Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tour of The Samuel Reed Home - Part I


Chet Matthews had dreamed of restoring this house since he was eight years old.  When he inherited the house and land from his father in 1997, the dream held, and he poured a lot of love into the restoration. 

Chet asserts that the house did not go to Samuel and Mary’s son Samuel as was stipulated in Samuel’s will, because the son Samuel died (in 1847) before he probated the will.  (It is believed that his mother Mary had died the previous year.) 

According to Chet, in the situation that followed the junior Samuel’s death, Samuel and Mary’s son Hugh obtained ownership of the house.  When Hugh died 10 May 1854 and his sizeable estate was partitioned and sold (proceedings filed 20 Sep 1854), his son Samuel attained the property. 

From this Samuel, ownership went in 1887 to his daughter Ellen F. Reed who had married Benjamin Franklin Rice.

John Calhoun Matthews was a neighbor to our Reeds, and his home, which was very near the Reed house, was destroyed by fire.  He approached Ellen Reed Rice about buying the house.  The sale was completed in 1907. 

John C. Matthews owned it until he decided to move to Blackville in 1911.  His son (and Chet’s grandfather) John Gideon Matthews, Sr. took it over until his death in 1946.  Chet’s father, Smith Gideon Matthews owned it and farmed the land from 1946 to his death in 1997.  Chet inherited it and soon began following through on his dream. 

(Click on pictures to enlarge.)

The house is built in typical symmetrical colonial style with four rooms below and two above.  The entrance opens into a stairway hall/foyer which leads back to what was originally a porch.  This porch was enclosed on three sides, open only at the back of the house. 

Chet related that homes like this were built with no closets because British taxes were levied by the number of rooms, and closets were counted as rooms.  Instead of closets, armoires and chests were used to avoid higher taxes.  Even though British taxation was a thing of the past when this home was built, people apparently didn’t feel the need for closets.  They continued to build their homes without closets.  The only original closet here is under the stairs. 

I was amazed at how much of the original house was able to be retained.  As you can see from the “before” pictures, it was in sad shape.  It was covered in kudzu vines and bushes and was barely visible from the road.  The original porch railings and finials and the original mantelpieces had been stolen. 

Chet was extremely fortunate to find a contractor who was a true artisan and became very interested in the restoration, desiring to maintain as much of the original as possible and introduce new materials in a way that interfered the least with the history. 

The corner porch column pictured in a previous post was not an original column.  Chet’s father replaced a rotting column with a rough planed sill from under house.  Surely the original carpenter never expected it to show! 

All of the other columns are original and are perfectly square solid pieces of heart pine.  

Both the heart pine and cypress are virtually petrified.  Driving a nail is impossible without splitting the wood.  Drilling a starter hole is even difficult. 

The carpentry is incredible.  The original house was made of heart pine and heart cypress cut from virgin timber.

The seamless boards of the walls, floors, and exterior really impressed me.  Original boards extend from the front of the house to the back of the house outside.  The original exterior siding on the sides of the house is mostly heart pine.  The original exterior front porch siding is heart cypress in tongue and groove with a more finished look.  The upstairs front siding is new cypress. 

Inside, the wallboards are all seamless, tongue and groove cypress as on the front porch.  Chet pointed out that on the porch, care was taken to make the boards all even in width.  Not so in the interior where the width of the boards varied. 

The original supports are huge square chunks of heart pine. 

All of the shutters (cedar), hinges, and hardware are original.  You can see many original nails that were handcrafted by a blacksmith.  Chet maintained as many original wavy, rippled glass panes as possible, especially around the front door.  Modern storm windows and guttering have been installed as matters of necessity, but are not distractions to the history of this amazing house.

The front porch and steps finials were stolen before Chet’s father died.  Thieves simply sawed the top banister and lifted it out with the finials, leaving the bottom support.  One finial remains from the porch, but all remain on the inside staircase.  On the porch, Chet used the bottoms of the original banister railings as the top and added pressure treated plain wooden finials. 

Flooring on the porch is original except for a section in the middle.  Chet shifted salvageable originals to each side and added pressure treated boards in the center, providing symmetry as well as strength. 

The two taller chimneys are original while the smaller one towards the left rear, although very old, is not.  The style in which the bricks of the original chimneys were laid is indicative of the colonial era.  On most rows, the bricks are laid end to end.  Every 10 to 12 rows, the bricks are laid side by side.  This arrangement, known as American bond or Scottish bond, provided greater stability. 

Behind the house is the original well, now dry.  Chet laid newer brick around the damaged original outer brickwork.  Looking inside, we noticed that the inside brickwork was in the same style as the chimneys. 

Chet and my son Ian had to use both hands to lift the massive well cover. 
Coming soon:  features of the inside in Part II.

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