This year, candlelight will illuminate the gracious historic homes on the Ramsey Hill House Tour, much like it did a century ago.

"So many home tours are on weekend afternoons. We wanted to offer something fresh," said Jason Patalonis, chair of the event, which is Thursday evening "And the homes look wonderful under the glow of candlelight."

The eight private homes on or near Summit Avenue were built by prominent, affluent St. Paul businessmen in the late 1800s and early 1900s. House buffs can see a medley of architectural styles, including Spanish Colonial Revival, Tudor and Queen Anne, in homes that show the signature characteristics of each style.

Many of the residences have been meticulously restored and preserved by the owners (current and previous), many of whom feel it's their duty to share their houses with the public.

Larry and Mary Haeg want others to admire French architect Emmanuel Masqueray's showpiece staircase in their 1915 Georgian-style brick home. "The staircase is a brilliant piece of work," said Larry. "It feels like it's cascading down to the floor like a river." At the top of the stairs is a grand window with a view of the St. Paul Cathedral, which Masqueray also designed.

The couple bought the 6,000-square-foot home in 2008 from Garrison Keillor and credit Carolyn Andersen, granddaughter of the Andersen Windows founder, as its savior.

"In the early 1980s, she saved the home from deterioration and fully restored it," said Larry. The Haegs discovered how much she spent on the renovation -- $300,000 -- when they added up the invoices found in a box in the basement. "Every square inch was lovingly restored," said Larry.

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619