This is the 189th in a series of articles about the historical and architectural treasures of Washington County.
Pembroke Drive tees into Beaver Creek Road between Beaver Creek Church and Mount Aetna roads.
Pembroke is a new road serving a new subdivision of large, new homes on commodious lots. Near the end of Pembroke, Campbell Court spurs off to the right. It then diminishes to a gravel track, passes the last grand house and curls into an old farmstead.
A low, red-painted outbuilding stands to the left. On the right is a red-painted frame and stone barn standing on a stone foundation. The lane turns past a parking area above an old house, now lovingly rebuilt.
At its core is a three-bay, two-story stone block with a new, one-story porch across its main façade. Corners are quoined. The main door is in the left bay and is entered from the new porch.
In 1749, John Stull Sr., bequeathed to his son, John Stull Jr., two tracts of land, Shoe Spring and Pleasant Hill Resurveyed, which were situated on Beaver Creek. These tracts overlapped (a surveying error) and included a mill, which was built, almost certainly, at the site of the present Doub's Mill in Beaver Creek. Probably John Stull Sr., a miller, constructed this mill. Henry Newcomer, a Swiss Mennonite, acquired this property from the younger Stull.
Henry Newcomer had 13 children, eight sons and five daughters. His will, probated Aug. 1, 1795, left a 62.5-acre tract of land, part of "Stull's Forest," to his son, Joel, "said tract laid out for a tanyard." It was here that Joel built his house, set high on a bluff above the stream. There is no other mention of a tanyard in the deeds.
When built, the stone house was small, sturdy, serviceable but not elegant. Windows are irregularly placed with wooden frames pegged together; trim is simple. When it proved too small for its family, a two-story rectangular addition with a flat roof was built on the back. This provided a small anteroom with a fireplace beside two small rooms to the right. At the back stood the kitchen in the new addition. Closed winder stairs between the entrance room and the kitchen led to three little bedrooms above.
Behind the house to the east stands a square smokehouse, covered in stucco, with a steep-pitched hip roof, probably built by Joel in the 18th century. Beside it stands a small German-sided summer kitchen with a large stone fireplace and a second floor tucked under its roof.
In 1830, Joel Newcomer paid $1 for a right-of-way through Samuel Funk's land "running on or as near as practicable with the road, which formerly ran from the eastern extremity of (Joel's) farm and terminating at the intersection of Beaver Creek and Orr's Gap Road (now Beaver Creek Road) in front of Samuel Funk's dwelling house."
This road, now the eastern extremity of the entrance lane, still exists as an extension of Cool Hollow Road. It curls away from the house and the parking area, down the slope, crossing in front of a modern home to the intersection of Cool Hollow and Beaver Creek Roads.
Joel died in 1852. His home passed to his wife, Sarah, then to his children. His son, Martin, with wife Bettie bought all the shares of the farmstead from Joel's other children. In 1932, Bettie, then a widow, was unable to pay the mortgage on the farm. Its 76.25 acres were sold to Clarence and Myrtle Irving for $3,737.
When the Irvings purchased the house, it had no central heat, no electricity, no phone, no indoor bath. The land was covered with rock outcrops. Descendants of the Irvings remember blasting stones with dynamite each summer to clear the land, then collecting rocks of the right size and placing them along the road margins to be crushed into gravel in the winter. Maintaining the road to Beaver Creek was a never-ending job.
It was a difficult existence. In 1950, a fire started in the laundry room next to the kitchen, and one of the Irving daughters had to run all the way across U.S. 40 to reach a home with a phone in order to call the fire department for help. This fire destroyed the roof of the house, and it had to be replaced. The easternmost wall of the house, next to the laundry room, was also damaged, The Irvings repaired it with cement block. The attic's stone walls are still black with smoke from this fire.
