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HOLIDAYS | luminaries

VICTORIAN
Lights

D TEXT BY ROBYN JACKSON


PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY VISIT HATTIESBURG

December would be much darker if not for


the more than 15,000 luminaries that brighten
the Hattiesburg Historic Neighborhood for one
weekend each year.
The 33rd annual Victorian Candlelit Christmas
will be held the evenings of Dec. 12 and 13.
Events include horse-drawn carriage rides,
tours of two historic homes and strolling carol-
ers. Entertainment and refreshments will be at
the Walthall Center.
1930 and include a variety of architectural
styles, from Victorian, Italianate and Greek
Revival to cottage. Residents of more than 400
restored homes line their sidewalks and porch
rails with luminaries - candles inside paper
bags - as well as strings of lights. Some also
include yard displays of lighted figures.
Home tours will be from 5-9 p.m. Saturday
and 2-5 p.m. Sunday. Featured houses will be
the Dunn House Bed and Breakfast, 102 Short
Victorian Candlelit Christmas is a featured Bay St., and Lucius Cottage, 109 Short Bay St.
event of Hattiesburg’s Holidays in the Hub, Tickets are $10, which includes both houses,
which includes a Holiday Art Walk at the gal- and will be available at the doors and in
leries in downtown Hattiesburg. Two trolleys advance at Main Street Books. Entertainment at
will circulate on Saturday, offering free rides the open houses will be provided by members
with stops throughout the downtown and of the Suzuki Strings.
Historic Neighborhood districts. Court Street United Methodist Church, 609
Horse-drawn carriages will offer tours of the Southern Ave., will also host an open house
115-acre neighborhood, located just south of Saturday evening. There will also be activities
downtown, during the event. Tickets are $5 and at Bay Street Presbyterian Church, 202 Short
will be sold only at Walthall Center from dark Bay St. and Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 317
to 9 p.m. both nights. Walnut St., where the church carillon will be
Homes in the neighborhood date from 1884 to played.

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The event began in 1976 as a bicentennial cel-
ebration and a way to showcase the neighbor-
hood and encourage new people to move to the
area, which was undergoing a transition. Many of
the residents then were aging, direct descen-
dants of Hattiesburg’s original settlers who were
still living in their old family homes, which were
falling into disrepair.
Barbara and Harry Ward were instrumental in
starting the Hattiesburg Historic Neighborhood
Association, which sponsors the annual Victorian
Candlelit Christmas events. They bought a house
on Walnut Street in 1975 so that Harry, who was
an art instructor at the University of Southern
Mississippi, could have a studio. The Wards went
door to door, meeting their new neighbors and
drumming up support for the association.
Only a few thousand luminaries were set out
the first year. The votive candles were pur-
chased from Sacred Heart Catholic Church,
which is located in the neighborhood.
“It was probably mainly on Bay Street and
Walnut Street,” said Linda McMurtrey, who sets
out six dozen luminaries around her home on

Williams Street. “People saw the candles being


put out that day and they wanted to join in.
People were amazed at the impact that kind of
display can make.”
Now, candles are ordered four or five months
before the event. Early on Saturday, residents
collect sand from the neighborhood’s central
depository, fill white paper bags with sand and
candles, and set them out on their sidewalks.
They stay lit until the event ends each night.
Victorian Candlelit Christmas has become a
tradition for many Pine Belt families.
“I have people come by now and tell me they
went to it as kids and now they’re bringing
their kids to it,” Ward said. “That’s so heart-
warming.”
Even the residents, who put so much time
and effort into setting out the luminaries and
lighting them each night, still fall under its
spell.

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