PARIS – Undeterred by a cold morning wind, a large crowd flocked to Paris Hill on Friday to take part in the first day of holiday house tours.

The tours feature eight private homes as well as Paris Hill Pewter, the Paris Post Office, the First Baptist Church of Paris, the Hamlin Memorial Library and the Paris Hill Academy building, which will benefit from the proceeds.

“We are all so excited about it,” said Mary Alice Bancroft, co-chairwoman of the event. “You just meet the nicest people.”

Bancroft’s house is featured on the tour, and on Friday she greeted visitors at the door of the Greek Revival house which was once the home of Emily Bissell, founder of the Christmas Seal charitable program.

Bancroft said that interests differ from visitor to visitor, with some people curious about the architecture of the homes and some taking in the Christmas decorations. She said her own decorations, which feature a large Santa Claus collection, were put up with the help of her sisters and daughter.

“There’s so many fresh things that you can only do it in the last two or three days,” Bancroft said.

Other homeowners said visitors had expressed an interest in the views of the distant White Mountains. Lee Barth, co-chairwoman of the event, said many people inquired into the baked beans she was making during the tours.

“Most people are just appreciative that you open up your house,” she said.

There have been 10 holiday house tours since the event began in the 1970s. The Paris Hill Community Club organizes the tours, and money from ticket sales goes toward the upkeep of the academy. Last year, the bell tower was repaired. This year’s funds will go toward foundation work and painting.

The academy serves as a nexus for the tours. Visitors receive their tickets, which double as an informational booklet, at the building. Most of the sites are within walking distance of the academy, and lunch is served in the building.

This year marks the academy’s 150th year, and historical material is displayed in the building. The Hamlin Memorial Library also features an exhibit on the academy.

In some of the houses, visitors had some familiarity with the homes.

“We almost always find someone who used to live here or who knew someone who lived here,” said Kathy Richardson, who is opening her home for the fourth time.

Richardson said visitors have sometimes brought photographs or other historical information during visits, which has helped her find out more about the house.

“I remember when it was built,” said Shirley Miller, who is displaying her house for the first time. “And certainly different natives in the area have filled me in on some of the information.”

Joyce Gardner, a first time visitor from Norway, said she usually takes guests up to Paris Hill to see the village.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Gardner said. “You’re always saying, ‘I would love to go in that house.'”

Robin Green of West Paris said she was particularly delighted to see early American prints of George and Martha Washington in Miller’s house.

“Every house has so many things that are special,” Green said.

The tours continue today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


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