Halfway up the hill of Summit Street, West End Holiday Home Tour volunteers Kevin and Victoria Goral were looking forward to the 2018 holiday event after months of planning, but news of a severe snowstorm threatened to derail plans.
The Gorals live in one of the historic district’s oldest homes — the 1893 Pegram-Apperson House — a transitional Queen Anne/Revival–style dwelling that originally had a wrap around porch. Because of the home’s history, it was slated for participation in the Holiday Home Tour.
But with news of snow on the way, Victoria did what any former Michiganian would’ve done: She sent her husband to the store to buy a sled. In a neighborhood well-known for some of the city’s steepest streets, Victoria imagined the sledding would be epic.
By the time St. Paul’s parishioners spilled out of their pews on Sunday, the Holiday Home Tour waved the proverbial white flag, and Victoria took to the hill for some sledding.
Rosy-cheeked from her morning of downhill derring-do, Victoria put her Flexible Flyer sled up on the porch and decided the neighborhood needed a good old-fashioned “snow party” like the ones she remembered in Michigan.
With the house decorated and their traditional holiday baking well on its way — and the Holiday Home Tour no longer on the day’s agenda — the Gorals invited their neighbors to join them in their home for some merry making.
As the house filled with the fragrance of butternut balls and raspberry jamborees, Victoria noticed her snowbound guests were a little slow in responding to her earlier summons, so she sent a second, more spirited text.
Fellow West Ender Marji Shore knew it was time to go.
“Everyone knows you don’t say ‘no’ to the West End social director,” she says with a smile.
Less than an hour later, the grand entry hall of the Gorals’ stately home was littered with winter clothes — piles of snow boots, toboggans, mittens, and earmuffs. The cluttered hall brought myriad childhood memories of Christmases past, and of growing up in their large families up north.
“It was a déjà vu moment,” says Victoria, who continues to be warmed by the memory.
It was Victoria — a former Reynolds American executive — who envisioned what the tired old Queen Anne could become under her husband’s skilled direction. Kevin, who cut his teeth as a contractor remodeling turn-of-the-century houses for GM executives back in Detroit, would bring an attention to detail that would prove invaluable in making Victoria’s vision a reality.
Case in point: when the Gorals applied to the Forsyth County Historic Resources Commission with the help of architect Jeff Sowers to add a carriage house to the property, Kevin hand-cut 550 cedar-shake shingles to match the existing scalloped, fish-scale siding on the house.
Cozy in the Goral’s well-appointed kitchen, and donned in their gay apparel, the West Enders gathered to poke fun at a loaf of candied fruits and raisins that had mysteriously appeared among the holiday treats. It was a scene — now but a Christmas memory — joyously shared by northerners and southerners alike.
The Goral’s kitchen is just one of the spaces Kevin and his crew completely gutted and remodeled. (The other is the master suite and adjoining bathroom.) Outfitted with the latest appliances, the heart of the house comfortably fit the two dozen neighbors in attendance that evening.
As the party wound down and guests bundled up, put on their snow boots, and bid their hosts goodbye, a common wish was shared by all: that school and work might be cancelled the following morning.
A year later, the Gorals, who continue to think of themselves more as “caretakers” than homeowners, have added a crackling wood fire to their growing list of holiday accouterments, one of three original coal burning fireplaces recently made operational.
With homes clustered together on the hills of West End, getting together with neighbors and sharing the spirit of the season continues to be a thing. When it comes to the act of gift-giving, though, West Enders politely request you keep the fruitcake to yourself.