Historic home hosts fundraising concert for women’s shelter

Published 9:08 pm Thursday, December 7, 2017

It’s one of Washington’s most historically significant homes, and Saturday, its doors will be open for a different kind of event: a living room concert by members of the Top Hat Orchestra.

It’s a fundraiser that’s doubling as a house concert, according to Elmwood 1820 bed and breakfast owner John Butler — the fundraiser is for Open Door Community Center, the planned women’s and children’s homeless shelter.

“We live here, we have guests here, but we have an opportunity to have (Elmwood) also serve as a stage and a community center, even of sorts, and if we can do that we’d love to do that,” Butler said. “We love a lot of charities in Washington and Beaufort County, but there’s a huge gap that many women and children fall into with regard to dealing with home, shelter and economic challenges. I want to see us bridge that gap.”

OH! CHRISTMAS TREE: The 15-foot Christmas tree was special ordered from Young Life and trimmed so that people could walk around it. The tree climbs up the curved banister, which is said to have been shipped from England when the circa-1820 home was built. (Vail Stewart Rumley/Daily News)

Elmwood is already dressed for the season: the West Main Street home was featured on Arts of the Pamlico’s Holiday Tour of Homes on Dec. 2. Elmwood features four lighted Christmas trees on the sweeping front porch, another on the second-story porch tucked beneath Italianate eaves, still another on the second-story landing inside, but none are so impressive as the 15-foot evergreen standing in the home’s entrance, with the spiraled staircase wrapping around it.

“It takes an Army to get it in,” Butler laughed. “It takes about six people to get it in the door. It’s in a stand, but it’s tied at multiple points to hold her up. … A lot of people don’t have Christmas trees, and my whole thing is that, here, you get to enjoy Christmas.”

For Butler, decorating for Christmas is almost as civic duty, one he hopes others will embrace as well.

“I really hope that more people decorate for Christmas this year. Put out some lights out. People come to Washington to drive down our streets and see how beautiful our town is. They literally drive to Washington to drive through downtown, through our neighborhoods, Christmas is the time we should be putting our best foot forward,” Butler said.

COASTAL CHRISTMAS: Each Elmwood 1820 room is decorated with a unique Christmas theme, in addition to seven Christmas trees. (Vail Stewart Rumley/Daily News)

Visitors to Saturday night’s event will get to enjoy Elmwood’s Christmas décor — each room has a different theme. In the front parlor, it’s a coastal Christmas; the bar room next door is the Nutcracker suite; the dining room, a more traditional greenery and silver-studded elegance.

Those visitors will also get to enjoy a performance by musicians in town for another event entirely: First Presbyterian Church of Washington’s Sunday night performance of “Lessons and Carols.” Butler offered accommodations at Elmwood in exchange for a Saturday night big-band-style Christmas concert.

“We really do want to start having more fundraisers here, and it just seemed like a shame to have those guys be here, be in town, and not take advantage of the opportunity,” Butler said. “It’s going to be low-key on Saturday, 6 to 8 (p.m.), no dress code, totally like a living room performance. And I love that. Even if 20 people show up to raise a glass, hear good music and contribute $50 each, that’s $1,000. And that helps cover insurance for a building for Open Door Community Center; it helps cover closing-cost fees when they find the right building. They need to be able to act — when they find the right place, the right building, they need to be financially poised to jump on that.”

TRADITIONS: Greenery splashed with silver ornaments make a simple and traditional splash in the homes dining room. (Vail Stewart Rumley/Daily News)

Open Door Community Center, once established, will be the first and only women’s and children’s homeless shelter in Beaufort County. While Zion Shelter and Kitchen serves men only and Ruth’s House houses domestic violence victims, the closest women’s and children’s shelter is in Greenville.

Butler said the event is casual — there will be some beverages, but people are welcome to bring their own. He said he hopes this is the first of many such fundraisers. To him, it only makes sense to use the historic venue for such endeavors, especially at this time of year.

“That’s what Christmas is supposed to be about, caring for your fellow man. It’s not giving for yourself as much as giving up yourself,” Butler said.