More changes of hand
In 1967, the Irving family sold the farm to Edgar Thrall Campbell and his wife Marjorie. Campbell. He was a local physician, and he and his wife owned a number of properties in the area. They subdivided this farm, developing it into Pemberton, and seven years later sold the residual 13 acres of land containing the farmstead to Richard S. and Sue Lynn Oakley for $50,000. The deed granted an easement for the Oakleys to use Cool Hollow Lane as a means of ingress and egress.
Oakley is said to have built airplanes in the low red building just west of the farmstead. It was the Oakleys who added the first frame wing on the left of the stone house, put in central heat and modernized the house.
Richard S. Oakley and his Aerostar Equities sold the property to Adele West, another investor, in 2001.
Zimmermanns and a restoration
Three years later, Gregory and Laura Zimmermann purchased it from her. It was overgrown and infested with insects and vermin. Much of the pointing was missing from the stone walls, giving these creatures access to the interior. The basement was wet and moldy. Windows were broken, doors hung limp from their hinges, the roof had failed. While they had access off Campbell Court, this was not their legal entrance. Everything, it seemed, needed to be done.
For three years, they lived in the house and planned. Architectural drawings were made, evaluated and found wanting. Finally, the third set of drawings seemed to solve the problems. Rising from a new addition, a full-size stairway augmented the original winders, giving two accesses to the second floor as well as providing a way to get furniture into that area. The proposed additions blended with the old and were the right scale to complement, not overpower, the old house. At last the work began.
The old metal roof was replaced with new standing-seam metal. When the carpenters were working, they removed an old piece of crown molding from below the eaves, one of the few graceful touches on the original house, and gave it to Laura. Laura had this piece mitered, creating a crown for the top of a simple step-back, painted cupboard that now stands in her kitchen. It makes her smile as she remembers saving this bit of elegance from the original house.
Protected by a respirator, Greg removed the chimney from the roof down to the basement. He planted hundreds of trees in the large conservation area surrounding the house and planted saplings to reforest the old fields. During two drought years, he filled the water tank on the tractor and drove it around to water the little trees. Meanwhile, Beaver Creek Watershed Association undertook a restoration project that narrowed and deepened the creek as it ran through their land, making it again possible for trout to live there.
The windows of the house had been replaced decades before with Victorian two-over-two sashes. These were removed and stored, perhaps to become cold frames at some later time, and replaced with new, energy efficient six-over-six sashes. Joel Newcomer would have used six-over-six sashes when he built the house.
A new frame addition, two stories high, was added to the left side of the original stone block, holding the large new kitchen with its central island. The wall between the two small parlors on the right side of the main block of the house has been removed and a gracious dining room built in the space.
Stonework has been repointed, the cement block repair of the east wall stuccoed and then painted to blend with the rest of the house. The exterior of the smokehouse was restored, its door re-hung and the lovely rat tail hinges repaired.
The gardens received particular attention from Laura as well as Greg. She lovingly saved the old double-flowered lilac bush, a variety often found at old farmsteads, laid out a large four-square garden and filled it mostly with flowers. Charming beds of plants and flowers are tucked around the house. A swimming pool has been added.
The grass is lush. No stones interrupt it. It is a beautiful place for the Zimmermanns to raise their children, high above the Beaver Creek community, isolated but connected to the village and to the history that informs the landscape.
Terms to know
Bay: Each space along the façade of a building defined by an opening.
Quoin: Large stones or rectangular pieces of wood or brick used to decorate and/or reinforce the corners of a building by alternating the short and long sides of the stones.
Winder: A stair step with a tread that is wider at one end than the other. Winders are used to carry steps around curves or angles.
Hip roof: A roof formed by four pitched roof surfaces that slope toward the ridge or come to a point. The hip is the external angle formed by the joint of two of these sloped surfaces.
Tanyard: A tannery for leather.
German siding: A flat face type of horizontal siding with a concave top and a tongue overlapped by the grooved bottom of the board above.
Orr's Gap: The break in South Mountain through which Alternate U.S. 40 passes, now known as Turner's Gap.