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Beacon blog: Lafayette Square house tour memories

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 4, 2009 - As a long-time resident of Lafayette Square, I welcome all the visitors coming this weekend: Some will be newcomers. Others return each year on the first weekend in June to see how the area is progressing, to check out the old Victorian homes, to enjoy the city in the summer, plus old-time baseball, antiques along the fence and/or the concert in the park Saturday night (Javier Mendoza this year).

But as someone who's had two homes (though not my current one) on tour over the years, I also have a couple of hints I'd like to pass along. Think of it as a lesson in house-tour etiquette.

Keep in mind that the people in the rooms might be owners or relatives of owners. They might also be neighbors who have never been in this house before. In the latter case, they may not be able to answer your questions, but asking them is almost always fine. And praise is passed on and appreciated by one and all.

Save the criticism, however, for the walk between houses or over a beer or glass of wine at one of the establishments in the Square.

I've heard my choice of window treatments questioned as well as criticism of the kitchen in general.

The curtains weren't my favorite, either. But that house was “in progress” at the time it went on tour, and we had to spend money on cornice repairs, not drapes. Yes, the kitchen was very simple; but it was wide open and functional.

Many tour houses have runners down to guide the tour-goers. Please, stay on them. The neighborhood doesn't pay for cleaning rugs or floors, but it does provide the runners. Getting ready to open your house takes enough work; cleaning – or paying to clean – after the tour shouldn't be an added burden.

Everyone in the neighborhood will be watching the forecast. Yes, we're open if it rains. Often people start at one door and exit the back, so you may not be able to leave your umbrella at the front. But leaving puddles on hardwood floors isn't exactly good. (See note about runners.) Just ask. Whoever is at the front door will try to make something work.

We were on one Christmas parlor tour and soon realized we needed to make people double back so they didn't have to go through mud. That meant we needed a traffic cop, and some people would have to wait. If it happens this weekend, know that the waits aren't long, and if you're lucky you'll get a docent who's a good storyteller.

Just, please, don't loudly proclaim that the wall color could not possibly have been chosen with the furniture in mind.

Donna Korando started work in journalism at SIU’s Daily Egyptian in 1968. In between Carbondale and St. Louis Public Radio, she taught high school in Manitowoc, Wis., and worked at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the copy editor and letters editor for the editorial page from 1973-77. As an editorial writer from 1977-87, she covered Illinois and city politics, education, agriculture, family issues and sub-Saharan Africa. When she was editor of the Commentary Page from 1987-2003, the page won several awards from the Association of Opinion Page Editors. From 2003-07, she headed the features copy desk.