You haven’t really done Christmas to the max until you have done it at the historic Middlebrook, the beautiful circa 1845 residence owned by Rick Fox at 4001 Middlebrook Pike. Fox and his partner, Ralph Cianelli, every year transform the house into a Christmas wonderland with collections of ornaments from all over the world adorning eight Christmas trees.
And then the pair opens the house to benefit charities. We were there on Dec. 17 at a party sponsored by Jenny Hines and Tom Jester to benefit Hope Center at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. Hope Center was established to address the unmet needs of patients with HIV in Knox and 20 surrounding counties. Jenny started hosting this party four years ago in memory of her good friend Jeb Evans who died of AIDS. (She just invites a bunch of friends to attend the party and then suggests they make a contribution to Hope Center if they are so inclined.)
When we were there, it was the fourth night in a row that Rick and Ralph had hosted a similar event. And Christmas isn’t the only time they are generous with the beautiful treasure that is their home and that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Frequently throughout the year various charities and non-profits are beneficiaries of events there.
But, back to Christmas. These two guys love Christmas. And they love travel. And they love collecting things. That is part of the reason for the eight Christmas trees, each with a different theme. The party is a fun-filled, relaxed evening of food and cheer. A highlight is Rick conducting tours of the historic house which:
- played a role in the Civil War (there are horseshoe marks on the stairway because Union soldiers searched the house on horseback);
- is home to three ghosts, one of whom smells of vanilla extract;
- and was a plantation whose slaves took the name Middlebrook.
And that’s just for starters!
And now, again, back to Christmas!
My and Alan’s favorite tree was the “travel tree” which features ornaments from many of the exotic locations Rick and Ralph have visited.
Ralph is from New York. So one mantel is decorated with a snow village depicting Manhattan, a place both Ralph and Rick love.
A collector is a collector, I guess. Ralph also collects refrigerator magnets from their travels.
One time, a guest rearranged all the magnets on the refrigerator. Ralph put them right back in their assigned spots in no time at all!
One other note. In deference to Rick’s last name, there sure are a lot of foxes among the decor!