Driveable Destination

Christmas In Wake Forest: The Historic Home Tour

by Jennifer Smart // October - November - December 2018

Black coats, white vests, and gaudy holiday ties brightened Wake Forest’s streets back in the days when college boys displayed their Christmas finery to impress the townspeople’s daughters, and all the homes along Faculty Avenue were decorated with wreaths and candles and holly and mistletoe. On Christmas Day, the Wake Forest Baptist Church Sunday School put on a pageant. The choir sang a cantata. Gifts and candy went to all the

neighborhood children and everyone gathered in one of the town’s gracious houses for a “sociable,” where the hostess served confectioneries and the guests played games like “drop the handkerchief,” “Mary had a little lamb,” and the “Scotch ramble.” The ramble, a type of Virginia reel, didn’t last long on the Baptist campus. It was too much like a dance and had to be stopped!

These are some of the images to keep in mind as we approach this year’s Wake Forest Christmas Historic Home Tour on Saturday, December 1 from 1:00 – 7:00 PM. This is the only regularly scheduled event in which a collection of the town’s privately-owned historic residences are open to the public, and the opportunity only comes on even-numbered years. The tour started about 30 years ago with a handful of houses and then expanded to include historically significant commercial buildings, businesses, and churches. It also has become increasingly popular, attracting nearly 2,000 visitors and raising funds for local programs. Presented by the Wake Forest Historic Preservation Commission and the Wake Forest Woman’s Club, the tour qualifies as a fully immersive experience with historic architecture, holiday music, and the unique charm of a small-town tradition.

Tradition holds strong in Wake Forest. As the oldest town in Wake County outside of Raleigh, it has four historic districts: the local Wake Forest Historic District, the Wake Forest National Register Historic District, the Downtown Wake Forest National Register Historic District, and the Glen Royall Mill Village National Register Historic District. Several of this year’s tour homes are on North Main Street – formerly known as Faculty Avenue, the location which figured so prominently in Wake Forest’s early Christmas celebrations. Visitors strolling the tree-lined avenue for this event are also invited to explore the historic Calvin Jones House.

Adjacent to the Wake Forest Historical Museum and famous as the Birthplace of Wake Forest College, the house will be decorated in period style and will feature a reenactor in period dress appearing as Mrs. Samuel Wait, wife of Wake Forest College’s founding president. The museum will be open as well.

Back in those olden days, a Wake Forest Christmas concluded with a night of jolly pranks. The college boys loved to spend the wee hours of the night blowing tin horns, setting all the alarm clocks in the College Building to go off at once, and generally making a large amount of noise. Although the Historic Home Tour is certain to be quieter, it’s every bit as joyful a celebration of the season, past and present.

The Wake Forest Christmas Historic Home Tour will be held Saturday, December 1, rain or shine. This is a self-guided tour featuring several Wake Forest homes and other properties decorated for the holidays and open for viewing. This year’s event will also offer wonderful holiday music and more. Tickets are $20 each (including tax). For a list of sale locations, please visit Plan ahead! A limited number of tickets will be sold for this year’s tour and none will be sold the day of the tour. Complete information, including ticket details, directions, entertainment, and more will be provided through the “Christmas Historic Home Tour” function on the Town of Wake Forest app. Download the app at

Photo courtesy of Town of Wake Forest.

Jennifer Smart

Assistant director of the Wake Forest Historical Museum.