I left off with the last episode, after working for several months building a relationship with the house’s owner David Houseal and devising plans to save the house, the sudden unexpected death of Mr Houseal. I was told by his sister that they will give my information to his daughter and they will get back to me.
Three months later, as I was fearing the worst that the rest of the family was not interested, my 89 year old father told me that somebody called him several nights ago wondering if he wanted to buy their house. Being in the property development business (yes, he still is running his company at his age) he gets calls like that all the time. Why he thought to share the story with me I don’t know, except that the caller appeared confused and looking for a “Bedenbaugh man”. As he was talking I realized the caller was looking for me. After digging into the phone records to find the number that the call came from, I called and had my first conversation with David Housel’s daughter Shirley Bookman.
A week later I first met Shirley and, thankfully for the house, she was eager to work with us. The first thing to do was to get all her father’s property out of the house. After two months and 6 site visits, four trailer loads to the trash dump, and two trailer loads to her storage facility to store her family furniture personal items, the house was finally cleaned out where we could see the bones of the old place.
Shirley also shared with me some of her family history. Her earliest memory is of her great grandparents; John and Chicora Counts, who lived in the house till Chicora’s death in 1980’s at the age of 102. With this new knowledge, It appears that the house was lived in by black tenants longer than the white German descendants who originally built it
It was during this time that I invited our friends and preservation colleagues at Roots and Recall, Wade Fairey and Rusty Robinson. No one knows historic house forensics better than these two, and the opportunity to interpret the house and its unusual constriction was something I really looked forward to. The first thing we discovered was that though the house was a full log structure on the second floor, the western wall downstairs had Mortise and Tenon framing; a very unusual and unique construction that we have never seen before. It was obviously rehabilitated several times over its history, but the most substantial rehab had been completed by the early 19th century. Through Roots and Recall’s leadership, we were excited to discover the approximate date of that rehab.
With the help of Historic Charleston Foundation, Wade contacted a company in New York that specializes in historic wall paper; Adelphi Paper Hangings. After several email conversations with company owner Steve Larson, we had an amazing eureka moment.
The exact pattern that is in the second floor of the Kibler cabin was discovered covering a wooden bandbox made by Hannah Davis, who worked in Jaffrey, New Hampshire between 1825 and 1855. It is believed this paper dates to 1830’sh, thus placing our second floor rehab around that time. The best news is that Adelphi has produced a reproduction and it is available. This discovery was as exciting for Steve at Adelphi as it was for us, since there are dozens of pineapple patterns that were used during this time period, most of which were manufactured in the north east, and we happen to have, here in upcountry South Carolina, an exact replica of the only wall paper pattern they have in stock.
The renewed hope of discovery Shirley Bookman has allowed us on her Great-Grandmothers home place is wonderful to behold. This place, built by German settlers, and lived in by African American tenants, is starting to tell a complicated story that reflects SC in a way that was so common, but now mostly forgotten. As we push further into history and peel away the layers of this place, I can feel the energy of the house’s past awaken, eager to share more of its story as more than just a house that is old, but a home that was loved.
Next episode: A home from the past with a future