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Strasburg Holiday Heritage Homes Tour returns this weekend

Portrait photographer Denise Jane Runion stands inside the piano room of her Victorian home at the corner of Sharpe and King Streets in Strasburg. The room features a 1922 baby grand piano and is complemented by the original hardwood floors. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

A child's sleigh, dated in the 1800s, is framed inside this wooden mantel in the parlor of Denise Jane Runion's home in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

A brass door plate has the engraved name of the home's 19th century resident, Miss Francis Jenkins, who was a local educator. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Antique cameras line the parlor mantel. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

This is the Victorian home of portrait photographer Denise Jane Runion at 295 West Queen Street. The home dates to the 1750s. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

By Josette Keelor

Strasburg's biannual Holiday Heritage Homes Tour will roll out the welcome mat this weekend, featuring homes at 262 Sharpe St., 295 W. Queen St. and 117 High St., Mount Pleasant 1812 Bed & Breakfast at 292 Hite Lane and the newly renovated Strasburg Presbyterian Church on South Holliday Street, which will host refreshments.

Each has its share of history, but at Denise Jane Runion's Queen Street home, history has come full circle. The home's original owner in the 1750s was Miss Francis Jenkins, who defied convention by living there alone.

"[It] was really strange for her to live in this big house by herself," Runion said. "It wasn't normal for a woman to take on something like that. So I always thought that was neat."

More than 250 years and a Victorian addition later, Runion now also has the house to herself.

But that's only the half of it. A professional photographer since 2001, Runion said she always wanted an old Victorian house for her studio. Her goal was to find one and move in by the time she turned 30. "And I did it with four months to spare," she said. Now 32, she moved in last year in January and uses many of its rooms as backdrops for shoots.

When visitors come Saturday, they'll not only see the house done up for Christmas but also will tour the photo studio.

The piano room to the right of the home's double door entrance features a Canaan fir tree from Mountain View Farms in Edinburg standing tall beside a 1922 Apollo baby grand piano. Last Saturday, the room hosted Santa Claus during a daylong photo shoot.

Across the hall in a space that used to be for entertaining is the camera room, currently set up as a winter wonderland with snow she made herself.

Last summer she transformed the room into a duck pond with real water and yellow ducklings, "and then at Easter we do live lambs and bunnies and chicks," she said.

On Saturday, fresh garlands will deck the staircase banisters and heirloom family ornaments will trim the fir tree. Atop a mantle that last Christmas decorated the camera room, a collection of family cameras sits as symbols of her dream.

Though Runion credited Central High School photography teacher Rhonda Smith and yearbook advisor Paige Cross with inspiring her toward her career path, she said "my Aunt Annabelle, she always wanted to be a photographer."

Her aunt didn't think she could make a living at it, Runion said. "She did the left-brain thing, you know, became a banker."

The Strasburg Holiday Heritage Homes Tour, presented by the Strasburg Heritage Association in partnership with Massanutten Garden Club, will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Advance tickets are available at the Hotel Strasburg, Peoples Drug Store, First Bank in Strasburg and BB&T in Strasburg. The Strasburg Museum also will be open during that time. Tickets for the tour are $10. For more information, call 540-465-5570.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com

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