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What's Up Magazine

A Home for the Holidays

Nov 07, 2014 09:00AM ● By Cate Reynolds
Photography by Stephen Buchanan

When crisp breezes and the waft of wood stove fires heating homes begin to tickle her nose in early fall, Mary Lou McCallister can’t help but feel excited for the pending season on the holiday horizon. It’s a sensation that many of us feel, especially when we slip into something a little warmer and decide it’s time for that first cup of cocoa or tea. It’s an excitement that McCallister harnessed 28 years ago to co-found Christmas in St. Michaels, a weekend of holiday events throughout the community held each December—proceeds from which assist local, nonprofit organizations.

Along with the event’s popular holiday gala, street parade, and gingerbread house competition, among other attractions, the holiday Tour of Homes draws a large crowd from throughout the region to quaint St. Michaels, eager to peruse a mix of historic residences in town and country estates nearby. The tour presents the opportunity to study the 18th–19th century architectural bones of what was once a bustling watermen’s community, rich in seafaring tradition, juxtaposed to the more contemporary styles found in the countryside, many of which are also waterfront. And, of course, holiday décor is abundant and inspirational.

This year, McCallister will play host, as she opens her home to tour-goers. Located within footsteps of cozy Muskrat Park and the waterfront, dominated by the adjacent Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, McCallister’s residence sparkles during the holiday season.

According to research compiled by the Tour of Homes committee, the home is known as “The Harrison House” and is believed to be the oldest home in St. Michaels, built by William Harrison, who was a blacksmith and ship builder with his sons. The house, also known as the “Amelia Welby House,” was built before 1783. It is a one and a half story structure; the bay structure has brick gable ends and brick-nogged frame walls.

In the late 1960s, the house was sheathed with beaded weather board siding. Absent from the site are the out buildings that would have served the main house in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. Compared to the other dwellings located on “St. Michaels Town” lots and listed in the 1783 assessment, the Harrison House was typical in size but had construction of above average material. Unlike neighboring log and frame residences, the building’s masonry construction contributed to its survival.

Between 1800 and 2013 extensive renovations maintained the historic value of the home while providing modern day living space. The garden room and guest suite were added in early 2000. In 2013, Mary Lou and her husband, Bill, completed both structural and living space renovations resulting in the home on this year’s tour. The McAllister’s builder will be on site to talk about what he found during the major renovations.


Christmas in St. Michaels

Celebrate the arrival of the holiday season during this weekend-long event, held Friday, December 12th through Sunday, December 14th. The festivities officially kick-off with the Holiday Gala on Friday evening, followed by an abundance of events on Saturday, and concludes with the Celebration of Choirs—a concert of traditional carols and seasonal music performed by the choirs of several local churches—on Sunday evening. Many events and attractions are free to attend; some are ticketed (as noted below) with proceeds benefiting local nonprofits. For complete details, including event specifics, lodging options, and volunteer opportunities, visit or call 410-745-0745.

Schedule of Events

Gingerbread House Preview Cocktail Party at Women’s Club of St. Michaels, St. Mary’s Square. Sunday, December 7th, 5–7 p.m. $50 per person. (Note: this is the weekend prior to the start of Christmas in St. Michaels.)

Marketplace and Sweet Shoppe at Granite Lodge on St. Mary’s Square. Friday, December 12th, 12–3 p.m.; Saturday, December 13th, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; and Sunday, December 14th, 10 a.m.–3 p.m.

Gingerbread House Competition and Display at Women’s Club of St. Michaels, St. Mary’s Square. Friday, December 12th, 12–3 p.m.; Saturday, December 13th, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; and Sunday, December 14th, 10 a.m.–3 p.m.

Holiday Gala at Harbourtowne Resort. Friday, December 12th, 6:30 p.m.–midnight. $150 per person.

Breakfast with Santa at Town Dock Restaurant. Saturday, December 13th, 9–10:15 a.m. $10 per child (ages 3–8)

Holiday Meals at two locations. At St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. Saturday, December 13th, 7:30–11:30 a.m. Cost tba. At Union United Methodist Church Parish Hall. Saturday, December 13th, 11 a.m.–3 p.m. $18 per person.

Talbot Street Parade along Talbot Street from Perry Cabin south to Seymour Avenue. Saturday, December 13th, 10:30 a.m.

Santa’s Wonderland at St. Michaels School Campus on Seymour Avenue. Saturday, December 13th, following the parade until 2:30 p.m. $2 per child (ages 3–11)

Tour of Homes throughout St. Michaels. Saturday, December 13th, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sunday, December 14th, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. $25 in advance/$30 day of event.

Holiday Music during the weekend. Mid-Shore Community Band at Corner of Railroad Avenue and Talbot Street on Saturday, December 13th, 10 a.m.–12 p.m.; Jackson Jubliee Singers at Union United Methodist Church on Saturday, December 13th, 1:30 p.m.; and Celebration of Choirs at Christ Church, St. Michaels Parish on Sunday, December 14th, 6–7 p.m.