I ended our last episode with the belief that our subject property was a 18th Century Log structure and the knowledge that it was currently owned by David Houseal, the heir to the African American tenant family who once lived in the house.
I met Mr Houseal for the first time in the fall of last year. He lived in public housing in Newberry and had no transportation. He was delighted in my interest with his place but expressed his desire to move back into it. It was the house he grew up in and still considered it home. Unfortunately it was currently uninhabitable due to the wear and tear dilapidated state of the structure. However, what made matters worse was the past owner of the property, Mr Burly Bedenbaugh, (distant relation to the writer)having ascertained that the old chimney was unsafe, had demolished it and was preparing to build a new one when he lost interest and decided not to invest anymore into the building leaving a gaping hole in the east side where the hearth once was.
Though I had visited the cabin some 20 years before with Dr Jim Kibler, a descendant of the property, I was excited to see the interior and how much of it was still intact. I was not disappointed.
The exterior was covered in the remnants of beaded heart pine siding attached with what appeared to be rose head nails from the late 18th/early 19th century. The porch was supported by a mixture of rough cut cedar posts and a few remaining Chamfered porch posts made of heart pine. The windows were covered with what appeared to be original shutters fastened to the house with hand wrought strap hinges.
Mr Houseal had lost his key so I supplied a new lock for him and commenced to remove the old locking mechanism so we could get in. As we entered I could see that most of the original walls had been covered in cardboard for insulation and the floor was hidden beneath the wall to wall furniture, old tools, and boxes filled with various nik naks he had collected over the years. The most significant architectural elements I could see were the doors. The five doors remaining inside the house were Plank doors with each board having a slight bead drawn on the edge. Three doors were hung with hand wrought strap hinges while two had the remnants of the classic L hinges that were most commonly used in the time prior to the Revolutionary War. As excited as I was to see the doors still intact, I couldn’t wait to get up to the loft to see what I remembered from my last visit: intact wallpaper with pineapple design.
The stairs to the loft are entered through a partition wall that bisects the structure into two rooms. Though the original L hing on the door to the stairs are broken and not functional anymore, they are still intact and mounted alongside the 20th century farm hinges that were mounted in the early 20th century.
The stairs are very steep and curve around a 90 degree turn before it ascends up to the open one room loft. Due to the lack of accessibility to the loft, the room was devoid of all the personal items that filled the downstairs. The floor is covered with wide 12” planks. The short 4’ walls were covered in vertical wide boards painted a grayish blue. It was bisected three feet up by a chair rail; below the rail the walls were still retained its original paint, now a charcoal blue, while that portion above the chair rail were the remnants of the original wall paper covering. The Ceiling was covered with boards nailed directly to the rafters and horizontal tie beam. They angled up at a 45 degree pitch to the flat ceiling that is roughly 7 feet high. The wall paper covers the top half of the wall and the 45 degree portion as well. The flat ceiling had remnants of original dark blue paint on the west side of the room, while the east side was covered in a faux finish that appears the painter took a rag dipped in cream colored paint and smeared the boards in a mixed pattern of swirls. The east side of the room also had a small mantle remaining and covered with the same cream mix as the ceiling. The original firebox had been removed and all that could be seen beneath the mantle were the backside of the clapboard that covered the exterior of the house.
It appears that when the Bedenbaugh’s divided up the property for the heirs to the tenants to own their own lots, they only allocated .21 of an acre for the house. The property is within 10 feet of three sides of the house, making the lot too small for septic tank and Newberry County Zoning regulations. I had to inform him that for us to save it, it must be moved.
Now, moving an old house is a lot easier than most people think, however, it can be a terrible fate for a place and its historic significance. This area has always been known as “Kibler’s”. The road it is on is called Kibler’s Bridge Road. The Kibler Family Cemetery is across the street filled with folks who had once called this house their home. 0ver 200 years of place building because of this house would be lost. However, because of the surroundings, and the proximity of the trailers surrounding the house, it will be extremely difficult to attract the type of donations for the project necessary to create a sustainable use. With no public sewer available, and the lot too small for installation of a septic tank, it will never be able to have a bathroom or kitchen. However, its architectural significance as a pre revolutionary log cabin is strong enough to warrant a move if it’s the only method to ensure it will last for future generations to enjoy.
Unfortunately, as we were developing a strategy about how Mr Houseal could benefit from moving the house off of his land, I received a phone call one morning from his sister who informed me that Mr Houseal had passed away.
Next episode: Part 3: New owner and renewed hope