A home for the holidays

Every year it gets a little bigger.

Guests will be welcomed into Ann Smeltzer’s recently renovated bedroom during this year’s annual Christmas tour of the Ringland-Smeltzer House.

“We started six or seven years ago, with just a couple rooms,” said Cynthia Fallon, one of the volunteers in charge of decorations. “We’re adding more on each time.”

Twelve rooms are now decorated for the annual celebration, said Jack Christensen, one of the trustees of the Ann Smeltzer Charitable Trust.

Fallon and her brother, Scott Gernhart, plan the holiday decorating for the house every year.

For Smeltzer’s bedroom, they chose a silver, white and pink pastel color scheme to match the room.

“It’s been repainted and plastered,” Gernhart said. “The ceiling was getting cracked. It’s decorated to reflect a young lady.”

Smeltzer, who died in 1999, was the granddaughter of George Ringland, founder of the U.S. Gypsum Co. Ringland hired a high-profile Chicago architect to create the luxury family home at 1019 Second Ave. S. in 1903.

In the bedroom, silver deer stand on the mantle, alongside a white glowing church and on a bed of fluffy cotton snow. On a dresser, a reindeer pulls a sleigh full of white and pink ornamental balls.

The bedroom also features a rotating Christmas tree, “because we don’t have one anywhere else,” Gernhart said. “We’ve always wanted one.”

In another unique touch, the tree is topped by a crown.

Also new this year, the back staircase will be open, and guests can view the two maids’ rooms. These rooms will be decorated in a very simple style, Gernhart said.

Though the third floor is not on the tour, posters showing the third-floor ballroom and classroom will be on display.

Guests can take the back staircase down to the kitchen, which was new to the holiday tour last year. Gingerbread-themed decorations can be seen there, along with a display of Christmas bread and a gingerbread house.

The goodies are just for looks, not for tasting.

The tours are free, and take about 15 minutes, Fallon said.

Each year volunteers take pictures of the various decorated rooms, to help them set up again the next year.

Fallon and Gernhart oversee everything, and a team of about eight people help set it all up.

It takes close to 50 hours of work, Christensen said.

“We enjoy it,” said Gernhart. “And it’s nice to hear all the people’s comments, and how much they appreciate it.”

“Two years ago we had 700 people go through, and last year we had 681,” Christensen said. “So we’ve had a good turnout.”