TUSCUMBIA — For many people, "A Plantation Christmas" signifies the beginning of the season.

It has for nearly four decades.

Belle Mont mansion, located at 1569 Cook Lane off U.S. 43 south in Tuscumbia, will be adorned in fresh greenery, fruit and other 19th century decor for the annual celebration scheduled for 1-5 p.m. Sunday. 

The traditional open house will feature tours of the mansion, period music and dance performances.

Shuttle service will be available from the roadside and nearby field.

Director Ninon Parker said musical entertainment includes period instruments such as recorders (early flutes), hammered dulcimers, and the melodeon, which is a parlor pump organ.

"The music and instruments, costumes and traditional dance just add to the authenticity of the event," Parker said.

"The fresh, live greenery is beautiful and will be up for tours through Dec. 10 for people who can't make the plantation event but want to see the beautifully decorated home."

Special groups of 10 or more can book a tour any day of the week through Dec. 10. Regular hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

Jim Pitts, who is retired from the Alabama Historical Commission and is a former longtime tour guide at Belle Mont, continues to volunteer with special events such as "A Plantation Christmas."

"I've been making wreaths since 2001, mainly for outside decoration, and it's all local greenery," he said. "This event really springs everyone into the holiday season. The freshness of everything just sets the stage perfectly for an old-fashioned Christmas."

The home has been owned by the Alabama Historical Commission since 1983. Furnishings are period antiques, many from the Winston family that owned it for a century.

Belle Mont was donated to the Alabama Historical Commission in 1983 by members of the Fennel and Preuit families of Leighton, who owned the home at that time.

Belle Mont was built in 1828 for Dr. Alexander Mitchell, but was sold in 1833 to Isaac and Catherine Winston, who owned and occupied it, along with their heirs, for about a century. 

The architecture is the most notable feature of the home — classicism influenced by Thomas Jefferson.

Refreshments will be served at Sunday's event, which is sponsored by the Colbert County Historical Landmarks Foundation to benefit Belle Mont and local preservation efforts.

Admission is $8 for adults; $4 for children 6-12, and children younger than 6 are admitted free. 

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