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Deborah McCracken and John Russell love old houses, antiques and decorating for Christmas.

So when they received an invitation to be a part of the Albany Visitors Association's 39th annual Christmas Parlour Tour, they didn't hesitate — even though they've been in town only since July.

In fact, they also agreed to join the summer interior tour the same month they arrived.

"We thought, yeah, what an honor," McCracken said.

Added her husband: "And an inspiration to get some things done." 

The 2018 self-guided tour runs from 2 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9. Visitors are invited to go inside six historic homes.

The tour includes several other special historic stops including the 1891 Whitespires Church, where visitors are invited to ring the bell; the 1914 Carnegie Library, which will have its once-a-year fire crackling in the fireplace; and the 1849 Monteith House Museum, which will be lit by oil lamp. Music, refreshments and Father Christmas will be a part of the event.

Tour-goers can walk or take their own transportation, or jump on the vintage trolley or a horse-drawn wagon from Chafin Farms to make their rounds. Rides are included with admission, which is $15 per person. Children under 12 are admitted free with a paid adult.

Tickets are available now at albanyvisitors.com. Tickets also may be purchased starting at 1 p.m. the day of the event at the Albany Visitors Association, 110 Third Ave. SE. Proceeds benefit the Monteith House Museum.

Russell and McCracken moved to Albany from San Jose, California, where both had played for the San Jose Symphony: McCracken played the French horn and Russell, trombone.

They knew they wanted a historic home and Albany fit the bill. But with a week and a half to go before their move-out date, they still hadn't found the right place.

Their real estate agent came through with a recommendation and some pictures of the home at 1186 Ninth Ave. SW. "We actually bought it online without having even seen it," McCracken said.

"That was a leap of faith for us, for sure," Russell said. "I never want to do that again." 

The two are still learning about the home, a doppleganger of a Bungalow-style house next door that was built sometime between 1911 and 1920. "We're hoping the historical society will dig up all that information for us," McCracken said.

Visitors on Sunday will see the couple's favorite spots, including matching "closets" on each side of both of the upstairs bedrooms: tiny hideaways they're using as studios and music practice rooms.

"They're like mini playrooms," McCracken said. "That's a novelty for me." 

Russell's favorite part is the detailed woodwork. "It's a time capsule from another era," he said.

The couple have filled the home with Christmas trees — McCracken counts at least six — and antiques, some purchased and some handed down from Russell's great-grandmother.

One particular feature is the "horn tree," a small Christmas tree decorated in a musical motif as a nod to their careers with the symphony.

The two say they are looking forward to the tour as a good way to meet people, especially people who, like themselves, love older homes. 

Next year, they say they'll be excited to take the tour themselves.

"Who doesn't like to snoop?" McCracken joked. "I hope I get more ideas from other people." 

Said Russell: "Part of the charm of this area is keeping the traditions of the old neighborhoods alive. To be a part of that is a neat legacy." 

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