BRAMWELL, W.Va. -- The Christmas season starts early when you have a 22,300-light outdoor display to set up and illuminate, and a three-story, antique-filled Victorian home to adorn with 24 decorated trees, assorted evergreen garlands and other festive holiday season trappings.
But Bramwell residents Robert Davis and Aaron Isbell, and Davis' daughters, Brooklyn and Raven, were up to the challenge.
"We started the last week of October and finished sometime after midnight last night," Isbell said on Wednesday.
Their 1903-vintage home, built by one of a number of millionaires who lived in this Mercer County town in the early 20th century, is among five residences to be featured in Saturday's Bramwell Christmas Tour of Homes, sponsored by the Bramwell Theater Corp.
Davis said he developed his enthusiasm for Christmas decorating while growing up in nearby Giles County, Va.
"I started this when I was a kid, doing my grandma's farmhouse, and now that I have a place of my own, I'm continuing it," he said.
The object of Davis and Isbell's Christmas decorating spirit is the home built by former state Sen. E.S. Baker, who came to Bramwell in 1895 to serve as principal of the town's new public grade school. Baker later became a cashier for, and officer of, the Bank of Bramwell, and earned his fortune through a series of shrewd investments in companies related to the coal and coke industries.
The Bakers' daughter, Mabel, became a lifelong friend of Mary Lee Eppling, the daughter of a Welch dentist, who went on to marry first Huntington Hartford II, the heir to the A&P supermarket fortune, and then actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
The two friends, both buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in nearby Bluewell, "were close in both life and death," said Bramwell Mayor Louise Stoker.
Nestled in a narrow valley formed by a horseshoe bend of the Bluestone River, Bramwell, incorporated in 1888, soon became a tranquil residential haven for mine operators and owners doing business in the adjacent mineral-rich Pocahontas Coalfield.
Named after the town's first postmaster, Joseph H. Bramwell, the community flourished during the closing years of the 1800s and the opening decades of the 20th century. At that time, the Bank of Bramwell was the financial center for southern West Virginia, and 14 trains stopped daily at the town's Norfolk & Western depot.