Tour brings us home for the holidays

The ghost of Christmas past – near and distant past – hovered over Hancock County on Saturday, encouraging visitors to check out richly decorated homes from Weirton to Chester.

The fourth-annual Hancock County Arts Council Holiday Tour featured everything from a New Cumberland home pre-dating West Virginia’s statehood to the former home of Hancock County Justice of the Peace John D. Herron.

The latter, now owned by Herron’s daughter, Tamara Pettit, attracted a steady stream of visitors, who admired the restored hardwood floors, the redesigned marble fireplace, the enlarged master suite and the modern kitchen, complete with pass-through bar and granite countertop.

“I lived here growing up,” said Pettit, who, upon moving back in 2009, initiated extensive interior and exterior renovations.

Pettit’s childhood memories include the work of her father – a former justice of the peace, county coroner and New Cumberland city judge – in his basement office. She pointed out a heating vent that allowed sound to travel up to her bedroom as Herron dealt with the county’s malefactors all hours of the day.

“They would come to the house in the middle of the night. I used to lay on the floor and listen. It was an interesting way to grow up,” said Pettit, who served in the West Virginia House of Delegates from 1989 to 2000.

Three generations of Herrons have lived in the tri-level house, located at 2263 Veterans Blvd., since it was built in 1953, she said. On Saturday, Pettit, in addition to giving tours, spoke with pride of her father’s legacy, including a lengthy Life magazine profile dated July 7, 1972.

The home tour also featured the Alan and Peggy Rocchio Lee home, 800 Ridge Ave., New Cumberland, which pre-dates the Herron home by about 100 years. Records for the Federal-style home date back to 1855, and the house was built from bricks made on the premises, according to the Hancock County Arts Council.

“I like to remind people that this house was built before electricity, running water or modern plumbing,” Peggy Lee said.

The Lees bought the home, which overlooks the Ohio River, in July 2011 as a place to retire, she said. Since then, the couple has made improvements in the way of interior and exterior paint and landscaping.

On Saturday, the four-bedroom house was decorated with Christmas trees to reflect a different era in each room. Lee, who remembers the house from growing up in New Cumberland, gave tours and sent visitors on their way with a gift bag and a Christmas card.

Among the Chester homes featured was the Jim and Susan McGillian home at 848 Neptune Ave. Another Ohio River home, the McGillian house was built in 1925 and is known to many locals as the former home of William and Lela Werkheiser, of Werkheiser Hardware.

The McGillians have lived in the home since 1988.

Susan McGillian had the house decorated with eight Christmas trees of all sizes. The home has original wood floors, a sun porch and a living room featuring French doors.

According to the home tour brochure, “The brick on the house was shipped from California. It is self-cleaning brick, which gives the home a nice shine when it rains.”

Jim McGillian stood on the front porch Saturday dressed as Santa Claus and greeted guests with a tray of chocolates. McGillian said he especially appreciates the “peaceful, scenic view” of the Ohio River and the home’s woodwork.

“I’ve bent many a nail trying to pound nails into the studs because they’re oak studs. It’s much easier to use a drill,” he said.

Proceeds from the home tour will benefit the Hancock County Arts Council, the Chester Arts Club, the Women’s Club of New Cumberland, and the Weirton Woman’s Club.

(Huba can be contacted at