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Sneak Peek: Annual Holiday House Tour Features Five Marin Homes

The annual holiday home tour in Ross Valley will benefit local and national charities.

When Nancy Farese and her husband, Robert, first moved into their Kentfield home, it instantly felt like a place that should be filled with friends and family, Farese said.

“It has such a lovely graciousness about it,” she said. “We felt that it’s important it becomes a gathering point for our kids and the community.”

The couple moved from San Francisco to Kentfield in 2001 in search of better weather and more space to raise their five children – now ranging from 18 year-old twins to a 26-year-old. 

The Laurel Grove Avenue home has been a on a garden tour, tour of homes and the couple hosted President Barack Obama during his first run for president in April 2008.

Now, it’s one of the five Ross Valley homes built during the last turn of the century that will be featured in the annual Tour de Noël House Tour, hosted by St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ross and set for Saturday, Dec. 8, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"We're happy to use it for these reasons," Farese said. "There's something about the feeling of this house that calls for it. It shouldn't be isolated and tucked away. It should be party of the community and opening and welcoming." 

Participants can walk between the homes in the tour, which organizers say takes around 2 hours to complete. The other four homes in the Tour de Noël are in Ross.

Farese’s home, a Queen Anne Victorian home called the Grand Queen, was rebuilt in 1906 after a fire destroyed the original home, which dates back to 1892 - when Charles Bach, a descendant of Johannes Bach, and his wife, Amelia Emilie Rittmeyer Bach, bought the property and built the house.

In 1946, the Kamphoefner family bought the estate and it became known as the Kamp property.

“It used to be on 13 acres of land and it had a bunch of apple orchards. Now it’s down to 2 acres of land,” Farese said. 

A neighbor who was part of the original Kamp family gave the Fareses information and old photos about the structure’s history. “We feel fortunate to have the insight into the stories and narrative of the house,” Farese said.

Both Farese and her husband, who both have roots in the southeastern part of the U.S., created a lot of indoor-outdoor living space.

They had originally changed the yard to include more grass, a trampoline and play structure for their children, but they have since changed the grounds to include an organic garden and recreate the historic orchard once on the property. The upgrades have reflected their children’s interests as they grew up, Farese said.  

Farese runs the San Francisco-based nonprofit Photo Philanthropy, which connects photographers with non-profit organizations around the world. Her husband does biomedical research at UCSF. 

The Tour de Noël homes will be decorated for the holidays and the event will also feature a holiday boutique at St. John’s church, featuring homemade jam, jellies, chutneys and baked goods. A luncheon with homemade soups and salads is available from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $40 from 9 a.m. to noon and $30 for noon to 4 p.m. There are six reserved time slots between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., with last entry at 3 p.m. Advance purchase is recommended, especially for the morning hours. Buy tickets at the St. John's site here

Proceeds from the holiday tour will benefit local and national charities, including the Gilead House, Mill Street Shelter, Food Drive for the Ritter Center, Rotation Emergency Shelter Team for the Homeless, Seeds of Learning and Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance.

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