These folks really know how to do Christmas — and they share their special home for a good cause!

This is the "silver tree." It is one of eight Christmas trees at historic Middlebrook this season.

This is the "silver tree." It is one of eight Christmas trees at historic Middlebrook this season.

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!

The first tree you see, the one in the living room, is traditionally decorated.

The first tree you see, the one in the living room, is traditionally decorated.

Mike and Linda Davidsoon greet our hostess, Jenny Hines. Jenny and Linda are among a group of friends who have matching Christmas ornament earrings.

Mike and Linda Davidson greet our hostess, Jenny Hines. Jenny and Linda are among a group of friends who have matching Christmas ornament earrings.

Here's a close-up of those cute earrings!

Here's a close-up of those cute earrings!

The tree in the guest room is the "gold tree."

The tree in the guest room is the "gold tree."

Here's one of the gold ornaments.

Here's one of the gold ornaments.

Here's another ornament on the gold tree.

Here's another ornament on the gold tree.

Middlebrook residents Rick Fox, left, whose family has owned the property for many years, and Ralph Cianelli

Middlebrook residents Rick Fox, left, whose family has owned the property for many years, and Ralph Cianelli

This tree, in the music room, is the Santa tree.

This tree, in the music room, is the Santa tree.

An ornament on the Santa tree

An ornament on the Santa tree

Another Santa

Another Santa

From left: John Gibson, Marshall Peterson, Amy Styles and Bob Rider

From left: John Gibson, Marshall Peterson, Amy Styles and Bob Rider

My and Alan’s favorite tree was the “travel tree” which features ornaments from many of the exotic locations Rick and Ralph have visited.

A camel ornament the guys made from a stuffed animal. (There aren't that many Christmas ornaments for sale in Jordan!)

A camel ornament the guys made from a stuffed animal. (There aren't that many Christmas ornaments for sale in Jordan!)

Paris ornament

Paris ornament

A pyramid ornament on the travel tree

A pyramid ornament on the travel tree

Guests, from left, Richard Ford, Jeannie Dulaney and Alan Carmichael

Guests, from left, Richard Ford, Jeannie Dulaney and Alan Carmichael

From left, Susan Brown, Madeline Rogero and Barry Cleveland

From left, Susan Brown, Madeline Rogero and Barry Cleveland

The "children's tree" featured a toy motif.

The "children's tree" featured a toy motif.

Toy camera ornament

Toy camera ornament

I loved this ornament of the Tin Man, a definite childhood memory.

I loved this ornament of the Tin Man, a definite childhood memory.

Of course there were toys beneath the tree, too.

Of course there were toys beneath the tree, too.

Host Ralph Cianelli poses with Sylvia and Jan Peters.

Host Ralph Cianelli poses with Sylvia and Jan Peters.

From left, Tom Jester, Tommie Rush, Jenny Hines and Richard Jolley

From left, Tom Jester, Tommie Rush, Jenny Hines and Richard Jolley

Ralph is from New York. So one mantel is decorated with a snow village depicting Manhattan, a place both Ralph and Rick love.

A Manhattan snow village

A Manhattan snow village

Rockefeller Center in the snow village

Rockefeller Center in the snow village

Hahaha! They cut out photos of themselves and posed them at Rockefeller Center!

Hahaha! They cut out photos of themselves and posed them at Rockefeller Center!

Empire State Building

Empire State Building

With a King Kong added by Ralph and Rick! Love!

With a King Kong added by Ralph and Rick! Love!

The Rockettes in a snow globe!

The Rockettes in a snow globe!

Guests Becky and Steve Hancock

Guests Becky and Steve Hancock

Kyle Smith and Andrea White

Kyle Smith and Andrea White

A collector is a collector, I guess. Ralph also collects refrigerator magnets from their travels.

Magnets from everywhere!

Magnets from everywhere!

One of my favorites

One of my favorites

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!

Mark and Cathy Hill

Mark and Cathy Hill

Rosa Mar, left, and LeAnne Stribley

Rosa Mar, left, and LeAnne Stribley

This house even has its own napkins. Before the current house was built in 1845, the farm existed with some lesser structures.

This house even has its own napkins. Before the current house was built in 1845, the farm existed with some lesser structures.

One other note. In deference to Rick’s last name, there sure are a lot of foxes among the decor!

Love this fox candleholder.

Love this fox candleholder.

A Christmas fox

A Christmas fox

3 Responses to “These folks really know how to do Christmas — and they share their special home for a good cause!”

  1. It’s a beautiful house, and you can literally feel the history throughout.

  2. What a wonderful write up! You captured lots of great details.

  3. My great great great grandfather, Gideon Hazen, built this house! I’d love to see it sometime…

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