After 25 years of top-to-bottom renovations, Bill and Sheila Stock are ready to enjoy their first Christmas as residents of the 1896 home on South Jackson Street in Belleville.
"It's our first time to decorate (for the holidays) here," said Sheila as she stood in the foyer of the 5,000-square-foot house they bought in 1987, but didn't move into until last year.
It is one of seven Belleville homes that will be open from 2 to 6 p.m. Dec. 9 during the 19th Candlelight House Tour, a fundraiser for the St. Clair County Historical Society. For the first time, a shuttle bus will be available at Union School to take visitors to four homes on Woodland Court, a cul-de- sac off North 28th Street with limited parking.
The Stocks saw the grand brick home for what it could be, they said. It was built by Frank Snyder, one of the founders of the Snyder-Baker Stove Co. (now Empire Comfort Systems). "We wanted to restore it back to its heyday," Sheila said. The couple lived in their home on South Douglas Street while they and many experts set about updating and renovating it.
"It was a complete gut," said Sheila. "It didn't start out that way."
It took eight years just to remove all the wood, strip it of its many layers of paint, refinish it with a "high varnish to look Victorian" and put it back.
All the radiators were removed, sandblasted, repainted and put back in working order. They keep the home toasty warm, said the Stocks.
It took several years to find someone willing to refinish the wood floors. The flooring was down to a thin layer, said Bill.
"Everybody who came in and looked at them said it couldn't be done," he said. They credit Tom Schreier for taking on the job and restoring them. The Stocks said they didn't want perfect floors, so small gaps remain.
Antique collectors, they set about installing authentic period chandeliers and lights in nearly all the rooms.
"I spent 15 years looking for three identical lights" for the upstairs hallway, Sheila said.
Bill, 68, is retired. His work on the house included doing drywall, installing molding, rebuilding and retiling fireplaces and shoring up the frames for the pocket doors. He owned Braun Auto Body in Swansea. Sheila, 65, worked for him and retired in January. She searched for wallpaper, paint, light fixtures and fabric.
"This is the last house" we will live in, Bill said as he stood in the front parlor, the first room finished in the house. "It was an unbelievable undertaking."
And while the home includes the many trappings of the Victorian era, from the massive swagged draperies custom made by Ann Smith, to a variety of stained-glass windows, there is whimsy as well.
Vintage hats and umbrellas decorate an antique hall stand by the main staircase.
In the kitchen is a working phone booth.
"We found it in Alton," said Sheila. "We built the kitchen around it."
Next to the rear staircase in the kitchen are two vintage school chalkboards on which Sheila writes her menus for holiday get-togethers. Their four grandchildren (and another on the way) enjoy using them as well.
Above a set of kitchen cabinets that hold antique cannister sets is the copper-tipped propeller from Bill's grandfather's plane.
A family room and eating area, as well as a bathroom, pantry and laundry room, were added to the back of the house in 1990. The addition boasts a massive triptych of arched leaded-glass windows from St. Paul's Church in Belleville. In 2008, a veranda was built off the back of the house. An in-ground swimming pool went in this year.
Yet, despite all the years and work on the house at 612 S. Jackson St., there is still a bit to be done, said Sheila.
"The basement and the wine cellar downstairs aren't finished yet."
Other homes on the tour:
316 N. Oak St. -- 1906 home of artists Tom Haniszewski and Paula McAteer.
402 Abend St. -- Italianate-style 1880 home of Wes and Kaley Bergkoetter.
8 Woodland Court -- 1941 brick, stone and sided home owned by the Rousseau family.
14 Woodland Court -- Scott Ferguson is just the third owner of this cottage built in 1940.
15 Woodland Court -- 1946 Cape Cod home of Craig and Kathy Liddy.
17 Woodland Court -- Designed by reknowned Belleville architect Charles King, this contemporary 1951 home is owned by Tom and Sandi Peters.
Candlelight House Tour
What: Tour of seven homes in Belleville.
When: 2-6 p.m. Dec. 9
Where: Booklet (to be shown at each house) and map must be picked up at Philharmonic Hall, 116 N. Jackson St.
Tickets: $12 in advance or $15 day of tour only at Philharmonic Hall, 116 N. Jackson St. Purchase in advance in Belleville at Cheesekeeper, The Abbey and Vineyard, both in the Arcades Shopping Center, 6500 W, Main St.; Grimm & Gorly Florists, 324 E. Main St.; Dill's Floral Haven, 258 Lebanon Ave.; Sandy's Back Porch, 2004 West Blvd.; Peace by Piece Co., 132 W. Main St.; and St. Clair County Historical Society, 701 E. Washington St. In Freeburg at Paper Moon Cards & Gifts, 313 Marketplace Dr. In O'Fallon at The Painted Horse, 225 W. First St.
Information: Historical Society office, 234-0600.
Parking: To tour the four homes on Woodland Court, a shuttle will ferry visitors from the parking lot of Union School, 20 S. 27th St., every 15 minutes. Street parking is very limited on this cul-de-sac and using the shuttle is highly encouraged to limit traffic problems in this neighborhood.