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  • Writer's pictureRogene "Jeannie" McPherson, Country Notebook

Second Chance Houses

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

Country Notebook

By Rogene "Jeannie" McPherson

Nail care is not on my list of priorities. Pulling weeds, grooming the forest, and repairing old houses prohibit beautiful nails. Even manicurists have told me to save my money when it comes to “fake nails.” These days it seems the best I can do is remove the dirt.

I’m actually not remodeling old houses right now, but I’ve had my share of giving old houses a second chance. They come with a price, literally and physically, i.e. damage to the knees.

Oh, but the Knight family homestead overwhelms me with joy. When purchased in 1988, thought was given to tearing the two story house down. Upon further inspection, the word “potential” was frequently shared.

Bought in April, we weren’t concerned that no source of heat was available. The house had water and was structurally sound, having been built years ago with native wood. The siding was original oak and the walnut staircase for reaching the four bedrooms upstairs showed only minimal wear even though moms and dads and children went up and down for well over a century plus a few decades. The staircase had more coats of paint on it than I could count, so we added one more, a dark brown. My goal then was primarily to clean first, then paint. Wood paneling modernized the house, popular in the 1960s I would guess. I wiped it down and pounded in nails that had managed to stick out.

Come October, while oohing and aahing the beautiful fall colors, the lack of a heat source did become a concern. Fortunately, a good friend just so happened to have a cast-iron, heavy-duty wood-burning stove she wanted to sell. Once it was determined how to haul the thing, we then addressed how to vent it through the old chimney. The problem was solved and the house was comfortably warm burning the wood cut right off the property.

Years went by, children were raised, central-air/heat was added as well as an upstairs bath. Eventually there was time to complete the restoration in preparation for it becoming a rental.

Don’t ask why, but I enjoy using varnish and paint removal products to renew the original look of old furniture and wood trim. I had hoped to find oak in the old house, but instead it was trimmed in yellow pine. Still beautiful, I worked most of a summer to remove paint and varnish from the trim and the walnut staircase. I filled holes left behind when winterizing materials were nailed up to keep out the winter storms.

The old farmhouse was given a second chance and has been a rental home for years. The remodeling process, hard work that it was, gives me pleasure in that it is serving not just as a house, but a home for a family who continues to take good care of the property.

I believe it was the Linn County Journal that included a story about potential interest in restoring the Wesley Chapel, part of the cemetery grounds at W. 1150th Road northwest of Mound City. I applaud those considering this as a second chance House of God. Apparently its condition is still viable for restoration, but hopefully it will not go the way of so many farmhouses along numerous highways and byways in the county and state that are too dilapidated to be restored.

It will take more than talk and interest to update Wesley Chapel Church, but I can dream of its potential, can’t I? Country wedding chapel, maybe? l may still be able to assist with cleaning, removing paint or planting fresh landscaping. But, to the powers that be, don’t wait too long. For this project, I’d overlook the condition of my fingernails once again, but the restoration of my body for physical work may be hard to achieve.

Rogene “Jeanne” McPherson, from the Centerville area, is a regular contributor to the Linn County Journal. She recently published a book about her experiences entitled Posts from the Country, Adventures in Rural Living. It is available online in both virtual and printed editions. Copies are on the shelves at all Linn County libraries.

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