Then and Now

At some point in the late 1870s my great-great grandfather moved onto this farm.  I’ve never been able to figure out whether this farm was already owned by his family, or whether he bought it.  I know for sure he didn’t grow up here, but rather on the adjacent farm where his family lived.  But, in any event, in time the farm became his and he prospered as the post-war economy recovered.

Cooper White as a young man

Cooper White as a young man

There is much to tell about these people, and (being Southern) it’s hard for me to resist the telling.  But that would be way too much for a modest blog post.  This morning I’m just going to tell about their house.

Cooper and Alice White

Cooper and Alice White

Cooper and his wife Alice first lived in a one room log house.  As they were able, they added to it.  Over time the original house became the kitchen and a much larger two-story house, built with logs from the farm and covered with clapboards from here, became their home.  The final addition was a two story “I-house” structure that was extremely popular at the time, which they built around 1884.  The house was painted in the fanciful colors that Victorians favored, was surrounded by an iron fence and had a row of boxwoods leading to the front porch.

Later, after World War One, when the neo-colonial style swept the country and everyone began covering their painted ladies in white paint, their house lost it’s Victorian coloring and became white, as it is to this day.


The house was abandoned in the 1970s and had badly deteriorated by then.  By the time we began trying to fix it up a few years ago it was so far gone that folks around here thought we were crazy to even try it.  The windows were out, the plaster was falling off the walls and ceiling, and the area was so overgrown the house was not visible through the bushes and vines in the summer.

The oldest parts of the house were just too far gone to save.  We carefully went through them, rescuing the heirlooms and mementos that had not been stolen, then had them torn down.  We added a modest addition to the rear of the house, with bathrooms and a kitchen (both of which were separate structures when the house was built), trying to match the original front as best we could. We painted the roof, repaired the chimneys, replaced the broken windows, re-wired the place, fixed the walls and floors, as well as a long list of other things.  I was able to fulfill a dream from my childhood.


And now the place is beautiful again.  These photos are just hints of it.

We use the place as a guest house now.  This summer our interns lived there.  For a couple of years a young family, friends of ours, lived there.


We’re not sure what the future holds for “the old house” but we’re sure glad it’s still around.



13 comments on “Then and Now

  1. Carrie says:

    Cooper and Alice would be so pleased. I absolutely love the fact that you have a picture of them standing on the porch. I often drive by old homes and wonder what the people were like who originally built those grand structures. It is super cool to see the original picture, the sad picture of what time did to the home, and the third picture of what you guys were able to do for it. The three should be displayed side by side by side on a wall of the house, telling its story to everyone who enters it.


    • Bill says:

      I do believe they’d be pleased that the house is still standing and still loved. Interestingly, that is not them in the old photo. I found it when we were cleaning out the old house. We’ve looked at it very carefully and its not them, and not my great grandparents either. I took the picture to Mrs. Mamie Farmer (the oldest person I knew around here) and she didn’t recognize them either (although she enjoyed seeing the picture of the old place). I love your idea of the side by side pictures. We actually have a notebook of pictures showing the work as it was being done. That “before” picture really doesn’t show the severe state of disrepair the place was in.


  2. Leslie McConachie says:

    I love old home/house stories! Thanks for sharing and for reviving the house and story.


  3. shoreacres says:

    It’s so beautiful. And I love that very Southern bit of decorating – the garland and ribbons. When you travel the river road in Louisiana, some of the beautiful homes there are decorated in the same way. I’m sure it’s the same in Mississippi and farther east.

    There’s such pleasure in restoration – it’s part of the reason I enjoy my work so much. I’m in the process of bringing back the wood on a boat now that’s in such bad shape we’re using a product other than varnish, but still – it will be transformed.

    Of course your house is just another expression of the truth of your favorite expression – love wins. There’s not a tumbling down wreck of any sort that can’t be saved – even if a good bit of the old has to be torn down to make way for the new.


  4. How did I miss this?? What a beautiful transformation! Stunning! What a wonderful thing, to have such a guesthouse.


  5. […] to the way it once looked (or the way I imagined they once looked). I’ve blogged before about our effort to save the old home. That’s been a success story, even if not on the scale I had hoped for. But, sadly, almost […]


  6. Lynda says:

    Beautiful! I’m so glad you saved it. It certainly gives me hope and encouragement for our old place.


    • Bill says:

      Fixing up this place was a childhood dream of mine. I’m sure plenty of people thought we were a little crazy for trying to save the old house, but we’re glad we did. 🙂


      • Lynda says:

        There were several bidders on our place and their interest was in the land. All wanted to demolish the house (if we knew then what we know know 😉 ) Anyway, we liked the house and the land and we had cash. It is ours to keep, and our responsibility to restore it if we ever expect to live there. LOL! It is less expensive than building a new one, and it certainly has character.


  7. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Thanks for the reference back in time, Bill. Having seen my parents go through a similar restor/renovation with their heritage farm, I can see all the work done and understand the difficult decisions that need to be made…
    Good luck with replacing your shutter hinge… Too funny, someone from as far away me telling you about architectural salvage so near to you, eh? But not really – seeing as they (salvage) played such a big part of my upbringing (I live and breathe that old house smell of hand-made craftsmanship; )
    Let us know if you wind up visiting Black Dog Salvage, will you? I’d love to get your reaction to what they do.

    And, I’m sure your Great, Great Grandparents are very pleased with your restoration. (Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the Victorian colour palette that was originally used on the house?; )
    Kudos! Deb
    You probably wouldn’t believe it …


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