Christmas house tour in Madison benefits Community House

by Jamie Duffy/The Star Ledger
Thursday December 11, 2008, 6:28 PM

Jamie Duffy

Christmas at the circa 1730 Luke Miller home in Madison, the oldest house in the borough, now privately owned but lent to the Madison Historical Society for a wreath sale.

A first-ever Christmas house tour this week sponsored by Madison's Thursday Morning Club raised about $10,000 toward the $1.5 million capital campaign to renovate Community House.

The Thursday Morning Club, an 84-year-old women's club, owns the Community House on Cook Avenue. The center is home to a preschool and children's classes, as well as exercise and dance classes, youth basketball, Boy and Girl Scout events and the Cub Scouts Pinewood Derby.

Among the eight homes on the tour was the Luke Miller House on Ridgedale Avenue, built around 1730 by Luke's grandfather Andrew Miller, a Revolutionary War-era officer.

Across the street, the home of Margaret and Carl Weisgerber, built in 1873, was decorated for a Victorian-era Christmas to match the original interior. The Weisgerbers have restored the home over the past 43 years, uncovering in the process a fireplace in the dining room and an upstairs stained glass window. While Carl has been the craftsman, Margaret has been the collector, and the Christmas decorations reflect her love of antique dolls and hues of cream and pink.

With four children and 13 grandchildren who live in the area, the home is central when holidays come. Son-in-law Michael Sapio who lives up the street helps with holiday outdoor decorations, said Sharon Harris, a Weisgerber daughter.

The extended family gets together often for "as many family gatherings as we can," said Harris who worked as a tour docent.

Madison friends Kathy Cowan on Cross Gates Road and Nancy Tobin on Hillside Avenue opened their homes for the tour and their similar taste reflected an interesting, generational change toward interior design. Both women favor traditional homes with contemporary touches.

"I like interiors clean and feminine," said Tobin, "but not downtown New York minimal feeling."

Both Cowan and Tobin called on their decorator of choice, the Summit-based Butler Rambusch Interior Design, to help with their inviting and soft Christmas decorating. Both dining rooms had pink roses in their centerpieces. Other touches in the homes were Christmas red and orange.

While the Tobins worked with the theme "champagne and dessert," Lisa and Walter Gotsch on Dellwood Parkway in Madison chose "Family Christmas Dinner."

Their opulent table was set with the help of Seasons, a gift and design store on Main Street in downtown Madison. Full of artificial fruits and glitter, the theme was maintained throughout the first floor. A gingerbread house in the kitchen was set on the counter overlooking a duck pond.

Barbara and DJ Viola's home on Dale Drive in Chatham Township was set for a New Year's Eve party, but the historical memorabilia drew the most attention. The sitting room has been named the presidential room with letters, lithographs and signatures starting with George Washington. In other rooms, framed memorabilia includes singers, musicians and the gangsters Lucky Luciano, Al Capone and Meyer Lansky.

Homeowner Barbara Viola says her favorites have to be the authors, ones of distinction like Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde. Viola did some of the decorating herself including a winding banister down the center hall, but gave the job over to Town & Country gift and design shop on Waverly Place in Madison once the tour was organized.

Jamie Duffy

One of the wreaths on sale at the Luke Miller house was created by Madison mayor Mary Anna Holden.

Jamie Duffy

Dorothy Petrosky, Madison Historical Society, working the desk at the Luke Miller House.

Jamie Duffy

The Christmas table at the Luke Miller House included cookies and other holiday treats.

Jamie Duffy

Owner David Quirk's father, John, relaxing by the fireplace in the Luke Miller house. The fireplace is original to the home built around 1730.