Beech Hill Farm
By Benjamin A. Taylor
The house I grew up in, and have now retired to, was built
by my great-grandparents, Jonathan G. Taylor and Susan E. Hawes. As a young man, Jonathan Taylor moved to
Jonathan and Susan had become acquainted while she was
attending a finishing school in central
The house was sited on a ridge above a good spring. Initially the house was two stories, constructed of poplar logs -- basically, two large rooms, one above the other. The logs were clad with clapboards, some of which showed smoke damage indicating that they had been salvaged from another dwelling. The roof was apparently covered by cedar shakes. Soon afterwards, two-story extensions were added at both ends -- a hallway and parlor to the south and a kitchen/workroom to the north downstairs, with bedrooms upstairs. Probably a few years later, a dining room was added adjacent to the parlor. This part of the house was of post and beam construction with 3” x 4” posts and mortise and tenon joints. A cellar was located below the dining room. A long front porch was added at some point. A metal roof covered this part of the house, replacing the cedar shakes over the original portion.
For water, originally there was the spring, which was supplanted by a cistern, a dug well, and after electrification, a driven well. Some rainwater was diverted to a tank in the upstairs storage room, which could be gravity-fed to the downstairs.
Jonathan and Susan had a large family. Two sons became lawyers, including E. P.
Taylor, who was also a farmer, businessman, and politician. Two sons fought for the South in the civil
war; both were captured and one died while in prison at
In the 1880s, my grandfather, George E. Taylor (the youngest son), inherited the house and a share of the farm and married Mildred Gibson, the daughter of a river-bottom farmer. The couple extended the house in the back, adding a "little dining room", kitchen, back hall, bathroom, a storeroom, and three 'working' porches downstairs, and a sleeping porch, backstairs and storeroom upstairs. The cellar was extended to accommodate a coal furnace. This completed the house that was passed on to my father, Benjamin Taylor, Sr., and then to me.
I inherited the house when I was a very young man. Although I was very attached to the place, I
made the decision to go to
In the late 1990s, my wife, Sandi Phillips, and I decided that we would restore the house and retire to the farm in Maceo. After endless planning, three architects, multiple contractors and subcontractors, and lots of expended money, the present restoration/addition was completed in early 2002, fulfilling my lifelong dream.
The north end of the house was dismantled because it was in bad shape and would not give us the 'comfort' space we needed. We decided to remove plaster to expose some of the interior log walls. The rooms of the old part were left intact; rather than adding closets and baths to the old part, these were built adjacent to the two large bedrooms upstairs. The original floors of the old part were retained (all poplar, except for the original downstairs room, which is ash). Floors were patched using salvaged flooring from the dismantled part. The dining room was rebuilt to match the original including the large doorway to the parlor. Sandi and I salvaged poplar floor-boards from the attic, and ripped and planed them for the dining room floor. Sandi stripped and restored the doors and fireplace surrounds. We also salvaged the old brick used for the foundation, fireplaces, and front walk. The surfaces of these bricks reveal finger marks of the workers who handled the bricks prior to firing. The front doorway was custom-made to match the original, an uncommon style.
Many of the antiques came from Beech Hill and others came from my maternal grandmother. The rest were mostly collected by Sandi. All of the original light fixtures were either stolen or destroyed by vandals.
The layout of the recent addition was designed by Sandi with
help from an architect friend, Christine Schultz of
The restoration/addition was done with an eye to the future. Many of our choices were for low maintenance. Extra insulation, geothermal heating/cooling, extra space, and metal roofing should make this house a practical attractive home for whoever succeeds us. The downstairs bathroom also has a shower. We plan to use the family room as a bedroom when we no longer want to climb stairs. Hopefully these choices will help to assure that the house gets preserved.
Planning: Architect Christine Schultz provided lots of
advice about the addition including rough sketches of specific designs. RBS Design provided building plans. Architect Terry Blake gave us lots of good
advice. Pat Strehl of TetraTech
Engineering did the structural analysis.
Bowersox Construction dismantled portions of the house and did some of
the site work. MCF Construction (