wanted to be close to I-4 and we wanted to stay in West Volusia. This house met all of our requirements."
The Word's house, at the corner of Lakeview Drive and Main Street, sits on nearly two acres. The 5,000-square-foot home, built in 1913, replaced one built in 1888, which burned down.
Legend has it the current dwelling was used in the 1940s by the Aldersgate College football team. In the late 1960s or early 1970s Arthur Jones, the founder of Nautilus Inc., MedX Inc. and inventor of Nautilus exercise equipment, bought it and the family lived there for decades, Mrs. Word said.
"The family before the Joneses loved concrete," she said. "They added a Spanish tile roof and called (the house) Mediterranean Revival, but I don't have enough architectural knowledge to tell you if it would still be called Mediterranean Revival."
Among the numerous large rooms there is a cavernous library that was a ballroom, she said.
"It's just a fun house. My husband and I just love it. We didn't grow up in houses like this and we're so happy our kids get to," Mrs. Word said. "You feel like you're at one with nature with all of the trees and the house has lots of windows to bring the outside in."
This homeowner really brings the outside in at Christmastime.
Her numerous themed trees: Barbie, kitchen, blue, snowman, Santa, Americana, pop culture -- featuring Disney characters, Snoopy, Garfield and the Muppets -- as well as the family tree, are becoming legendary.
But those only represent eight of them.
There is a ninth.
"And we have the Floridian tree, of course doesn't everybody?" she said laughing.
There is a favorite among tour goers.
"Everybody loves the Barbie tree, which is funny," Mrs. Word said. "It's a pink tree decorated with all kinds of Barbie ornaments. The women just love it."
The most tickets ever sold for the tour was about 800.
"It takes about 200 volunteers to put it on," Mrs. Word said. "We allow them to take the tour themselves so that's about 1,000 people on the tour."
The time spent at each stop depends on the size of the property and how long people want to look at the decorations.
"Some people look at every ornament and decoration and ask questions and some just breeze through," Mrs. Word said. "On our tour, we encourage homeowners to have note cards about collections and things in the house so tour guides can tell people little nuggets of information about each house."
She delights in the fact that something about her place compels people to "set a spell."
"On the last tour, in 2011, people were sitting on the back porch, just resting," she said. "They made themselves comfortable and that was nice, too."
One requirement for property owners who want to participate is the home must pre-date 1950, she said. The committee tries to avoid featuring the same houses two tours in a row.
"It's a small community, so we all pretty much know the historical properties, but some people have been asked over and over and they don't want to (participate)," she said.
Two of the homes have new owners.
"The tour's really fresh this year; a lot of homes have never been on before," Mrs. Word said.
One of those is a home built in the 1930s where the owners will be "doing a 1940s theme."
"No one's ever done that before," she said. "Usually everyone dresses in traditional Victorian."
Mrs. Word will be dressing up, too.
"The Shoestring Theater's on my list. I need to go hit them up for a costume," she said. "They have tons of great dresses over there."
The Butler's Express Christmas train will help ferry tour goers from place to place. It may be the only opportunity people have to ride aboard the festive trolley this year.
"They posted a note at City Hall that it's not running this year," Mrs. Word said. "People love that train, and the tour may be the only way people will be able to ride it this season."
The Lake Helen Christmas Home Tour will serve as the grand finale for a yearlong celebration of Lake Helen's 125th anniversary.
Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Children under 12, accompanied by an adult, are free.
Tickets can be purchased at the Lake Helen Library, the Muse Book Shop or Family Book Shop, both in DeLand, or the Clark Family Campground in Orange City.
2013 Lake Helen Home and Church Tour
307 N. Lakeview Drive
261 N. Lakeview Drive
105 N. Lakeview Drive
149 W. Delaware Ave.
176 N. Euclid Ave.
226 N. Euclid Ave.
240 N. Euclid Ave.
201 E. Kicklighter Road
Churches and Historic Buildings:
Hopkins Hall, 192 Connecticut Ave.
Lake Helen Historical Museum at City Hall: 327 S. Lakeview
Call Dene Masters, (386) 490-3138
Blake Memorial Baptist Church: 134 N. Euclid Ave
Call June, (386) 228-2151
First Congregational Church of Christ, 107 N. Euclid Ave.
Call the Rev Frank Faine, (773) 206-6011
Lake Helen United Methodist Church: 111 W. Delaware Ave.
Call Ann Duff, (386) 561-9237
Mt. Zion Baptist Church: 322 S. Church St.
Call Rev Thomas Maultsby, (386) 574-0356
Mt Olive AME Church, 683 W. Ohio St.
Call Loretta Dukes, (386) 228-2108
Shoestring Theater: 380 S. Goodwin St. (Saturday only)
Call Jeanna Carley, (815) 347-0301