The ladies of the Spade and Trowel Garden Club are experts at discovering outstanding homes to showcase during their annual fundraising pilgrimage through Central Brevard’s most unique neighborhoods.
With the guidance of real estate agent and garden club member Margret Cornell, the club selected a study in elegance for “Christmas on the River,” as the Wednesday event has been named.
As with all of the residences the club spotlights, the two homes in the 2015 tour lack for nothing. Want killer river views? Take in the scenery. Like dramatic spaces? It’s inside. Enjoy majestic oaks and meticulous landscaping? Got it.
These are homes that have everything, but the Cocoa and Rockledge estates in the tour are nevertheless singular.
“They are each very different,” said club member Evelyn Fraley. “One is very traditional and the other is more contemporary.”
One thing the two houses will share is an abundance of holiday decorations designed to give visitors an early infusion of holiday spirit.
“The homeowners are going out of their way to get their houses decked out for the holidays,” said Fraley.
At Jim and Sara Milburn’s Cocoa home by the river, the Christmas decorations are going up at a fast clip. The 20-foot star Jim places atop the boat house at the end of the 200-foot dock can be seen from both S.R. 520 and 528.
“It takes us about three weeks to put all the decorations, but it’s worth it, because people come from all over to see the house,” said Jim.
Although not even 40 years old, the house is a Cocoa landmark, thanks to its 25-foot-wide, 60-foot-long swimming pool. Before the house existed, the swimming pool was there as an unofficial community pool.
“If you talk to anyone who has lived in Cocoa for a long time, they’ll tell you they learned to swim in that pool because the owner let everyone use it,” said Jim.
The pool remains the jewel in the crown of the 6,000-plus-square-foot, five-bedroom, five and half-bath house. Because the house was built on one of the highest spots in the area, its original owner was able to incorporate that rara avis of amenities in a Florida house: a basement.
But this is no ordinary basement. Mimicking the deck of a ship, the space, used as a game room by the Milburns, includes wall-to-wall murals of passengers strolling aboard an imaginary luxury liner. Muralists Thom Greene and Pearl Ollie even incorporated the Milburns into the picture. While the ship’s deck is fantasy, the porthole windows are very real and afford visitors an underwater view of the pool.
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After the Milburns bought the house 17 years ago, they embarked on a voyage of renovation that included changing the style of the house from its original English Tudor look to a traditional colonial. Among the projects in the extreme makeover, the front door was replaced with a historic one the Milburns saved from the Brevard Hotel, a long ago victim of demolition. At the time they purchased the property, few trees were there, so the Milburns planted oaks, queen and fan palms, and these days the home is nestled among the greenery.
To add frosting on the cake, the Spade and Trowel Garden Club will also include a mini-festival as part of the home tour. With an emphasis on holiday shopping, the vendor village that sets up shop at each home will offer gift ideas that range from sea bean jewelry to orchids. Christmas decorations handmade by club members will be for sale, as will baked goods.
“They sell like hotcakes,” said Fraley.
Add music and refreshments and guests will have the opportunity to get over the Wednesday hump in fine style. Yes, the event is on a Wednesday, and the club planned it that way, because Wednesdays are the club’s meeting days.
“We tried it on a Saturday and we found out we do just as well on a Wednesday because we don’t have to compete with other happenings,” said Fraley, who expects 700 visitors for this year’s tour.
But Christmas on the River is about much more than just spending a pleasant afternoon inside stunning residences. The event raises thousands to benefit club charities, including Candlelighters of Brevard, which helps families of children with cancer; Walk on Water Horse Ministry for children with special needs and Space Coast Center for Women and Children, plus local historical and civic beautification projects.
“We work hard to help the community,” said Fraley.
If you go:
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 18
Where: 861 Indian River Drive, Cocoa, and 1865 Rockledge Drive, Rockledge
Tickets: $12 in advance or $15 at the door
Purchase tickets at Something Different, Season Tickets Boutique and the Bath Cottage in Cocoa Village, Carousel Florist in Rockledge and Merritt Island, Rockledge Gardens, Rockledge, Merle Norman Boutique in Titusville and at the Avenue Viera and at Meehan Office Supply in Melbourne.
For more information, call 321-455-2832 or 321-693-7893.