A wonderful tradition that the Amelia Island community looks forward to each year is the Amelia Island Museum of History’s annual Holiday Home Tour. Each year very special properties are selected to be featured in this once a year event.
I had the opportunity to tour one of the five houses that is featured on this year’s tour. Not only is the corner cottage a wonderful old house it is a museum of things collected from the amazing life of its owner, Elsbeth Smith. The house at 401 South 6th Street is a local frame vernacular noteworthy for its large cross-cable, recessed porch with turned ornamentation. Surrounding the house is a meandering garden with a wide variety of unique plants and artifacts.
A legend in the towing industry, Smith was one of the first female tug boat captains and shared a business with her husband. She raised and homeschooled her five children on tug boats (Elsbeth and the Elsbeth II) that were essential in their business. She was one of the first women in the industry to obtain her license and spent nearly 20 years of her career at sea. She smiles as she remembers her determination to have a piano on board the tug boat for her playing pleasure as well as for her children. It had to be bolted to the floor.
When not living aboard the tug the family lived in exotic places like French Guyana and Dominica and made stops at Hamburg, South America and Cuba as well as the United States. A dream was completed in 1992 when she circumnavigated the world. Her ex-husband as well as two of children remain in the tug boat business. The family was featured in a New Yorker cover story, “Towheads”, in 2010. Each room in the house offers a variety of curiosities that tell a story of an amazing life and interesting family.
The Smith house is one of five houses offered in the Holiday Home Tour this year. Each offers its own story and unique architecture. Additional homes include 326 South 7th Street, 510 Beech Street, 15 North 4th Street and 909 Atlantic Avenue. Each home is decorated lovingly by local decorators and designers. In addition to the home tour a breakfast event is being offered at Cafe Karibo The annual event is the Amelia Island Museum of History’s biggest fundraiser.
Holiday Home Tour (5 homes)
10:00 AM – 4:00 PM, December 5th and 6th. Tickets are $25 before December 5, and $30 on the days of the tours (Group rates available for parties of 10 or more).
Breakfast & Blooms
9:00 AM sharp, December 5th and 6th. Breakfast tickets to learn decorating tips from Brooke Raulerson of Artistic Florist are $25.00.
(Tickets are limited)
Tickets for both events are available at the Amelia Island Museum of History (904) 262-7378.