Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour

Pittmans enjoy fruits
of home renovation
with a stop on tour

Madison’s annual holiday home tou
r runs two weekends

(November 2013) – The 32nd annual Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes in Madison, Ind., offers guests to kick off their holiday season by enjoying a peek into some of town’s most famous historical houses and churches, as well as homes rarely opened for public view.


Photos by Lela Bradshaw

Mike and Linda Pittman say
there has been a lot of interest
from neighbors in their
home remodeling project.

“Private homes are a big draw,” Tour Coordinator Marci Jones said. She explains that people are very interested in seeing how others decorate. Because of the interest in seeing these personal residences, Jones says that in the 10 years she has been organizing the tours, “I haven’t repeated a private home.”
For Mike and Linda Pittman, the tour offers a chance to share their months of hard work on the newly rebuilt Creek House at 701 Elm St. While the Pittmans had initially planned to restore the circa 1870 home, the damage due to years of neglect and misuse had taken such a toll that a recreation was in order.
“It has the exact same footprint” of the original house, says Mike. “We saved as much as we could. Anything we were able to salvage we used.”
Some parts of the home were re-purposed, such as the floor joists now in use as elegant ceiling beams. Other parts, such as exterior scroll work and some of the windows, were patterned on pieces that could not be saved but whose form still echoes through the work of local craftsmen.
“This home was over 100 years old, and unfortunately it didn’t make it,” Linda said. “This home is built with the best wood out there today. It will be here in 150 years.”
The popular holiday home tour is organized by VisitMadison Inc., and takes place the weekends of Nov. 29-30 and Dec. 6-7. Tour hours are 5-9 p.m. Fridays, and 3-9 p.m. Saturdays. The event typically draws between 2,500 and 3,000 guests, Jones said, with the money raised used for the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center and the historic sites on the tour.
The tour features 11 private homes and historic buildings and two hospitality sites. Advanced tickets are $13.50 online and may be picked up at VisitMadison Inc., 601 W. First St. When picking up their tickets, guests are also invited to enjoy the return of the Great Cookie Caper and try a box of homemade treats, with proceeds benefiting the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
Linda Pittman believes that the Creek House will make a good addition to the tour because there is already a lot of neighborhood curiosity about the property. “I know that there is a lot of interest because there is a lot of traffic by it,” she says.
Mike agrees, saying, “Now people drive by to see what’s the latest change in the house.”
And what changes there have been. The couple spent more than $10,000 on clean up alone, removing years of accumulated trash and trimming trees. While the elegant, New Orleans-style home today is a showpiece with Linda’s carefully planned landscaping, before the renovations, “This property had a negative impact on this whole area,” she said.
Their work has not gone unnoticed. “The neighbors came over and were very pleased,” Linda said. “We started to see changes in the neighborhood.”
The couple purchased the home in late 2011 and began their work the next year. Mike said that his wife had her eye on the house for some time, recalling that “Linda said, ‘If this property ever came for sale, I think I’d like to get it.’ I said, ‘You’re nuts!’ ”
Linda laughs, adding that not everyone initially thought that the project was a good idea. “People say, ‘Why, why would you do this?’ ”
But soon, the restorations became “one of those projects as you get more into it, it becomes more than just a home. You fall in love with it. I never realized how beautiful this area is. It’s almost like finding a new part of Madison. We lived a block away and never spent much time there.”
Mike echoes her sentiment, saying, “We think it has a lot of promise. This whole area is a really sweet area.”
Creek House is the third home in Madison that the couple has redone and they estimate that they have built or restored about 10 properties over the years. However, Linda said they were “never this involved before. We literally handled every piece of wood that came out of this home.”
She credits Alan Cassidy for helping make the project possible, saying, “Our contractor is outstanding. He brought it back from the grave.”
Linda said the Candlelight Tour “is wonderful for tourism in Madison. People come specifically to see the beautiful homes.”
Mike said the “museum quality” homes were part of what drew the couple to Madison in the first place. While some of the houses may be “in need of TLC, the bones are there. There are craftsmen and materials available to put it back and give you the look and feel of the property.”

Linda believes that the historic houses on the tour appeal both in beauty and emotion, saying, “I love the old homes because of the simplicity of the architecture. I know life was going on for so many years in these homes.”

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