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Niagara Falls
Monday, February 6, 2023
NOTLers open their homes for annual Holiday House Tour
The McArthur family's John Street manor was lit up and merry for the "A Merry and Bright Christmas" ticketed event during last weekend's Holiday House Tour. Julia Sacco

Have you ever driven past a beautiful home and just wished you could see how it looked inside? 

Last weekend, on Dec. 2 and 3, the Rotary Club’s Holiday House Tour allowed ticket holders to do just that. 

This year marked the 23rd anniversary of the event and featured six properties including 15526 Niagara Parkway, 265 Ricardo St., 28 Cottage St., 83 Shaw’s Lane, 95 Wall Rd. and 1354 York Rd. 

Other participating sites around town were stops in the tour, including the NOTL Museum, McFarland House, Pumphouse Arts Centre and RiverBrink Art Museum, which were all decorated for the holidays. 

Each of the properties featured on the tour had something that stood out about it and drew visitors in.

“It has to be interesting and have a story. There has to be something about it that’s unique and unusual or particularly beautiful,” said Rotary member Katie Aeby.

One property that particularly stood out to visitors was the one on York Road. 

Ticket holders lined up across the driveway and sidewalk to catch a glimpse of interior designer Karl Pacey and Richard Mell’s showstopping holiday home. 

Mary Allworth, Jane Tuzi, Mary Warren and Lucie Sautner came from Oakville and Burlington to take the house tour and when asked their favourite stop, declared York Road took the cake “by far.”

“This one was the most highly decorated and it was really awesome,” said Sautner.

“It was about celebrating the spirit of Christmas.” 

The magical decorations didn’t just happen on their own, of course. Pacey began the process in October.

“It was a lot of work. Each garland takes between 10 and 15 hours.”

“I wanted people to come in when they were cold and to leave warm and with a smile. And they did,” said Pacey. 

Mell said the most rewarding part of the experience was hearing from guests who attend the Holiday House Tour every year, that theirs is the only home that they returned to more than once. 

“That was my favourite comment.”

The McFarland House was another unique stop on the tour, not only for being the oldest home but featuring the special holiday theme of “Settlers in Canada.”

Jim Hill, senior manager of heritage, declared the house’s return to the tour after three years away a great success, noting “almost 450 people came through” on Saturday alone. 

At least 20 people from the Niagara Garden Club were at McFarland House each day doing up different rooms with decor from Ukraine, Scotland, Indigenous Canada and more.

Those who wanted an even more special experience with their Holiday House Tour could book tickets to the McArthur family’s “A Merry and Bright Christmas Tour” which granted guests a tour of the John Street estate and its property, including the beloved reindeer stables. 

“The kids all come out beaming at the end,” said Jamie Knight, chair of the Rotary Club’s community services committee.

“The McArthurs have been very generous over the years in including their home on the tour.”

The Holiday House Tour is a popular attraction in Niagara-on-the-Lake every year, so much so that Rotarian and committee chair Pam Boot said they had to reduce the number of tickets being sold. 

“We want everybody to be happy so we capped it at 3,000.”

Aeby added that the tickets sold out incredibly fast, showing “that people are very interested in it.” 

With the help of almost 300 volunteers, the Rotary Club was able to hold a successful event that Boot said for many is “their launch to the Christmas season.”

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