Cleburne offers a boundless selection of architecture and craftsmanship in the historic homes of the city, ranging from Victorian to bungalow.
To preserve the history of Cleburne and its structures, a group consisting of homeowners, business owners and individuals formed Save Old Cleburne in 1976 and have showcased the homes during the annual Candlewalk Tour of Homes.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the tour and is set for 1-8 p.m. Dec. 2.
SOC President Stephanie Montero said Candlewalk is a tradition all of Cleburne can be proud of.
“It is believed to be the first historic home tour to feature holiday decorations, an innovation that once put the tour on the cover of Texas Highways,” she said. “And now here we are, at year 40.”
Montero said the event brings so many people into town for the day, many who never visited Cleburne before.
“For those of us who live here, Candlewalk makes us take a minute to appreciate Cleburne’s past and the older buildings that we don’t always notice because we see them every day, plus in some cases it can be hard to look past their condition,” she said. “Candlewalk show us these buildings’ potential.”
Wilma Reed’s former home, the Nail-Reed Home at 302 Featherston St., was part of the Candlewalk tour eight times.
“I loved every minute of it,” she said. “People who tour Candlewalk appreciate the efforts you have made to decorate and hosting for the occasion.”
Reed said in the earliest days of Candlewalk, owners of the homes that year would gather and come up with ways to get ready for the event.
“I remember we would get together and make yards and yards of cedar garlands to help each other decorate,” she said. “One year they made garland that went around our deck banister — it was beautiful.”
When Candlewalk participants visit each home, docents are set up in each room to explain the history and decorations.
“I think one of the weaknesses in those early days was that there were no docents present,” she said. “I remember once we were admitted into this house that had just been refurbished and you wandered around and looked at what you could look at. It greatly improved the tours when docents for the homes were added to be able to give information.”
Reed said sometimes homeowners are apprehensive to invite strangers into their home for Candlewalk.
“I have never had any problem with anything being moved or touched,” she said. “People who tour Candlewalk are people that would be your close friends if you had the opportunity to know them.”
This year, Montero said Save Old Cleburne is proud to showcase six of Cleburne’s historic homes dressed in their holiday finest.
“Three homes are open to tour for the very first time, while three Candlewalk favorites show off the styles of their new owners,” she said. “Interestingly, the owners of five of the six Candlewalk homes this year were drawn to Cleburne when they fell in love with a historic home. To me, that is such a powerful reminder that preserving our historic buildings is worth the effort. What a wonderful reminder of the many benefits of preserving the beautiful historic architecture with which Cleburne is blessed.”
Montero said each home on the tour has many stories to tell.
“In one house, a family has lovingly restored the husband’s childhood home,” she said. “Another homeowner is a Cleburne native who loved Candlewalk as a child and always dreamed of having her own historic home on the tour. She recently returned to town after decades in Houston and now her dream is coming true. However, many of the participating homeowners are new to Cleburne, drawn here when they fell in love with a heritage home.”
The Chambers-Smith Home, 415 N. Anglin St., is one that will be featured on the tour this year.
Built in 1895 by F.M. Bisbee, the local general superintendent of tracks for the Santa Fe Railroad. He sold the house one year later to Pat Cleburne Chambers, the son of B.J. Chambers, ‘The Father of Cleburne.’
Louis Zimmerman bought the house in 1969 along with the property directly behind it to move his automotive business ‘Zimmerman and Sons’ from downtown to Main Street.
He had planned to tear down the house to expand his car lot, but relatives talked him out of it, and he and his wife Myrtle moved in the home instead.
The house features four beautiful fireplaces, wood inlaid floors, pocket doors, a courting bench and circular parlor.
The home, now owned by Trey and Lesa Smith, is multi-generational as their master suite is downstairs and Trey Smith’s mother, Bobbie, has the entire upstairs as her space, complete with a mini kitchen.
The Smiths have owned the house for one year and are planning a traditional Victorian Christmas.
“We have waited for 20 plus years to find the right old home to purchase,” Trey Smith said. “We looked and dreamed about this home since before we were married. Often on drives on Sundays we would come down and we saw the white four square next door was for sale but ‘ours’ wasn’t ever for sale.
“As a surprise I brought Lesa the stay at The Anglin Rose Bed and Breakfast Inn for Valentine’s Day. We met Saundra and Milton [Williams] and told them we would like to have an old home some day and she encouraged us to keep looking. So the dream continued.”
One early morning, about 3 a.m., Trey Smith said he got a feeling to search Bill King Realty and the first house that popped up was their dream home.
“After several calls to the realtor, we got to see it that night and came back the next day and the third day we put an offer on the house,” he said. “It was even better than we had hoped for; we had never seen the inside you see. It was a great fit and so was Cleburne.”
After moving in, Trey Smith said his family joined Save Old Cleburne before joining a new church.
“We have always loved old homes and toured many,” he said. “The Candlewalk Tour brings Cleburne back to a time when life was simpler — folks knew who their neighbors were and helped them when needed. You sat on the front porch and enjoyed life as we should still today. The Candlewalk is a welcome back to Cleburne as well as saying to the entire area we are here and Merry Christmas! People love to come to see how things used to be and we, as new Cleburneites, look forward to meeting new people from here at home as well as folks from far and wide, while sharing our home to say ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘May God’s blessings be upon everyone.’ That is togetherness at its best and all the while promoting Cleburne, what we have to offer, as well as how these homes can be saved and treasured and lived in for many years.”
Other homes on the tour this year include the Boyd-Palmer Home, 506 W. Wilson St.; the Chase-McKenzie Home, 1204 S. Prairie Ave.; Magner-Woods Home, 1009 N. Anglin St.; the Shaw Manor, 510 W. Wilson St.; and Long House, 518 College St.
Also, the Church of the Holy Comforter will host the Candlewalk Community Christmas Concert from 7-8 p.m. Dec. 2 at the church, 209 E. Wardville St.
Tickets to the concert are free, but required. For more information, call 817-202-8855.
Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain said nothing says “It’s Christmas time” better than Candlewalk.
“It is the invitation to come into a home and share in the Christmas decorations that makes the event special,” he said. “For several decades, Cleburne has been fortunate that so many have generously opened their homes to the community. There’s something special about Christmas decorations that brings out the child in each one of us. And many of our residents look forward to seeing the homes in Candlewalk and this year will be special as the tour celebrates 40 years of sharing the Christmas spirit.”
For information, call 817-240-2295 or visit www.soc-cleburne.com.