It's a perfect place for celebrating the holidays, which is one of the reasons Stacey and AJ Jordan love their Moorestown home.
It's no wonder that the house, which was featured on the 50th anniversary Cooks Tour this month, was the inspiration for Thornton Wilder's play, Our Town, after the Pulitzer Prize-winning author stood as best man at his older brother Amos' wedding there in 1935.
Throughout the years, the dwelling, built in 1923, has kept its original splendor, while also gaining contemporary and stylish elements to suit a modern, active family. And during this festive season, the house shines with a magical pageantry.
Six years ago, the Jordans were living in a quaint Cape Cod a block away. Feeling cramped after the birth of their fourth child, the couple consulted a contractor, who drew up plans to build an addition.
"In the meantime, a friend who is a Realtor told me about a great house on the market, and that I should take a look at it," says Stacey, 42, who grew up in Edgewater Park.
By the time the Jordans came across the dignified three-story structure, it had changed hands many times. But the most recent homeowners had spent five years refurbishing the kitchen, living spaces, and three of the four full bathrooms. Stacey was smitten and saw that the house offered enormous potential.
AJ, 43, who tends to be more pragmatic than his wife, also could see the house's good bones and its wonderful prospects, but he admits to being a bit hesitant at first.
"I remember someone telling me that when you have an old home with single-pane windows, you end up heating the whole neighborhood," AJ, who was raised on the Main Line and in South Jersey, says wryly.
Nonetheless, Stacey and AJ have created an atmosphere of warmth and elegance that is center stage for a number of notable parties for community organizations and church youth groups, as well as local fund-raisers, throughout the year. And just like that wedding so many years ago, the Jordans hosted a similar celebration for a family member, when AJ's sister was married on the grounds three years ago.
"We thought if we were going to buy a big old house, we wanted to be able to share it," says Stacey, who is a member of Moorestown's Town Council.
The house may be old, but it's an architectural treasure. At 6,200 square feet, it possesses many elaborate assets, including ornate interior woodwork, stained-glass windows, three magnificent fireplaces, and exquisite oak and marble flooring. For a vintage residence, it has many closets and built-in drawers, designed by the original architect - a former sailor, who appreciated the need for storage.
At Christmas, a stately tree bearing antique ornaments from Stacey's grandmother is the focal point in the formal dining room, which is fashionably set for the coming holiday meals. Across the foyer are a recreation room, with its pool table and flat-screen TV, and AJ's office, with its leather furniture and slate flooring.
A grand staircase, with a railing crafted of iron imported from England, leads to the second and third levels, where the master suite and the children's bedrooms are located.
But the true heart of it all is the great room, where another evergreen stands. Fondly nicknamed the "family tree" by the Jordans, it holds ornaments collected from memorable vacations, plus trimmings handmade over the years by the Jordan kids: Sydney, 9, Drew, 11, Ally, 15, and Sarah, 18, a freshman at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.
"It's what my mother did when we were growing up," says Stacey, whose parents now live on Long Beach Island and own the popular Farias Surf and Sport stores throughout the island.
On Christmas morning, after gifts are opened, the male family members - AJ and Stacey's brother, brother-in-law, and father - will make omelets in the traditional kitchen with its large granite island.
"It's the one morning the ladies have to stay out of the kitchen," says AJ, who is a partner at Ernst & Young, a global public-accounting firm with offices in Philadelphia.
A week later, 100 people will be stopping by the Jordans' home for the annual New Year's Day spaghetti dinner, plus s'mores warmed over the fire pit on the backyard patio.
The couple, who met when they were undergraduates at the University of Delaware, recently opened their home to Stacey's parents when they lost power following Hurricane Sandy.
"Luckily, everyone was OK," Stacey says. "We feel very fortunate that we have a big house and were able to bring them here."
Is your house a Haven?