Upon introducing myself to SC historic preservationist, Joanna Angle she generously handed me a freshly picked fig from a beautiful, shaded tree in her driveway. As my husband and I began our morning with Joanna, I couldn’t help but think what a great piece of symbolism in offering Chris and I figs upon arrival at her Greek Revival Style home. As you see, in Greek mythology figs were traditionally served at gatherings and came to be known to promote unity and understanding among guests. It’s worth taking note of a symbol of such welcoming, as our afternoon chat with Joanna began with her sharing the story of her long road towards transforming her beautiful home at Cedarleaf Farm and the multi-generational resurgence she has given the property in historic Chester, SC.
When you learn about a person’s work in historic preservation, I’ve realized the journey is not just about the extensive amount of time and labor put in to restoring and making a house a home again, but it’s also about the personal journey leading a person to such a property. I say this to stress the importance of passion and patience for people working to maintain a property’s historical integrity. The time and care spent to restore Cedarleaf Farm has taken decades since Joanna’s commitment to it, and this work stretches from the interior and exterior of the home to cultivating the land around it. Joanna and her partner, Dr. Bill Altman’s commitment to using the land around the home to encourage native pollinators and species is so well developed that the property was named the 2012 SC Tree Farm of the Year and was recognized as a South Carolina 207th Stewardship Forest. As of this past year, there was another reason to celebrate this property when The James Phinney House was inducted into the National Register of Historic Places.
As Joanna described her previous career in public television and her prior restoration of an 1840’s home in Georgia, you could see all roads were leading her to Cedarleaf Farm. At SCETV, she worked tirelessly around the state to bring greater attention to small towns with homes of intricate detail and character while simultaneously working to help others through guidance in the restoration and research of their own projects.
In its beginnings in 1856, Cedarleaf Farm was much larger and cotton and corn stretched around the property for as far as the eye could see. Generations of families have walked the pine plank hallways of the property and gazed out over the surrounding fields from its front porch stairs. One of the most beautiful elements of Joanna’s story here at Cedarleaf Farm is witnessing the love and gratitude she feels for the families that lived here before her.
Through the restoration process, Joanna has uncovered hidden trinkets and buried pieces of dishes, porcelain figurines and arrowheads. She displays these items proudly in her home’s reading room, or as she calls it her “personal museum,” and generously offers each for me to hold and examine closely. In her foyer, she displays framed photographs of many of the property’s previous owners. In this simple display of treasured photos, I can sense the natural protection she feels to not only maintain the character of her home but to the commitment of carrying on the story of how these other individuals came to call Cedarleaf Farm their home too.
In Joanna’s words, “I’m just the rescuer. I’m the one that gets the mangy dogs, the three legged chairs to repair, and moves the turtles to the other side of the road.” In other words, I believe Joanna stresses the need for some of us to “be the rescuer” as she has done in bringing together these pieces of history in her extraordinary property at Cedarleaf Farm.
Here are a few tips from Joanna Angle, for those of you currently working to restore a historic home or think that the path could be one for you in the future.
- Empty the Space
In emptying the space, you can begin to think about making the home habitable again. Whether it’s scrubbing and scraping down to the raw wood or taking it down to the studs, make it your space.
- Document as you go
Photo document as you go to keep a visual record of how far you have come in your historic preservation journey. Keep note of all that you find and keep a journal of your experience.
- Maintain the character of those before you
Pay close attention to the details of your home before permanently making changes to doorways, flooring or even door knobs and drawer hardware. Many things can be given charming character once again with a little elbow grease.
(The Cedarleaf home is not the only structure rescued by Joanna Angle on her property. Several others from a potting shed and smaller home in threat of demolition were brought back to life on the property. All of these properties together bring together an incredible story of history. A small portion of a home several miles away from Cedarleaf was saved from demolition and was brought to rest here. This place is now home to an office space that looks out on blooming Black-eyed Susan and Milkweed.)
- Find Your Vision
Once you have found a place important enough for you to rescue, Joanna’s advice is to “live with it for a year and give it the opportunity to speak to you. Give it some time and be respectful.” All in all, Joanna sums it up with, “Take the risk.”
Austin and Chris Lange are a creative husband and wife duo living in Rock Hill, SC. They are excited to offer a photo-journalistic approach to Roots and Recall and to the many people around our state that are working hard to preserve pieces of architectural history everyday. The Langes can be reached for any artistic inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in becoming a contributing author, contact R&R at email@example.com
Feature Article Nov., 2017