Saturday , 26 May 2018

40th Annual Tour of Holiday Homes Provides Festive Glimpse Into History

UPDATE: The 40th Annual Holiday Tour of Homes is still on for this weekend. Tour hours will be noon-5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. The two homes on Parker Street that were scheduled for the tour will not be available due to power outages and tree damage. The remaining five tour homes and three houses at Chestnut Square will be open and ready to welcome guests at noon on Saturday and Sunday. The Holiday Bazaar will also be open from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday in the Bevel House at Chestnut Square, 405 S. Chestnut St. Please drive and walk carefully on the tour due to icing!

If you choose not to attend the tour due to weather, please send an email indicating that you would like a refumd.  The refund policy is:

Refund to credit card through Eventbrite:  50% of purchase. Email by Wednesday, Dec. 11. Full credit may be used for 2014 events at Chestnut Square.  Please request credit via email to by Friday, Dec. 13.


As rain and sleet turn McKinney into a winter wonderland, volunteers at the Collin County Heritage Guild are busy elves. They are assisting homeowners with last-minute decorations and making certain that there are no details left to chance, as they prepare for the 40th annual Holiday Tour of Homes set for this weekend.

The tour originated 40 years ago as a concept to raise funds for the preservation of McKinney’s rich history. It features five residences, plus several three historic homes in historic Chestnut Square, dressed in holiday style.

The stately Kirkpatrick-Crum House is of particular interest this year. It was built from 199-1901 and sits on 20 acres within the city limits. This home is particularly significant because it is the family home of one of the founders of the Collin County Heritage Guild, Martha Schubert. Schubert was one of a small group of women who planned the first Heritage Guild project back in 1973 — the Holiday Tour of Homes. That first tour of homes was enormously successful. And 40 years later, the tradition continues — not only as a fundraiser for the Guild, but as a celebration of history.

It is known as Thistle Farm, presumably due to the fact that all of its residents are of Scottish decent. The thistle is the emblem of Scotland. The home is now occupied by Martha’s son Jay Crum and his wife Betsy.

Jay, who grew up in the Queen Anne style home at 903 Parker Street, brought Betsy and their two sons home to McKinney in 1985, following his retirement. A journalist who held positions with Newsweek and CBS, Crum and his family had spent a number of years living in other parts of the country, including San Francisco, Chicago and New York.

“I always knew we would return to McKinney. Mother was living here (in the family home) by herself, so we came back to the house and moved in with her,” Jay  said.

What made the Crums agree to open their home to the public for the tour of homes?  “Edna (Brown) and Cindy (Johnson) are hard to say no to,” Jay said smiling.

(From left) Jay and Betsy Crum with Heritage Guild Executive Director Cindy Johnson and home tour co-organizer Edna Brown
(From left) Jay and Betsy Crum with Heritage Guild Executive Director Cindy Johnson and home tour co-organizer Edna Brown

Betsy chimed in, ” Because it’s the 40th year, we decided to do it; and besides, participating would make us clean it (the home) up,” she added with a laugh. “A lot of this (furnishings inside the home) is his (Jay’s) mother’s. This house isn’t a renovation. It’s been lived in by the same family, and much of what you see  is original,” Betsy said, pointing to the example of the swooning couch. “The dining room table is original and most of the light fixtures are original.”

“This farm has been lived on for 115 years,” Jay said. “We haven’t renovated it. My mother did have electricity installed. There is no central air or heat because we would have to punch holes in the house and change it. I think it’s sort of important to see how it was to live in those days. If it was 105 (degrees), you opened the windows. That’s how it was.”

Jay said that his family ancestors were traditional and history oriented. According to him, his grandmother began instilling a love of history with the family. “It started with my grandmother,” he said. “She and my mother were concerned about the big old Queen Anne and Victorians homes being destroyed. They wanted to save them. They were Heritage Guild enthusiasts, to say the least.”

Betsy described her mother-in-law as “stylish” and a “wonderful woman.” Schubert, who was divorced and remarried, put herself through school and became a teacher and went on to obtain a degree in psychology and become a counselor. She played an active role in the community and loved to entertain.


The original dining room table at Thistle Farm
The original dining room table at Thistle Farm

Executive Director of the Collin County Heritage Guild Cindy Johnson is delighted to have Thistle Farm as part of this year’s home tour.

“Because this is the 40th anniversary of the Tour of Holiday Homes, I think it’s important that we recognize the founders,” Johnson said. “Martha Schubert and Margaret Hughston had the most skin in the game, mortgaging their homes to help fund the  purchase of the first two homes, which are now part of Chestnut Square. The structure was put into play by these ladies.”

Schubert passed away in 2003, but her passion for preserving McKinney’s history lingers on through her son and daughter-in-law and through the hundreds of volunteers who make up the Collin County Heritage Guild.

As a few thousand people traipse through this and other magnificent homes this weekend, oohing and aahing over the intricate woodwork and beautiful furnishings and admiring the festive Christmas decorations, they will perhaps be temporarily transported back in and be given a glimpse of history. Hopefully, they will also remember the significant contribution that the Crum family, particularly Martha Schubert, has made to McKinney.

Photos by TSB’s Sawyer Erickson

Tickets are $20 and may be purchased at any of the homes included in the tour. Tickets may also be purchased online ($15 if purchased in advance). For more details, please visit

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