Safford House in Tarpon Springs offers Victorian Christmas Tour

Santa (David Cruz) is ready to show 1800s-style ho ho ho-spitality during the Victorian Christmas Tour at the Safford House Museum.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Santa (David Cruz) is ready to show 1800s-style ho ho ho-spitality during the Victorian Christmas Tour at the Safford House Museum.

TARPON SPRINGS — Peek through the lace curtains covering the glass door panes of the Safford House Museum and thoughts of malls, gift cards and cell phones may disappear.

Satin bows shimmer, kissing balls tied to vintage lights twirl gently overhead, and boughs of greenery adorn fireplace mantles.

It once was the home of Anson P.K. Safford, one of the founders of Tarpon Springs. Now owned by the city, the home-turned-museum is decked out for the Eighth Annual Victorian Christmas Tour, which started Wednesday and runs through Sunday.

"These kissing balls were the predecessors of mistletoe," says Bruce Miller, a docent who appears at the front door dressed as Safford to greet tour visitors. "A little red ball was plucked and a kiss was given, but when the balls were gone, the kissing ended."

As the tour began Wednesday, several people walked slowly across the glossy pine floors to view the splendor of the 10 rooms. Each is decorated with its own Victorian Christmas touch.

Without holiday decorations, the Safford House offers plenty of original period pieces to admire, but the Christmas decor creates a cozy atmosphere and a fire in one of the house's three fireplaces.

In the parlor, the lights of a small tabletop Christmas tree bounce off angels and rose-colored bows.

In the dining room, the enormous, elaborately carved oak table is set with fine china and a delicately iced cake, as if Safford, his third wife, Soledad, and their children are due any moment.

The Safford family is long gone, and the house was almost lost to history. After Safford's death in 1891, Soledad lived with her third husband here until she died in 1931.

The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and was donated to the city in 1994 by Aldo Pelligini. Through city, state and federal grants, the house has been restored into a Victorian charmer.

There is so much to see, local visitors often visit during the summer and then again during the holidays.

Diana Matz of Tarpon Springs took the tour in July and returned with a friend to see the house dressed in Victorian Christmas decorations.

"It's gorgeous," Matz said. "The decorations are done just right, not overdone so you can still appreciate the antiques."

Matz knows of what she speaks. She owned an antique shop until 2000. She sees certain period pieces and recognizes them right away.

And period pieces are everywhere, from ornate hand-carved headboards to a pedal-driven White sewing machine and the original roll-top desk that belonged to Safford. Special touches like the Victorian period medical bag and physician's instruments — which might have been used by Dr. Mary Jane Safford, Anson's sister, who practiced medicine from the home — make the tour memorable. No detail has been overlooked.

A Victorian Santa is also here. Digital photographs of visitors with Santa are taken and e-mailed free of charge. Harp musicians and carolers entertain as part of the ticket price.

When the time comes to step onto that wrap-around porch and head toward the car and back into the 21st century, don't forget that the Safford House also has a gift shop.

If you go

Safford House Museum Victorian Christmas Tour

Where: 23 Parkin Court, Tarpon Springs.

When: 5:30 to 8 p.m. today through Sunday.

Cost: Adults (17 and up) $10; members and children (ages 3 to 16) $6. For advance tickets, call (727) 942-5605; tickets also are available at the door and online.

For information: Visit tarponarts.org or call (727) 937-1130.

Safford House in Tarpon Springs offers Victorian Christmas Tour 12/09/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 9, 2010 8:09pm]

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