Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour

Variety of architectural styles,
decor to spice up annual event

Sixty gingerbread houses
on display at JCHS history center

By Nichole Osinski
Contributing Writer

(November 2011) – To Rob and Michelle Barlow, this Christmas means being with family. It also means celebrating the 30 years they have spent at their home at 505 Main St. in Madison, Ind.

Barlow's Home

Photo by Nichole Osinski

Rob and Michelle Barlow’s 19th century
home will be one of the private
residences featured in this year’s
annual holiday tour of historic homes.

To add to this, the couple will be partaking in the annual Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes, which is, coincidentally, also celebrating its 30th year running. The Barlows’ home is one of five private homes, four public historic sites and a local church that will be featured this year. The tour will take place on Nov. 25-26 and Dec. 2-3. The tour times will be from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays. The event is organized by VisitMadison Inc., Madison’s tourism bureau.
According to Marci Jones, VisitMadison Inc.’s Group Tour Coordinator, each private home featured is new to the tour. Most of the sites are within Madison’s National Historic Landmark District and have their own unique history behind them.
One of the most interesting stories behind the Barlows’ home is how they acquired it in the first place. It all began in 1981 when Rob, a lawyer, bought a cowboy hat. His wife, Michelle, explains that there was no room to put the hat, so it ended up on top of the refrigerator. A few days later while walking through downtown Madison, the Barlows passed by an open house at 505 Main St. After looking inside and liking what they saw, they decided to return when the house was being auctioned. They bid, won, and when their other house was sold in a matter of days, were celebrating Christmas in their new townhouse.
So just what besides the larger closets attracted the Barlows to the home?
For Rob it was the downtown location. Michelle favors the columns in the double parlor and the general layout of the house. Both liked the fact that this was a historical home and it had a certain je ne sais quoi not found in new homes.

Nights Before Christmas
Candlelight Tour of Homes

Nov. 25-26 and Dec. 2-3 in Madison, Ind.
• Tour times: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays.
Private Homes
• Rob and Michelle Barlow, 505 W. Main St.
• James and Rita Boone, 416 E. Second St.
• Chris Albers and Aaron Lamson, 413 E. Third St.
• Ben and Becky Canida, 312 Vine St.
• Andrea and Jerry Dunlevy, 603 E. Second St.
Public Sites
• Lanier Mansion State Historic Site, 601 W. First St.
• Prince of Peace Church, 413 E. Second St.
• Schofield House, 217 W. Second St.
• Jeremiah Sullivan House, 209 W. Second St.
• Jefferson Co. Historical Society, 615 W. First St.
Hospitality Stops
• Village Lights Bookstore, 110 E. Main St.
• Seifert-Short Museum, 301 S. Broadway St.
• Joy's Touch, 515 E. Second St.

• Tickets: Advance tickets purchased before Nov. 12 are $12.50 for adults and $15 thereafter. Children, ages 5-15 are $5. Children under 5 free.
• Information: (812) 265-2956 or 1-800-559-2956 or visit: www.NightsBeforeChristmas.com.

The Barlows are the sixth owners of the house, which was built sometime around 1850. Though the original owners names are lost in time, the Barlows do know that in 1886 the house sold for about $1,500. Then, during the 1970s, the front of the house was used as a Christmas shop. However, when the Barlows owned it, people would still occasionally let themselves in, wondering where the shop had gone. Now the front of the house has been redecorated into a cozy parlor with a mix of modern furnishings and antiques from both sides of the Barlow family.
Guests visiting the home should take note of some of Michelle’s favorite aspects: “The architecture, the high ceilings and the woodwork.”
Their home also houses old black and white photos of downtown Madison as well as photos of Rob’s grandfather and great-grandfather at their store.
The house will be decorated when visitors come and many of the decorations will be from the children of Pope John XXIII School, where Michelle teaches.
The Barlows became involved in the “Nights” tour when a friend asked if they would exhibit their home.
“Madison has been good to us, and I love downtown,” said Michelle. “I thought it was our turn to give back.”
Tour organizers will also be sponsoring a Christmas decorating contest for the downtown merchants. But the decorations are not the only thing for visitors to enjoy. The Jefferson County Historical Society will be presenting more than 60 gingerbread houses made by local school children. A variety of ornamented Christmas trees also made by children will accompany the gingerbread houses on display.


Photo by Nichole Osinski

Rob and Michelle Barlow are the sixth
owners of their home, which was
used in the 1970s as a Christmas shop.

For those interested in more Christmas trees, they can go to The Seifert-Short Museum and Learning Center, where more than 500 ornaments are used to decorate their tree.
According to Jones, Prince of Peace church will be hosting carolers during the tour and will continue mass in the evenings each Saturday.
Each site can be visited by walking or by way of trolley and carriage. The Madison Trolley will be running both weekends of the tour, and rides are $10 per person. The Broomtail Carriage Co. will offer rides only the first weekend of the tour, and rides are $10 for adults and $5 for children under 10.

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