By BETSY ANDREWS
For the Express
They won't make you put on felt slippers at the door, but on Saturday, Aug. 12, five grand Sun Valley homes will open their doors to ticket holders during The Community Library's 27th annual Tour of Homes. These magnificent manors are sure to gross just as many "ooohs" and "aaaahs" as do ancient European edifices.
"We have an outstanding selection of homes this year," said Ann Taylor, chair of the Community Library Board of Directors. "They're all very interesting, architecturally. It would be hard to pick a favorite."
Not to mention politically incorrect. But such reluctance could spring from the extraordinary variety of design on view at what has become the library's most important fundraising event of the season. Located along Sun Valley's exclusive Fairway Road, the dwellings span architectural worlds: antique limestone hearths here, massive boulders from Cascade, Idaho, built into terrace walls there, geometrically-ruled modernity with the latest in solar energy technology over there.
Wandering through these homes is like jumping into the pages of Architectural Digest and being met by a personal guide. Volunteer docents will be on hand in each home to direct visitors and elucidate on points of interest. One home features virtuoso masonry reminiscent of the closely fitted stonework of ancient Incan ruins. The eclectic interior of another combines an antique Chinese bed used as a cocktail table with wall-sized Japanese cabinetry and a championship shuffleboard table from Texas. Another features fascinating personal collections of Norwegian paper dolls, Frederic Remington lithographs, and miniature antique furniture.
And Taylor's excited about a new development this year: the involvement of local florists, who have generously donated bouquets to decorate the homes.
"Participants will get a lifetime of ideas to take home with them," said Norma Douglas, head of public relations for the library's board. Some of the highlights, though, are more of the "don't try this at your home" variety. Take, for example, the putting green sunk into the floor or the cantilevered master bedroom. Then there's the hidden elevator. The event's official press release didn't reveal where it was hidden, only that it's "in the perfect place." Sources close to the event were not forthcoming.
Unlike the captive audiences on fussy group tours at Neuschwanstein, participants in this Saturday's event are free to roam not only in their own shoes but on their own schedule. Buses will circulate through the Fairway neighborhood during the 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. viewing, and guests are encouraged to wander at leisure from room-to-room and house-to-house. Bicycles allow even more freedom and have been a popular mode of transport in previous years.
The tour is a great way to give to a public library that not only receives no tax dollars, but that also doesn't charge overdue book fees.
"Because we do not receive any tax monies," said director Colleen Daly, "we rely on the generosity of the community to help us provide the programs and services we feel are important to our small, isolated—but vibrant—mountain town." The Gold Mine thrift store provides more than half of the library's operating expenses, but the library still depends on donations to raise half a million dollars every year.
The Community Library's stats are as impressive as the homes on display. More than 55,000 people have visited the library in the first half of 2006, and more than 26,000 people used the children's library during the same period. More than 25,000 people a year use its free computers. The library maintains nearly 130,000 items, including roughly 9,000 photographs in its Regional History Department. It also sponsors a year-round film and lecture series.
Tickets (100 percent tax deductible) are $75 per person and are available at Chapter One Bookstore, Iconoclast Books (all three locations), Atkinsons' in Ketchum, at the library, by calling the library at 726-3493, or by visiting the library's Web site at thecommunitylibrary.org.
The price includes a tea at the library from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a complementary glossy magazine of the featured homes. Transportation is free from both the library and Dollar Mountain. Private vehicles will not be permitted on Fairway Road as part of the tour.