Lately, I have heard that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. More often, don’t judge a book by its cover. But I have to believe what my neighbor said about the Albertus Ledbetter house when it was put on the market in 1998. Many thought the only help it could get was with a match or a bulldozer.
They didn’t count on Fairy Godparents From Florida, Arthur and Zee Campbell looking for a rural area to raise their young son, Cailein. The Campbells received a head’s up from Arthur’s sister Cathy McCullough, who lived next door, in Dr. Jonathan Ledbetter’s historic house. Arthur must have seen beautiful bones worthy of resurrection, something that nobody else saw, because they made the move to Montford Cove, NC.
He and his wife patiently restored the post-and-beam to its former glory, with the oversight of architectural historian, John Horton, and a fourth generation Appalachian craftsman, Max Bailey. According to Zee, they started in the middle of January and were in the main house in August. The Campbells lived in a 360 square foot modular cabin which they later moved to one of their guest cabin sites and added on to it. The Campbells applied and received placement on the Historic Register for their efforts, a service for all of us who are curious about the lifestyles of our forefathers. An article in Our State in November 2001 praises the preservation of a “rare and intact example of transitional Federal/Greek Revival architecture.” Now cabins are available for reservations. Come to visit! See website http://www.springhousefarm.com
Back in January of 2001, there was an article by Mike Conley in our local paper about the Albertus Ledbetter home. “Arthur Campbell purchased and dismantled three period structures for use in this restoration work. One of these was the old Wilkerson farmhouse located approximately one mile from the Ledbetter House. This farmhouse, built in 1805, contained several fine building materials for the restoration work.” A bonus to this treasure was the uncovering of 36 quilts made over a hundred years ago.
I saw this article last summer when Mary Glenn showed me her archives for the neighborhood, and I was immediately intrigued since I had already written a blog about Richard Ledbetter. I was thrilled to learn that Arthur Campbell had a connection back to Scotland. Zee showed me a photo of the Inveraray Castle, the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell. Arthur is related to the youngest son of the 4th Duke of Argyle, the Lord William Campbell who was the last Royalist Governor of South Carolina, appointed no doubt because of his marriage to Sarah, the daughter of a South Carolina planter, Ralph Izard. Before that, Lord William served as the Governor of Nova Scotia in 1766.
I digress, as is my custom, but I was very excited to learn I now know two families with ancestral homes. Remember, the Nanneys have a homeplace in Wales (Chapter 1.)
Although the Biltmore Estate is less than fifty miles away, and is an American-style castle, the fabulous restored Albertus Ledbetter house on 92 wooded acres is probably more to my taste than a drafty castle. And Spring House Farm is peace and quiet and comfort. I think Cinderella would be very happy there.
The original drive brought guest carriages up to door. Since today it runs behind the house, my tour started with a stroll to the veranda with a lovely view of a fishing pond. Arthur praised the original builder Jonathan, Sr., for “believing in strength and structural integrity.” For example, a massive hand hewn beam 10″ thick runs the length of the porch ceiling, mortared and locked in place with pegs. Zee pointed out the original faux grain artwork done back then by a travelling artist Charles Dunkin. The detail is incredible, curving around into the old dogtrot. The Campbells cleaned it and put a reversible sealer on it for a modern restoration. “But if somebody wanted to take it back into a museum style type restoration, they could make a reversal of that.”
After the house was restored, sister Cathy did the first reconstruction of the original hand painted molded paneling with the help of Mark Bennett noted for his restoration of a ceiling at the Grove Park Inn.
When the Campbells bought the home, the last of the second owners of McCurrys lived in an apartment on the right side of the dogtrot and had pretty much closed up the rest of the house. I can imagine it cost a bit to heat and cool. In the original house you had to go outside and around to get into the other section. The Campbells closed the dogtrot with French glass doors with glass panels on either side to give the visual of being open to the outside. Now you can walk from the room on the right across a foyer which had been an open porch, into the room on the left side, which is the first section that Jonathan built in 1826.
The stair way is now in this foyer, although they think the original one was to the left of the dogtrot because there is a visible difference in the floors. The staircase railing is all handpainted, using a leather device to make squiggly lines. Underneath the stairs in their one closet with the artist’s signature on the inside of the door.
All the doors are original, although one had been damaged and stored in the spring house so it needed extra work. Also extra work was pulling up the linoleum the McCurrys put down. Zee said it was a hot July picking tar off the floor. Not to mention the hours of removing their small bathroom update and the white ceiling in order to keep the big room true to its original size and use. Any new construction the Campbells did is now in a different shade to highlight their work. (There is very little. Most of the house is 1836. Even the door hinges are all original.)
The floor to ceiling mantle in the living area has a thistle of Scotland painted on it because the Ledbetters were Scots. There is also a painted cornucopia and now a discolored area where the first owners possibly placed their photographs in a prominent spot. The owners use the fireplaces to heat the house on the coldest of winter days, and there is a “queen-size” fireplace upstairs in the masters’ quarters. But no fireplace in the children’s bedroom above the older side of the house. They got the extra quilts.
Come back, and I’ll show you the rest of the story.
Copyright 2015 Georgia Wilson