BLUEFIELD, Va. — Lov-ers of history, architecture, design and hospitality are in for a treat on Saturday, Dec. 10, as four Bluefield, Va., families, a business and the Graham Historical Society will open their doors for the inaugural Christmas Home Tour of Bluefield, Va., homes.

The public will be able to tour the historic homes from 1 p.m.-6 p.m., including the Ammar House, 1 Rivermont Drive; the Webb House at 126 Franklin Street; Graham Manor on Thayer Street; the Sanders House on Sanders Lane; the Neel-Rich Home at 710 Fincastle Lane; and the Dudley Home at 1721 Virginia Avenue.

Jim and Kay Dudley will be entertaining guests in the residence that has been a home to seven generations of the Dudley family since 1890, just seven years after the 1883 founding of Bluefield — then known as Graham, Va. James F. Dudley built the home, and the family has remained in West Graham for 115 years.

“We lived in Richmond, Va., two years while Jim was in law school,” Kay Dudley said. “His mother was ill when we came back to town, and we lived in an apartment on the second floor. She passed on about eight months after we got back here. Some time later, we took the kitchen out of the second floor and returned it to one house.”

James F. Dudley’s father, Hugh, moved in with his son shortly after the home was built and lived there until his passing in 1911. The West Graham home is called the “Jas Dudley Reservation” on the original map of the West Graham Improvement Company dated 1892.

Since Jim and Kay Dudley lived in the home, the ent-rance has been from Virginia Avenue, but the home originally faced the Norfolk South-ern railroad line and Tazewell Avenue. “The bay windows face Tazewell Avenue, but that’s the back of the house now,” Kay Dudley said.

With the Oct. 10, 2005, birth of Jim and Kay’s twin grandchildren, David Wesley Dudley and Kaylee Bell Dudley — the son and daughter of Brenda and Bill Dudley — the family has been in the same home for seven generations.

“We’re going to have some munchy things for people,” Kay Dudley said of the upcoming tour. “It’s a fabulous place.”

Tickets to the home tour are $10 each with the proceeds benefiting the Graham Historical Society and its Sanders House project. The Sanders House itself is another of the featured locations. The Sanders family began construction on the house in 1894. The bricks were made on site, and limestone for the base of the house came from the farm.

Walter M. Sanders, his wife Vicie and two children moved into the house in 1896, and the family resided there continuously until 1957 when Walter M. Sanders II sold the home to Leatherwoods Farm Inc. Wyatt Development Co. donated the house and land to the Graham Historical Society in 2000, and in 2003, Tazewell County opened a visitor’s center in the Rosy Trigg house on the property.

The oldest home on the tour is the Neel-Rich home at 710 Fincastle Lane. John L. Neel purchased the property where the home is located in 1870, and the two-story brick house was completed in 1876. Because the railroad didn’t come through Bluefield until 1882, the materials purchased for the construction of the home were carried through the mountains from Lynchburg, Va., on wagons.

William Neel, son of John L. Neel, made several improvements to the home, including the addition of two second-story bedrooms. When Willi-am’s daughter, Martha Lou, married M.E. Rich in 1945, the family dug a basement at the home and installed central heat and a bathroom.

Ervin Rich and his wife moved into the home, and their son Bill and his wife Karen now live in the home.

The Webb home at 126 Franklin Street was built by W.B. and Margaret Morton, who owned a clothing and shoe store in Bluefield, but was acquired on Aug. 28, 1928, by J. Powell Royal Sr. after the Morton’s declared bankruptcy. The property was later purchased by Mr. and Mrs. A.A. Wallace in 1943 and changed hands two more times before the present owners, Dan and Janeen Webb, purchased it.

Arthur Morton, grandson of W.B. Morton, visited the Webbs in August 2004 and told them his grandfather lost his store the same time he lost the home. Perhaps ironically, a granddaughter of A.A. Wallace, the home’s third owner, visited the Webbs about 45 minutes after Arthur Morton’s visit.

The Graham Manor is another stop on the six-site tour. The building was erected in 1925 as Tazewell County High School to serve African-American public school students from Tazewell and surrounding counties. The first graduating class only had four members, but by 1948, the school’s enrollment reached 146 students with five teachers.

The school was integrated in 1965-66 and served as a junior high school. After it was closed, the building was donated to the Cumberland Plateau Regional Housing Authority in 1984 and converted into housing for the elderly. The building had a $1.3 million upgrade in 1994, transforming it into the comfortable facility that it is today.

Debbie Ammar said she is proud to open her home to visitors to support a worthy cause — the Graham Historical Society. “I hope they do well in this fund raiser,” Ammar said. “I’ll be giving away boxes of cookies to all the guests who come to the house.”

The Ammar house, thought to be the oldest house in Bluefield, Va., is located at 1 Rivermont Drive. It was built by the Benbows family and has been occupied by the Banes, Gillespies and Andes family before the Ammars acquired it.

“It has been fun getting ready for the tour even with all the cleaning and decorating,” Ammar said. “There is a lot of history in this house.”

Ammar said she is anxious to share her favorite stories about the house with the guests who come. “I have done lots of remodeling with the home since I’ve been here,” she said. “I’m anxious to hear what people think of the place.”

Tickets for the tour are available at the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce, Goo-dykoontz Pharmacy, New Gra-ham Pharmacy, Leslie Ann Shop, Paper and More, the Corner Chair and the Sanders House Visitors Center. Free bus service will be available for ticket holders at the Twin City Shopping Center, or ticket holders can drive to the tour sites by themselves using free maps provided when tickets are purchased.

Graham Historical Society members who have worked on the project include co-chairs Eva Saunders and Barbara Bates, Betty Corte, Pam and Jack Brewster, Margaret Ratcliff, Norma Davis, Deloris Pritchett, Eugenia Hancock, Jacque Oblinger and Robert Perry.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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