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Christmas luncheon set at Bellevue

Historic home readies for holiday season

By Tyler H. Jones

tjones@civitasmedia.com

Valerie Cardwell, a caretaker at Bellevue, shows a painting of the home’s first owner, U.S. Sen. Ben Hill.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/12/web1_Bellevue02WEB1.jpgValerie Cardwell, a caretaker at Bellevue, shows a painting of the home’s first owner, U.S. Sen. Ben Hill.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Valerie Cardwell, a caretaker at Bellevue, motions toward a Victorian-era box grand piano on display at Bellevue, the historic home of U.S. Sen. Ben Hill.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/12/web1_Bellevue03WEB1.jpgValerie Cardwell, a caretaker at Bellevue, motions toward a Victorian-era box grand piano on display at Bellevue, the historic home of U.S. Sen. Ben Hill.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Kathren Fogg, a member of the LaGrange Woman’s Club, adjusts a Christmas decoration on a table at Bellevue, historic home of U.S. Sen. Ben Hill, on Friday.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/12/web1_Bellevue01WEB1.jpgKathren Fogg, a member of the LaGrange Woman’s Club, adjusts a Christmas decoration on a table at Bellevue, historic home of U.S. Sen. Ben Hill, on Friday.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

LaGRANGE — The LaGrange Woman’s Club is scheduled to host a Christmas Tea event at Bellevue, the historic home of U.S. Sen. Benjamin Harvey Hill, on Dec. 13.

The luncheon will feature foods and teas from the period in which the home was built and will offer attendees an opportunity to experience the household through the lens of the Victorian era, said Kathren Fogg of the Woman’s Club.

“We try to do this annually but we didn’t do it at Christmas time last year,” Fogg said. “This year, we’ll have sandwiches and several types of teas for people to try.”

Four different types of sweet cookies will be on hand, as well as four different sandwiches including cucumber and salmon, Fogg added. Teas will include Earl Gray and Christmas-blend.

Those that attend the luncheon will also be treated to authentic, period-style Christmas decorations that adorn the home, many of which are live centerpieces crafted by the Pine Needle Garden Club. Boxwood, cedar and smilax, which is a type of vine found locally, are all used in the displays.

“We used to put Smilax up in my aunt’s house when I was a child,” Fogg remarked. “It was my job to intertwine the vine through the banister of her staircase.”

Other than the handcrafted Christmas displays, luncheon-goers will be able to view the unique features and fixtures of LaGrange’s only entry on the National Register of Historic Places. The house was built in the mid-1850s and was occupied by Hill and his family until it was sold to the McLendon family in 1879. By the late 1930s, the house had been mortgaged and eventually was repossessed by the bank. The Fuller E. Callaway Foundation purchased the home in the early 1940s and donated it to the LaGrange Woman’s Club in 1942. It has been renovated twice, most substantially in the mid-1970s.

Many of the ornate architectural details are original, including the hand-carved, elaborate trim work above the home’s doorways, according to Valerie Cardwell, who serves as the home’s live-in caretaker with her husband, Freddie.

“They had to take special care when they put in the fire suppression system,” Cardwell explained. “They actually had to go around a lot of the trim.”

Although visitors may not realize it when they drive to Bellevue, but the home actually sits at the crest of a high hill, giving it a “belle” of a view — hence the home’s name — from the upper stories, Cardwell said.

“(Hill) would actually take his guests to the roof of the home and sit up there,” she said. “Many of his guests remarked how beautiful the view was, and that’s how the home got its name.”

The view from the roof is closed to visitors today, but there’s plenty to see at the home, regardless.

For more information or to make reservations for the luncheon, call Bellevue at 706-884-1832. Tickets to the luncheon are $20, payable at the door. Bellevue is located at 204 Ben Hill Street.

Tyler H. Jones is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.