There’s more to the Divine Home and Garden Tour than meets the curious eye.
As advertised, the June 11 charity tour provides a rare chance to stroll through some of Vancouver’s otherwise-private lush gardens and explore the city’s oldest and most historically interesting — and occupied — homes.
But it’s also a chance to learn how to make your own living space more attractive, organizers said.
Each of the seven gardens on the tour will have at least one master gardener available to answer questions about the best ways to grow a variety of plants, and each home will have several volunteer guides to talk about history, explain design concepts and offer decorating tips.
And then there’s possibly the most important factor — it’s all for a good cause.
“All of our proceeds go to at-risk youth, one of the most fragile segments of our society,” said Linda Glover, executive director of Divine Consign and its parent, Gifts for Our Community, which is managing the tour. “We’ve been able to support a number of programs through the tour in the past.”
Since Divine Consign took over the event in 2008, it has collected $55,000 for a variety of charities that support young Clark County citizens in difficult situations. Some of those charities include a summer camp for homeless teens, weekend and holiday food programs, educational and library support, and assistance in finding and training young people for jobs.
“One program provides books for the Juvenile Detention Center Library,” Glover said. “They have a very high readership among the detainees. The kids have loved that we’ve given them new things to read.”
Every home on the tour uses a few items of furniture from Divine Consign, a downtown Vancouver consignment store that donates proceeds to more than 130 Clark County charities.
Those pieces will sometimes be marked — in part as a way to show people that design elements don’t have to be new or overly expensive to improve the look of a home, she said.
“This isn’t a parade of homes where everything is perfect,” Glover said. “These are family homes. It’s nice to see how people decorate and get ideas from them.”
One house on the tour was built in 1907 by J.P. Kiggins, who served as Vancouver’s mayor for 15 years between 1908 and 1935.
Judith and Bruce Wood bought the home a few years ago and moved it about 20 blocks to a new location to protect it from being knocked down.
The couple have restored a lot of the original features, which had been altered when the building was used for office space, Judith Wood said.
“We replaced the flooring, which had been drilled into as part of the offices, and we salvaged floors from the dining room area,” Wood said. “Under every piece of wood in this house, we found John Kiggins’ name stamped.”
Kiggins originally built the house so he could overlook Vancouver Barracks, she said.
The former mayor also constructed several brick buildings on Main Street, including more than one movie theater. He also served two terms as a Clark County commissioner, and was first chairman of the county’s planning commission before he died in 1941.
“It’s just a beautiful piece of history that we’ve been able to restore,” Wood said.
The couple have tried to add decorative pieces and design elements that evoke the look of the first decade of the 1900s, but the 4,800-square-foot home, which they live in, also includes several modern features, she said.
The tour begins at the Grant House, at 1101 Officers Row, where participants can buy tickets for $25 on the day of the event.
Ulysses S. Grant used to visit the house, the first built on Officers Row when he was stationed at Fort Vancouver in the 1850s — but ironically he never lived in it, Glover said.
It was named in his honor after he served two terms as president of the United States.
The site is now a restaurant, she added.
Most of the homes will remain secret until the day of the tour to protect the owners from having visitors stop by at odd hours outside of the scheduled event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 11, Glover said.
All the homes are in the downtown area, but visitors might want to drive between them if the weather is bad or they tire easily, she said.
Wood, whose home has been on the tour in past years, when it was sponsored by the YWCA, said she hopes a lot of people turn out for the event, which has drawn between 400-600 people in past years.
“People will love it,” Wood said. “We’re very excited, and we hope the weather will comply.”