Holiday Home: Victorian home perfect backdrop for charming Christmas decorations

Published on Saturday, 21 December 2013 19:33 - Written by By Faith Harper fharper@tylerpaper.com

 The Queen Anne Victorian home on Sycamore Street in Mineola is just as beautiful on the inside as the outside.

The front door opens into a long, wide hallway. To the left, a tall tree glittering with lights highlights a majestic mantle adorned with family stockings. The formal dining room features a country style dining table with a wooden Santa as the centerpiece surrounded by garland. The kitchen is a wide, open space with a breakfast nook and several family dining tables and a wood burning stove.

The Callaway Home is the oldest home standing in Mineola, built in 1892 by Lorenzo Dow Callaway, an influential merchant and former mayor of the town, said Lou Mallory, president of the Wood County Historical Society.

The home features five porches, with two porches in the front that wrap around the front of the house with its original gingerbread brackets, Ms. Mallory said.

The home features single trim underneath the roof and a decorative bay window in the front, which were unusual for the Queen Anne Style, Ms. Mallory said.

Callaway also was a businessman who owned several acres of land and cattle, which were used to construct and maintain roads in the city.

The home is full of family heirlooms and antiques from the current owners Larry and Sue Wisdom and their two college-aged daughters Susannah and Elizabeth. The bedrooms of Susannah and Elizabeth are the only rooms out of tune with the Victorian style and are decorated to the individual girls’ taste.

The couple, who are both theater teachers at Van ISD, said it usually takes a week and a half for the family to put up all the multitude of decorations and trees in the three bedroom, two bathroom home, but this year the tradition was a little different with both girls away for school.

“Susannah said, ‘Don’t you dare get down a tree till I get home, so … I had the trees in their place ready to go,” Larry Wisdom said. (Both girls were) down for a weekend, but we talked and did things and never did one (tree).”

Larry Wisdom said after they left to go back to school, she reluctantly agreed to let her parents do all the decorating.

The home’s namesake and builder was a prosperous and generous man, Ms. Mallory said. He served the city for a total of 16 years and was on the school board. He founded the city’s first bus service and was known to load a wagon full of food baskets and deliver them to needy families on Christmas Eve.

The home originally had six rooms, but soon after its completion a separate room with a bathroom and its own porch was added to help lure a schoolteacher to Mineola, Ms. Mallory said. The teacher could stay in what is now the master bedroom free of charge. The room now serves as the master bedroom, and is still housing teachers, the couple said. Callaway thought teachers were poorly paid and wanted to help them, Ms. Mallory said.

Larry Wisdom said Mrs. Callaway was reluctant to live Mineola because of numerous bars and other non-savory businesses.

“He gathered his family in the parlor here, and he said, ‘We have to stay because I think we have been called to make a difference…’” Larry Wisdom said. “He became an alderman and was into the mercantile here and eventually became the mayor.”

The Wisdoms said the home has a long history. It was used as an elderly home in the 1950s, after which it fell into disrepair. James and Barbara Gowan bought the home in the 1980s and brought it back to its original beauty before selling it in the 1990s to a woman who furnished it but never lived in the home.

Larry Wisdom said he wanted to move from the country into an older home. The couple went to see a house in the city, but Mrs. Wisdom didn’t like it because it was too close to the railroad tracks and felt like a funeral home.

“She was talking to the real estate agent, and she said, ‘The only home I would leave my own house for right now would be the one on Sycamore Street — the blue house,” Larry Wisdom said. “A few days went by and the real estate agent calls us, (and said the current homeowner is) interested in selling the house. It wasn’t even on the market. … It happened so fast, it was so insane.”

The Wisdoms said the home is cherished by the family and isn’t leaving their hands anytime soon.

“Our girls … love this whole thing,” Larry Wisdom said. “They love coming home. It’s a cool thing because I know they value (it), there are cool little stories and they know those stories because we have taken the time to tell that to them. It will always be home for them.”