For the Victorian Christmas homes tour Sunday afternoon, Julia and Margit Halford, ages 10 and 8, played violins in the Bliss Mansion, helping to transport visitors to a place of wonder.
The redecorated mansion helped too, with folks on the tour ambling across polished marble floors and sipping cider under hand-painted French "sevres" -- porcelain chandeliers -- in the dining room.
The Bliss Mansion was the first of 12 stops on the tour presented by the Carson City Historical Society (formerly the Nevada Landmarks Society) and Carson City Redevelopment. Other notable stops included the Wungnema House at Mills Park, St. Peters Episcopal Church, the Rinckel Mansion and the Warren Engine Company Museum.
"I love doing the tours," said Joyce Harrington, owner of the Bliss Mansion. She also opens her home, which she owns with her husband, Ron Smith, for the Ghost Tour and Wild West Tour. "It's a house that sort of belongs to a lot of people. People come here for parties and the place just lights up. It needs to be shared."
She said if it weren't for frequent visitors, it would just be her, Ron, a dog and two cats.
"He's a lucky dog," she said of their pooch, Java. "He went from the pound to the mansion. Now he has all these people who pet him."
She gave a lot of credit for the redecorating to the previous owner, Theresa Sandrini, and to Doreen Mack from Lofty Expressions. Harrington beamed as she showed people the 130-year-old, hand-carved French chairs around the dining room table, the nine fireplaces and the fresh-cut Christmas tree -- a white fir from out by Markleeville.
"We just feel privileged to live here," she said. "We wake up and say where are we? How did we end up in this mansion?"
Visitors on the tour were impressed by their first stop.
"They did a beautiful job," said Pat Puchert of Carson, a docent for the Nevada State Museum.
"I'm a bit of a history buff and a teacher so I like this kind of thing," explained Puchert's friend Jeannette Dean, a fellow teacher from Sparks. "And I'm a closet decorator."
The women were visiting the Marshall Robinson House, built in 1873 by one of the founders of the Carson Daily Appeal.
At the Olcovich-Meyers House, the band Two Olives and a Twist played upstairs with Shirley Newton on piano; her husband, Ron, on clarinet; and singer Eileen Bianchi.
The home was built by Joseph Olcovich, owner of a mercantile on Carson Street, in 1874. It was sold to Civil War veteran George Meyer 10 years later and stayed in his family until 1935. Angelo and Mary DeFelice have lived there for 14 years and fixed it up. It is featured in the National Trust for Historic Preservation 2003 engagement calender.
For more information
Call the Carson City Historical Society (formerly the Nevada Landmarks Society): 882-1805