Historic home tours have been a draw for years in Hastings, the river city with a collection of carefully preserved dwellings dating back to the late 1800s.

The town garden club has likewise long been offering glimpses of the local greenery with garden tours.

This year, the events will merge on July 11 during “Sanctuaries — Homes, Churches and Gardens” when visitors can tour 19th-century homes and churches as well as gardens in Hastings and Prescott, Wis.

“Really, what are we about, except for our churches, our homes and our gardens?” Pam Thorsen, a volunteer, said.

The tour, put on by the Hastings Prescott Area Arts Council and the Friends of the LeDuc, has 15 stops, and many of the homes and churches on the tour are at least 150 years old.

Tickets are $25 each or five for $100. Tour participants receive a brochure and map and tour the route at their own pace.

At many of the stops, there will be artists working and musicians performing. Tour organizers also encourage visitors to walk through Jaycee Park in Hastings to see local artist David Cook’s vine art hanging in the trees.

The Powers-Graham home, an 1870 home built in the Italianate style, is one of the stops on the tour. The house sits under walnut trees planted to commemorate the end of World War I. It is full of original artwork, including pieces by local artists depicting the house itself, and artifacts from other countries, such as antique teak Burmese actors’ trunks and a rickshaw from Bangladesh.

The tour can help people “get a sense of the old village,” said homeowner Dick Graham. “You can kind of imagine a little of what it was like.”

Within a block or two are the Borchardt Home, an 1862 Greek Revival home; the Atwood-Smith house, constructed in 1862; and the 1862 First Presbyterian Church, the only stone church in Hastings.

Just across Vermillion Street are the 1862 white clapboard Life Tabernacle Pentecostal Church, the oldest church in Hastings, and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, built in 1856. At St. Luke’s in 1880, candles on a Christmas trees sparked a fire, but parishioners rescued the butternut wood pews and windows that are still used today.

The historic LeDuc estate, built in the 1860s, is close by. The Gothic Revival home, based on the designs of noted architect Andrew Jackson Downing, was occupied by Gen. William LeDuc, a Civil War veteran and U.S. Commissioner of Agriculture, and his family.

Visitors can tour the restored home and grounds, with its grape arbor, orchard and rain gardens, as well as the Heritage Harvest Garden, where heirloom varieties of cabbage, beets, carrots and kale are grown.

Garden delights

A bit south of Hastings, the 1.5-acre Wes & Linda Ask garden in Miesville, has a privacy garden of evergreens, shrubbery and lilies and border gardens with tulips, peonies, delphiniums, sunflowers and daisies.

Prescott stops include the Johnston home, with lots of perennials, shade plants and fruit trees, as well as the Borner Farm Project, an urban farm on the site of an old homestead property. The Borner Farm Project hosts a farm market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, selling their products and locally sourced produce, eggs, jam, pickles, honey, soup and baked goods.

The Erie-Dalziel home and gardens shows off a 1934 Lutheran church converted into a home. The former sanctuary area features a pipe organ and grand piano and an extensive art collection. Owner Mike Erie said the grounds are landscaped with English-style herbaceous borders.

“This year, I’m getting really carried away,” he said. “It’s really going to be over the top.”

At the Orange Dragon Art Gallery in Prescott, the arts council’s gallery, visitors can see a small garden and enjoy complimentary beverages and treats.

Tour participants looking for a spot to picnic can stop at the Great River Road Visitor & Learning Center at Freedom Park in Prescott. The gardens are planted with native species plus some other plants thrown in for color and variety, said Jessica Bierbrauer, executive director of the nonprofit that runs the visitor center.

“All of our gardens were created with the idea of habitat and the ability to support pollinators,” said Bierbrauer.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Friends of the LeDuc and Hastings Prescott Area Arts Council.


Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer. Her e-mail is lizann­rolfsmeier@gmail.com.