TUSCUMBIA — Belle Mont mansion is a sprawling house, which was fortunate Sunday because it needed the room for the large crowd that filled it during the annual "A Plantation Christmas" event.
"We've got a big crowd," Director Ninon Parker said as she welcomed guests at the front entrance during the unusually warm December day. "This weather is wonderful."
The open house featured tours of the mansion, period music and dance performances. It also featured a huge live Christmas tree adorned with some 300 paper ornaments made by Glenn Rikard.
Close inspection of the ornaments revealed there were figures in many of them, including depictions of drummers drumming, ladies dancing and other aspects of the song "The 12 Days of Christmas." Other ornaments included individual letters of the alphabet, with every letter represented on the tree.
Rikard said it takes about 15 minutes to create an ornament. That includes folding, cutting and opening it.
"The trick is all in the folding," he said.
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.
Stephanie Baker, one of the tour guides, pointed out Mitchell's medicine bag among the displays. There was an interesting set of labels among the medicine, including arsenic, opium and mercury.
The home's architecture is the most notable feature of the home — classicism influenced by Thomas Jefferson.
The Colbert County Historical Landmarks Foundation hosts the annual event to benefit Belle Mont and local preservation efforts.
Tours remain available through Dec. 10 for groups of 10 or more. Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
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.