Home, Heritage Tour set for Saturday

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Interested in seeing beautifully restored historic homes, landscaped gardens, quaint crafts, and more, then mark Saturday on your calendar.
The traditional Tour of Historic Homes, long held here biennially in March at the peak of the azaleas’ blooming, is back in reconstituted form as the Monticello Home and Heritage Tour, even if the azaleas aren’t cooperating.
Set for 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 18, the event is being sponsored by the Jefferson Tourist Development Council to benefit the Jefferson County Historical Association. And it promises to offer  “something of interest to everyone,” says Gretchen Avera, who with Bill Kirkpatrick is coordinating the event.
Avera says that besides the beautifully restored Victorian and other 19th and 20th century historic homes, visitors get to enjoy the Wirick-Simmons museum and garden, walk the ecological park, which calls an urban forest, and see a collection of hand-sculpted dolls and learn about how they’re made.
The tour also includes some pre-restored houses, so that visitors can get a better idea of what restoration entails as well as the rewards, in the event anyone’s contemplating purchasing and restoring an old home. In fact, a couple of the houses on the tour are for sale.
It’s also Avera’s hope that the tour will take away some of the sting from a recent Tallahassee Democrat article that some members of the community view as having given Monticello a black eye. The article, say its critics, cast the town in a bad light, making it seem as if it was a near shuttered town, when in fact the opposite true.
Avera cites purchases of old homes by Ohio and New Jersey couples bent on restoration of their respective houses as proof that things are happening and the town is as vibrant and viable as ever.
Here’s the list of homes that are on the tour, along with a brief description of each.
* Wirick-Simmons House on 115 Pearl Street. A Greek Revival-style home dating from 1831, it is furnished in period pieces. It serves as home to the Jefferson County Historical Society (JCHS), which purchased it in 1964. Edward Jones, a notable neoclassic architect who oversaw the restoration of the White House in Washington D.C., also restored the Wirick-Simmons.
* Pasco-Merritt House on 710 West Washington Street. This ‘frame vernacular” style house dates from the 1850s and was the home of Samuel Pasco in the 1800s. An Englishman who came to the US as a boy, Pasco graduated from Harvard, fought in the American Civil War on the side of the Confederacy and eventually became an attorney and a state representative.
The current owners, W.D. and Terry Merritt, purchased the house in 2015 and have been since renovating it.
* Daffodale House on 620 West Washington Street. This Victorian Queen Ann house was built in 1897 and is today home to Scotty and Ebberbach, who operate it as a bed-and-breakfast and restaurant. The two-story house is surrounded with a large yard full of giant oak trees and old-growth camellias.
* Avera-Clarke House on 580 West Washington Street. Thomas L. Clarke, a delegate to the Florida’s 1885 constitutional convention, built this house in 1890. It was subsequently the home of Judge Scott Dilworth Clarke, the “Dean” of the Florida Legislature’s “Pork-Chop Gang” during the mid 1900s. Troy and Gretchen Avera now operate the house as a bed-and-breakfast.
* Jefferson Arts Gallery on 575 West Washington Street. This brick building dates from 1935 and was formerly part of the adjacent school, serving for agricultural and shop classes. Renovated by a group of local artists, the facility now operates as a nonprofit that showcases north Florida artists.
* John Denham House on 555 West Palmer Mill Road. This beauty dates from 1888 and is listed on the historical register, as are many of the other houses on the list. It boasts eight fireplaces, expansive bedrooms and a cupola to view the town. Innkeeper Pat Inmon operates it as a bed-and-breakfast.
* Monticello Ecological Park on South Water Street. An urban park in progress, it affords visitors an opportunity to unwind and commute with nature. Visitors can also see a little piece of old growth forest untouched by development, as well as get a bird’s eye view of the surroundings from the elevated boardwalks.
* The Cottage on 295 West Palmer Mill Road. Described as a cute bungalow amidst manicured grounds, it is operated as a bed-and-breakfast by John Michel and Martha Cravanzola. The two also operate a restaurant that offers dining by reservation only.
*Murdock-Kirkpatrick House on 185 Palmer Mill Road. This cottage-style structure dates from around 1844 and has been completely renovated by Bill Kirkpatrick. The literature describes it as being decorated with beautiful antiques, original artwork and treasures from around the world.
* Dilworth-Barnhill House on 345 East Washington Street. A two-story frame house built by William Scott Dilworth in 1852, he sold it to Junius Tumbull shortly after the Civil War. Kim and John Barnhill now own the house and have painstakingly restored it to its original state.
* Budd-Carswell House on 555 East Washington Street. This is an antebellum house that dates from 1852. William Budd Jr. built it and sold it to Richard Tumbull in 1865. The house has had five owners since the 1930s. It is written that its woodwork and mantels are noteworthy for their fine detail. Jack and Barbara call it home.
* Shuman-Alexander House on 310 East Dogwood Street. This elegant Victorian home dates from 1910. J.B. Shuman and Carrie Lou Bishop operated it as boarding house from 1928 until 1994. It is currently on the market for sale.
* Cornerstone Waterhouse and Sales, on 285 North Railroad Street, will hold an estate sale. Hundreds of items from a Jefferson County antebellum plantation will be available for inspection between 9 and 4 p.m.
* Monticello Opera House on 185 West Washington Street. This architectural jewel, built by local businessman John H. Perkins, dates from 1890. It restoration continues, even as it serves a venue for dinner theatre, plays, musicals and community events.
* Old Jail Building, on 380 West Dogwood, dates from 1909 and continues undergoing renovations, a veritable work in progress. Visitors will get to see what it was like a prisoner in the early 1900s, as well as get an opportunity to tour the sheriff’s quarters.
* Monticello-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce on 420 West Washington Street. This building, which was originally home to St. Margaret’s Catholic Church, was built to resemble the interior of a ship’s hull.