Ripping Apart a Family Treasure to Restore a Family Heirloom

A couple of years ago my mom and two brothers “donated” to me the home that my father grew up in. This home is very dear to me for many reasons, one being the fact that both sets of daddy’s Grandparents lived in this home in its early years. The main structure of the house was built well over 100 years ago. Daddy’s paternal grandparents lived in this home for a while and then his maternal grandparents came to own the home and the land on which it is situated.

The last relatives to live in the home were my dad’s father and mother. After my grandmother’s death, my grandfather was unable to live here alone and had to be moved. One of my dad’s brother’s appointed himself as “Overseer” of the estate. He allowed renters to move in and they treated the house with very little respect. When the last renters moved out, they along with them the expansive, lustrous, antique, chandelier which hung from the center ceiling of the living room. Every last one of the solid glass doorknobs were removed and taken from the home. All of the shrubs that Grandma had ordered from catalogs and planted herself were dug up and taken.

When these renters moved out, my dad (and mom) purchased the house and land from his siblings. Each was paid an equal part of the value of the place. My dad worked tirelessly to repair the damages that were done by the renters. He put his heart and soul into this project. My husband and I would help daddy whenever he would undertake a big task which required help. After daddy’s death in 1994, my husband and I assumed full responsibility for the upkeep of the house and property. We had just a tad less than four acres of land to mow as well as minor repairs to the home to attend to.

A couple of years ago, my mom talked with my two brothers with regards to the “country house” and property. She told them that she would like to give me the property since we, my husband and I, were doing all of the maintenance and upkeep. They had no objections and signed the legal documents to put the property in my name as an act of donation to me.

Wayne (my husband) and I kept up the chores and maintenance around the old homeplace. We did some major repairs and some minor beautification projects of our own. We, neither of us are carpenters or painters but we did the best we could. We made a new bathroom out of a small space that was used for storage. That was our first Do-It-Yourself project. We didn’t do a bad job of it either. We put down commercial grade tile on the floor, installed a corner shower stall and toilet. Our son-in-law took the dresser I was given for my sixteenth birthday and made a beautiful vanity. He added a sink and made cabinet doors out of the drawers. This vanity kept the antique look and feel alive.

After the new bathroom was complete, the next project was the original bathroom. The reason for this project to be completed first was the rotting of the original bathroom. The floors were falling in and the ceiling was drooping. The antique, claw-footed tub was in very bad shape too. We removed the tub and with the help of our son and two son-in-laws, loaded the bathtub up and brought it to our home. I researched “how to clean and repair the antique tub”. After gathering all of the facts needed and picking up supplies, I tackled this project. I sanded off rust from the underside of the tub. I used a special solution to clean the interior of the tub and prepare it for refinishing. I purchased a special primer and paint. Within about a week, the tub looked as if it were a remake of the antique one. It shined with its old glory and beauty. We purchased special order faucets, handles, and drains and my husband installed them. In the mean time, the floor was completely torn out and replace with subflooring and then the same type of commercial grade tile as we used in the “new” bathroom. Decorative wallboard was installed and new baseboards and moulding was put in place. Then, a new toilet was put in and our son-in-law built a small vanity cabinet with an oval sink and installed it. Voila, a totally new bathroom.

Now, after all of these time consuming repairs, along came Gustav!!!! He, Gustav, tore off the roof over the kitchen of the old home. The last three weekends, we (all of our family) have been making the 45 minute trip to the “Country House” to repair the devastation. On the first weekend, the guys tore off what was the kitchen and back porch. They cleaned up all of the debris and began drilling holes to fill with cement and placed cement pillars as foundation blocks. The second weekend, they set all of the blocks in place and put down the sills and plywood sub flooring for the kitchen and back porch. This past weekend, the men of the family worked in very cold weather to put up the walls of what will be our new, bigger, better kitchen and back porch. We are making the kitchen twice the size of the original one. The back porch will be much bigger than the original one too. We have purchased all of the materials we will need to complete this project. This weekend coming up, we will put up the rafters and the plywood for the roof and hopefully we will have two days to work and get the roofing shingles put down too. After this weekend coming up, we will take a break for the Christmas festivities and then we will continue on with putting on the outside walls and closing in the kitchen. When time permits, we will put up “BeadBoard” for paneling. My son-in-law will build our cabinets and we will install our appliances. After that, we will screen in the back porch (until we are ready to glass it in).

This old house has held many memories for so many of us in my family. My dad grew up there with his eight siblings and his mother and father. His mother and father lived there with their parents at one time or another. It is rich in history. It survived the 1926 great flood (evidence of which can be found between the walls inside). There wasn’t much need for insulation because the walls were packed with silt and sand from the flood. I suppose that I may write another article when the renovations are complete.

The tragedy of the hurricane’s rage, has brought our family together to restore all of the memories living within the walls of this old homeplace. We are also developing new memories as we work together to reclaim our treasure and restore this magnificent heirloom steeped with childhood memories and the worries of the ancestors who lived here before.

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