Kay Morse was raised an only child, but she longed for a large, close family.
She made her dream come true in Covington, on the site of a former brick yard that she purchased in 1995. Soon houses were built around a spring-fed pond, and the four-acre compound became a home to her, along with three adult daughters and their families.
Twelve grandchildren grew up there, more like brothers and sisters than cousins. Aunts, uncles and grandparents lived steps away. A Monday night rosary remains a tradition to this day.
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"There is a lot of history of family compounds in Covington," said Morse's daughter Lizby Eustis, who lives on the property with husband Randy.
Across the street is another family's group of homes, called Favrotville. They originally were built as camps.
"It really takes a village sometimes, and we all sometimes need help. My mom was an only child, and she really wanted to keep all her children around her," said Eustis, a mother of three.
The public can visit the family compound and see the interiors of two homes, Eustis' and her sister Melody Barousse's, on Sunday when the Covington Heritage Foundation holds its annual History and Holly Home Tour from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
There will be strolling carolers and refreshment stations with wine. The tour, which this year focuses on newer construction, also includes another five homes nearby in the East 15th Avenue area. All the homes are decorated for the holidays.
Barousse and her husband moved in when the eldest of her five children was 10. "There have been 'moments,' just like anything in life," she said. "But without a doubt it has been one of the best parts of our life (to be so close to family)."
"I was surrounded by my sisters, and the cousins grew up as one big family unit," Barousse added. "They would kind of check out which dinner was best, at whose house, and go eat there. I still put Oreos in my pantry for my niece whose mother won't buy them."
Family members know when to give each other space, Barousse said.
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"We are lucky in our family that we all have a high level of respect for each other. It can be as private and quiet as you want it, or it can be wide open. Most weekends, especially when the weather is nice, we will gather outside at someone's house. We have two pools, and someone is coming to put their feet in the pool, and have a glass of wine."
Kids and grandkids race through the yards.
"There are a lot of mamas around here, a lot of daddies around here," she added.
Like her mother and sister, Barousse is a real estate agent, and the idea of multi-generational living comes up often with clients, she said.
"I cannot tell you the number of people who say, 'Oh, that's my dream. I want to live near my sisters.'"
The property Morse bought was subdivided and the lots sold to the other family members, so each family owns their property outright. Business matters are usually tended to after the rosary on Monday nights.
As the family grows and changes, so does the compound. A fourth sibling, brother Barry, and his wife, Priscilla, recently built a house on the site and moved in just two weeks ago.
With their children grown and living off-site, Lizby and Randy Eustis have decided to downsize from their 4,000-square-foot home; they're renovating a 2,200-square-foot compound house, formerly belonging to Melody's mother-in-law. Next Christmas, they'll celebrate in their "retirement home," Lizby said.
And with Morse having 13 great-grandchildren already, more land could be needed.
"We always have our eye on property around here," Barousse said.
Covington Heritage Foundation History and Holly Home Tour
WHEN: 2:30-5:30 p.m. Sunday
TICKETS: $20 at eventbrite.com, Braswell Drugs, 1107 S. Tyler St.; Jefferson House, 619 S Jefferson Ave.; Southern Hotel, 428 East Boston St., Covington Trailhead