The doors of architectural masterpieces from centuries past will open next week as part of the holiday tour of historic Fairmount Park houses.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Dec. 6, and again Dec. 9-13, the Cedar Grove, Laurel Hill, Lemon Hill, Mount Pleasant, Ormiston, Sweetbriar, and Woodford houses in Fairmount Park will be part of a tradition that began in 1976. The houses, open year round, are being specially prepared for the holiday season.

"Each house will have its own unique theme," said Alma Jacobs, a tour organizer and president of Women for Greater Philadelphia, which manages Laurel Hill Mansion. "We have people that come back year after year because they're decorated differently each year with different themes."

At Cedar Grove, 1 Cedar Grove Dr., visitors can experience a re-creation of an 1809 Quaker wedding. Laurel Hill, on East Edgely Drive, will be decorated in greenery and have a 12-foot tree covered in handmade items and ornaments featuring a Santa Claus collection at its base. Other houses will offer events and activities for all ages.

You can take a self-guided tour by visiting the houses (cost to tour each is $5, or $3 for seniors), or you can take a two-hour trolley ride with a tour guide for $25. The trolley leaves from the Fairmount Water Works, 640 Water Works Dr., at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Fridays through Sundays and includes the trolley ride and guided tours of three houses.

The Water Works Restaurant will have a lunch menu from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and the historic water works will be open for free tours.

Of the seven houses, five are owned and operated by nonprofit volunteer organizations. Cedar Grove and Mount Pleasant are run by the Art Museum. All proceeds from the tour go to maintaining the houses.

For reservations for the tour trolley ride (encouraged, but not required), call 215-389-8687. Visits to specific houses do not require reservations. Groups of 15 or more that would like to rent a bus should call group sales at 215-684-7863. Information: 215-685-0274,, For reservations at the Water Works Restaurant, call 215-236-9000.

Contact staff writer Jeff Davidson at 215-854-4193 or