HOMES

A Very Victorian Christmas in Midland

November 29, 2018 | PHOTOGRAPHY BY SANDY MACKAY

An inviting heritage home in Midland is filled with the spirit of Christmas.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Holiday/Winter 2018/19 issue of  OUR HOMES Barrie Orillia Midland Innisfil, p.32. Find local businesses in our Barrie directory. 
The Blaine-Smith home is on the Victorian Christmas Home Tour, a fundraiser for the Midland Heritage Committee, held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on December 8th.  
Every year, northern Simcoe County residents are treated to a special Victorian Christmas Home Tour and the spectacular period home owned by David Smith and Lorelei Blane-Smith is one of the star attractions.
 
The aptly-named Hillside Holme in east Midland, built by grist mill owner Thomas Chew in 1875, was a single-family dwelling until the Chew family sold it in 1937. For the next six decades it languished as a five-unit apartment building and, to add further indignity, all the original honey-coloured oak trim was painted white.
 
By the time the Smiths bought the home in 2010, the previous owner had painstakingly returned most of it to its original splendour. “She used pictures from the museum and the Chew family and took it back to the way it was in its glory days,” says Lorelei. It took that homeowner 11 years to restore the home and remove the white paint from all the nooks and crannies of the intricate trim. In fact, it was such a difficult task that a special tool was constructed to complete the job.
 
Lorelei recalls upon first seeing the home, “I came in as far as the kitchen and said to David ‘I don’t need to go any further, this is the house I want.’ ” The first question posed to her was, “Oh Lorelei, you’re not going to paint the woodwork, are you?” She promised she wouldn’t. The only parts of the woodwork that had escaped unscathed by white paint were the original pocket doors dividing the great room from the dining room because the slots housing them had been drywalled over.
 
Lorelei says they loved the home from the moment they saw it and the possibilities for further restoration: “It seemed like we’d been collecting furnishings all our lives just for this house,” she laughs. “When we moved in we said ‘that goes there and that goes there and that goes there’ and nothing’s ever moved.”
 
Since the house is often open for tours, Lorelei says she sees a few of the previous tenants who lived in the apartments. Although the main floor was completely restored when they bought the home, the Smiths finished restorations on the second floor and renovated the third floor, which was the former servants’ quarters and storage area. The home was designated a heritage home by the Town of Midland in 2013, which means under the Heritage Act it must remain true to its original design – ergo, no future apartments for this Victorian beauty.
 
Lorelei pays attention to every surface in the house when decorating for Christmas and no detail is overlooked; even the dollhouses she crafted herself are decorated with tiny Christmas trees. During special tours, Lorelei has a fun tradition with a friend from the Huronia Players, the local theatre group, who dresses as a Victorian maid and another friend who plays a formal butler. They greet guests and offer hot cider on a tray, much to the delight of the 100 or so visitors who pass through.
 
Lorelei decorates 23 Christmas trees each year; every size and shape from tall artificial trees to small ceramic ones. The home is usually on several tours each year. This year, the third is the Victorian Christmas Home Tour, a fundraiser for the Midland Heritage Committee, held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on December 8th. The $10 cost goes toward other heritage projects in their adopted hometown, a cause very dear to the Smiths’ hearts. 

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