Home is Where Your Heart Is
Home is Where Your Heart Is
Story by Cindy Reid | Photography by Erich Perez
Out on Rahn Station Road, between Rincon and Springfield, stands an old wooden farmhouse with a metal roof. To most passersby it’s an architectural reminder of days gone by. To the owners, Barton (Barty) and Joyce Alderman, the house is a living breathing story of family, of history, and currently of caretaking.
Barty is now, and has been, the Mayor of Springfield, GA throughout the years and is retired from Georgia-Pacific. Now he and Joyce are devoting their considerable energies into a complete renovation and restoration of the house and outbuildings.
No one is sure exactly how old the house is, but it is on a plat from 1824, that much is known. Originally from Salzburg, Austria, Barty’s family has been in the area since the 1730s.
“My great grandparents, my grandparents, my parents and myself have all lived in this house,” says Barty. “My great grandparents raised six children here, my grandparents raised four daughters here, and my parents—Naomi Shearouse Alderman and Alonzo Alderman—raised me and my sister here.”
Although he lived in other houses as an adult, Barty says he and Joyce always loved the farmhouse. “It has a lot of sentimental value to me and so much historical value. I have wanted to renovate the house my whole life.”
At one time the property the house sits on was a very large working farm.
“Grandpa was the largest farmer in the county at the turn of the century when the property was much larger,” says Barty, who kept cattle on the land for 25 years. No longer farmed or grazed, the current property is 170 acres of woods and fields.
The house was originally situated elsewhere on the property and was rolled to its current location where a second story was added in the 1890s. At approximately 5,000 square feet “under roof” and 3,000 square feet “under air,” the house has generous proportions. There are several outbuildings including the barn, built in the 1890s, a syrup house (for sugarcane) and a smokehouse with the date “1804” carved into one of the log walls.
“The architectural style is definitely farmhouse—not plantation house,” Joyce says. “The challenge is to keep the farmhouse look but updated and elevated. Because we are doing things like adding two chandeliers but keeping the heart of pine floors, we call it ‘Elegant Farmhouse.’”
Moncrief Renovations is doing the restoration work—Jimmy Moncrief, the owner, along with his wife Dee. The Aldermans had tried renovating before, but after waiting for another contractor for two years, “we were ‘ghosted’” says Barty. They asked Jimmy to work on one aspect of the project and were so happy with the result they offered him the project.
“I jumped on it,” says Jimmy.
Dee says, “We were honored and privileged to be offered the opportunity. We especially appreciate how Barty and Joyce are keeping the integrity of the house. Too many renovation projects wipe the originality of the house completely off. But the Aldermans are great to work with and, although they are adding convenience and modernity, it’s being done in a way that enhances the historic nature of the house without overwhelming it.”
The project is a true collaboration with daily conversations. Barty says, “Whatever it takes, Jimmy does. Jimmy has made it really easy.”
Barty has insisted on keeping as much of the original features as possible, such as exterior siding.
“The other contractor wanted to drywall over all the original wood walls,” he says,
“but Jimmy really understands what we want for the house.
Changes to the house are made thoughtfully and pragmatically.
“All the water, electric, and plumbing is being redone,” Jimmy says. “HVAC is being added, as is new insulation and all new windows.”
The house has now been lifted almost four feet in order to have foundation improvements because it was situated on lightered stumps, the heartwood of pine trees, when the renovation began.
Features such as the original heart pine floors will be refinished and kept, and although the two fireplaces had to be removed the original mantle pieces will be reinstalled, gas fireplaces will be installed and exterior brickwork is being done to look like the fireplaces are still going up sides of house .
The upstairs attic had never been finished and was accessed only by a crawlspace, so they have installed a stairway and created the “Georgia Room,” as in UGA, and also added a bedroom and bath up there.
There are two bedrooms and 2.5 baths (Barty’s childhood bedroom has been turned into a library).
One lovely feature is the private porch that has been added off the master bedroom, a delightful sitting area that blends into the house .
They are using almost 90% of the original doors and the new windows will have the same grid pattern.
Three rooms will be wallpapered—the powder room, the master bathroom and the private porch wall—but they are using a neutral palette for other walls.
The covered porch, pantry and mudroom have all been extended.
Enhancing the character of the house is the most important issue—in fact, when a small piece of wood was installed upside down on the porch, Barty said ‘leave it that way, it’s now part of the house’s character!"
Barty says the house was unpainted until “my parents had it painted in the mid 50s, I remember it well because Mother used to say we were ‘too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash.’”
After renovations, the exterior will be classic white with black trim.
The big addition outside will be a pool.
“With 5,000 square feet and only two bedrooms, plus the pool, the house easily lends itself to entertaining,” says Barty, “which we look forward to doing soon. It also has lots of nooks and crannies where you can curl up with a cup of coffee and a good book.”
“They don’t bother me because I’m kin to them!” says Barty.
He recounts that many years ago, a woman had who knew the house told him of a few odd ghostly occurrences.
“She said there was an old man standing outside the door but by the time she got to the door he disappeared. Her description matched my Grandfather perfectly, down to his hat. She also said my bedroom was the ‘laying out room’ because they used it to lay out the person who died, and it had an outside door so people could pay their respects without entering the house.”
Although his grandfather and father both died in the house, Barty says, “I have a comforting feeling whenever I walk in the door.”
Joyce’s Aunt Ruth was married to relative of Barty’s family, “so Barty is kin by marriage,” she says. Like so many families in the area their family trees are entwined.
Joyce says, “ My grandfather loved Effingham County, but I never thought we would be renovating a home he could have visited in and probably dined in. It all comes full circle.”
She says Barty’s mother said, “don’t put money into this project, just tear it down. I looked at her and said ‘no we are not tearing the home down.’ But now I think she would be very pleased with what we have done.”
Dee say, “Anyone who loves an old house knows they are only a caretaker.”
It is safe to say this house is in the hands of very loving caretakers who are dedicated to honor the history and spirit of the home. ■