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The Roanoke Valley Garden Club is sponsoring "A Trolley Tour in the Mountains of Roanoke" for this year's Roanoke Historic Garden Week.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
The Star Line Trolley, which uses biodiesel-powered buses decked out like old-fashioned trolley cars to ferry passengers around downtown, has been a big hit with Roanokers.
Although most riders are Carilion Clinic employees (the trolley shuttles run between Carilion Roanoke Memorial and downtown Roanoke), Cyndi Fletcher, chairwoman of this year’s Roanoke Historic Garden Week in Virginia tour, said some of her south Roanoke neighbors use them, too .
She was so intrigued by the vehicles, she said, that when she began planning the event, she knew she had to include them.
Saturday’s event is called “A Trolley Tour in the Mountains of Roanoke” and is sponsored by the Roanoke Valley Garden Club and the Mill Mountain Garden Club . Three trolleys will operate on a continuous loop between three of the five houses on the tour, while smaller shuttle buses will serve two homes on Mill Mountain, including Rockledge.
Fletcher said the trolleys are generating a lot of interest outside the Roanoke Valley. “I think it makes us stand out. Nobody else in the state has this.”
Often, Fletcher explained, the event is promoted as a walking tour, but this year, because there is little or no parking at each stop, patrons must board the trolleys and buses at the Ronald McDonald House at 2224 South Jefferson St. None of the sites is wheelchair accessible, she added, and all have stairs.
Rockledge is the only repeat venue this year. Sometimes the houses are a bigger draw than the gardens, but this year, Fletcher said, all of the houses have some form of gardens.
Last year, 783 people took the tour, Fletcher said, and the event generated $15,680, which was donated to the Garden Club of Virginia for restoration of historic gardens across the state. This year, she said, the clubs are projecting attendance at about 1,000. Blocks of hotel rooms reserved for out-of-town attendees are already nearly full.
Lunch (reservations are recommended) will be available at the Ronald McDonald House, which provides no- or low-cost housing for families of hospitalized children. It will be catered by 2nd Helpings Cafe, operated by the Roanoke Rescue Mission.
“I wanted to include as many nonprofits as I could,” Fletcher said. “We’re tickled they’re on board.” The box lunches include a vegetarian option this year .
During the tour, the Roanoke Council of Garden Clubs will hold a plant and garden accessories sale at South Roanoke United Methodist Church, and members will offer short lessons on flower arranging throughout the day.
This is the 80th year the Garden Club of Virginia has sponsored events across the state, Fletcher said. No formal recognition will be held in Roanoke, but the Garden Club of Virginia has provided a case of rose wine to each of its member organizations.
“We’ll celebrate afterward,” Fletcher said. The wine will be featured at a future fundraising event, and “we’ll have something very special planned.”
Besides Rockledge, the other stops along the tour are:
1630 Belleview Ave., Glenn and Vickie Torre
This 1927 Tudor home, known as Tarrylong, was built by insurance agent Charles Lunsford. It has views of the Roanoke River and has just undergone a seven-year renovation.
The kitchen and bathroom have been updated and the gardens feature patios, statues and fountains.
Neighborhood legend has it that during Prohibition, the owners kept a still in the mountainous woods behind the house, complete with a supply line for the finished product to the basement.
2725 Cornwallis Ave., John Chaney and Darcy McGrath
Built in 1968, this Southern colonial revival-style house has been in the family for two generations. A modern renovation includes a four-car garage, an in-law suite and a man cave. It features geothermal heat, and is a certified “green” house. A wisteria arbor graces the back yard.
2706 South Jefferson St. Marylee Burnstein
One of a few examples of Spanish-inspired architecture in the Roanoke Valley.
Built in 1924, it is made of adobe stucco and has a red tiled roof. The patios and dining room floor are also red tile, and the gardens — redesigned in 2011 — include both native and arid landscape plants.
2826 Stephenson Ave. Jack and Marie Webb
Built in 1949, both the interior and the exterior have retained the home’s vintage design.
Inside are antiques and local art, and the outside features a pool and a hot tub. The gardens include an original iron gate and an herb garden off the kitchen.
In the front yard is a hidden putting green, screened from the road by shrubs. There will be putters available for visitors to try it out.
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