This is the 25th year that the non-profit Historic Hollidaysburg, Inc., has sponsored holiday tours of old homes and other notable places in the borough.
But this year, visitors will get an extra gift, with a stop on the annual Candlelight Christmas Tour at a former bed and breakfast once owned by a well-known local resident who passed away several years ago. The house stood empty for years before a husband and wife, one of whom is from the area, bought it and completely remodeled the home.
The tour will also feature another historic building on the property, owned by Dan and Toni Kroko.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
The living room of Dan and Toni Kroko of Hollidaysburg sports Christmas decorations. The couple’s house will be featured on the upcoming Candlelight Christmas Tour.
The Krokos bought the property at 414 and 418 Montgomery St. in 2005 because Toni Kroko's parents needed an apartment to live in, she said. The bed and breakfast, that was once operated at 418 Montgomery St. by former owner Barbara Hoenstine, had been there for many years and hosted a variety of travelers in its three bedrooms, the couple said. In the third-floor apartment, visiting judges hearing cases at the nearby courthouse often stayed, they were told.
But after Hoenstine's death, the house, which was built in 1839, stood vacant and fell into disrepair. The once-grand home was in very poor shape, according to the couple, with gaping holes in the ceilings, falling plaster on the walls and other major structural problems.
But when the Krokos, who were living in Charleston, S.C., at the time, first saw it on a visit back to the area, they were far from dismayed.
If you go
What: Candlelight Christmas Tour
When: 3 to 7 p.m. Dec. 2.
Tickets are $10 each, available now through the day of the tour at The Antique Depot in Duncansville, Stuff Unique Antiques in Gaysport, Kevin Charles in Hollidaysburg and the Mad Lion Gallery in Altoona.
For more information, call Historic Hollidaysburg at 696-0313.
"We could see what we were would be dealing with, but we could also see the potential,'' Dan Kroko said.
The property includes a Federal-style home that included two rooms downstairs and two upstairs. Dr. Joseph Landis, who was one of the home's six owners, expanded the home by including an addition with stained glass windows throughout the house.
Dan Kroko did almost all of the renovation work himself - pulling up carpet and sanding the pine floors. He also stripped wallpaper in some rooms and uncovered brick walls, which the couple has chosen to leave uncovered in some areas. Kroko also installed bathrooms in the three bedrooms.
Prior to that, guests in the three rooms had to share one bathroom.
Dan Kroko is an artist. He ran his own graphic design business in South?Carolina. A native of Sharon, his unique art pieces are scattered throughout the house.
They're most visible across an enclosed courtyard by what is called the library, another stop on the tour. Once home to the Blair County Genealogical Society, the building is now serving as the Krokos' home. Dan Kroko has renovated it with recycled items he finds. An old bookcase is now part of a staircase, a 10-speed bike is upside down, serving as a ceiling fan, and nearby, he has made lava lamps out of seltzer bottles.
"I just come up with crazy stuff,'' joked Dan Kroko about his artwork.
He would like to open a shop to sell his creations in the livery stable, also part of the property the couple owns. Currently, the stable is rented for parking spaces.
The Krokos plan to open their home as a bed and breakfast in January and call it the Mimosa Courtyard Inn, to honor the mimosa tree that stands in the courtyard. They also want to host special events.
All through the house are signs of former owners, from marks where the original walls ended to long beams in the bricks in the library walls that show where Dr. Landis took out his carriage to start his rounds to see patients. The Krokos wanted to pay homage to Hoenstine, who loved unicorns, by placing a statue of a unicorn in the front parlor.
It's their way of saying thank you, the couple said.
"This house was sort of a gift to us from Barbara," Toni Kroko said.