Preservation projects at Crickhollow Farms

June 10, 2012|By PAT SCHOOLEY | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • The stone house on Crickhollow Farm has four bays with nine-over-six sashes on the first floor and six-over-six on the second. Each of the bays is set in a wooden frame with beaded edges and pegged corners.
Photo by Kevin G. Gilbert

BEAVER CREEK — This is the 193rd in a series of articles about the historical and architectural treasures of Washington County.

Crickhollow Farm is part of the Beaver Creek community that built up around an early mill in the 18th century. This farm faces both the creek and Cool Hollow Road at the northeast corner of its intersection with Beaver Creek Road. Cool Hollow Road stops at this intersection, becoming the farm's driveway on the north as it continues, a single lane track winding up the hill to yet another small stone house.

An 1830 deed states that Samuel Funk sold to Joel Newcomer for $1 "... so much of the ground of the said Samuel Funks farm whereon he now resides, as shall be sufficient for a waggon road & free passage, beginning at the eastern extremity of st farm & running on x with or as near as practicable with the road which formerly ran from the eastern extremity of S farm & terminating at the intersection of Beaver Creek and Orrs Gap road in front of S. Funks dwelling house." This old road still functions, serving neighbors willing to pull aside to let others pass on the narrow byway.

The small stone house has four bays with nine-over-six sashes on the first floor and six-over-six on the second, all set in wide wooden frames with beaded edges and pegged corners. The second bay from the east holds a door beneath a simple four-light transom. Stonework is roughly coursed in the front facade with rough three-voussoir lintels above the lower windows and large stone quoins at the corners.

The door opens into a small anteroom with a closed-string staircase rising to the right, crossing in front of the easternmost window, a technique often associated with 18th-century structures. A half-bath has been added under the stairs, supplanting an original entrance to the tiny basement below. The doorway on the left opens into the living room with a fireplace, original chair rail and a wide pine board floor. Beyond the entryway is a smaller room that once was the dining room but is now a commodious office. This room once opened into the living room through a door that has now been closed.

Behind this main block of the house is the kitchen, which might have been the first part of the house to be built. Later it was enlarged with a brick section toward the south. The kitchen and dining room now fill this space. A great service fireplace once served, but was altered to provide room for a pellet stove and a small closet. Its great 10-inch-by-10-inch wood lintel still extends through the remaining fireplace stonework at either end.

Beyond the house is a story-and-a-half stone springhouse with the spring rising at the creek's edge into the building. A service fireplace stands against the west wall. A large frame bank barn with a metal roof stands to its north. Pastures are fenced as is a raised-bed garden at the north of the house. To the west a fence surrounds a swimming pool and a pasture.

The owners

Henry and Christian Newcomer purchased a portion of a land grant named "Shoe Spring" in 1775. A frame gristmill stood on this land at the site of the present mill and had probably been there since the mid-18th century. Henry died in 1795, and his son, Christian, inherited the land upon which the "old mills" stood.

In 1807, Samuel Funk purchased a 32.5-acre parcel from Christian Newcomer for 3,750 pounds, probably the parcel upon which the mill and Crickhollow Farm stands.

The construction of the Crickhollow home suggests that it was built at the end of the 18th century or the beginning of the 19th century. Either the Newcomer or the Funk family could have built it, but a former owner attributed it to the Funk family. The property remained in the Funk family, passing to a later Samuel Funk's grandson, Roy C. F. Weagley, in 1900 and evenutally was sold to Dr. Edgar Thrall Campbell and his wife in 1966.

Campbell invested in a number of farmsteads around the county. This one became the home of his daughter, Florence, and her husband, Ronald J. Stansbury. It was Flo and her father who restored the house and added the swimming pool. Flo laid out the pastures and cared for their horses. In 1970, Flo and her husband purchased one-and-a-half acres of the parcel by assuming a mortgage of $16,794.38 from her parents. Seven years later, the Campbells gave their daughter and her husband the rest of the 25.02-acre tract.

Flo named the farm Crickhollow. Horses and parties at the pool filled their lives. He was the golf pro at Beaver Creek Country Club, and they were active in local society. In 1994, the Stansburys sold the farm to Anne and Andrew Crenshaw for $347,000.

Slowly, the homestead deteriorated. The pool cracked, gardens grew up in weeds, the barn roof tore off in spots. In 2003, Dustin and Susan Simonson were looking for an old farmstead that they could restore, but it had to be one that would be safe for their children. Crickhollow filled their needs. They purchased a five-acre parcel containing the buildings and the pool with an agreement that allows them to use the remaining acreage for pasture in return for caring for it.

The Simonsons' first efforts went into the great barn, then in serious danger from long-term neglect. Sections of the metal roof had torn away, and exposure damaged the roof sheathing, roof plate and floor joists as well as some of the support posts and floor planking. To stem the damage, a new metal roof was added and an experienced timber framer hired to repair the damage to the barn's frame.

Each year the Simonsons try to fulfill another project that will improve the property and make it more energy efficient. They have repaired the barn roof and the roof on the house. Window sashes that had failed have been replaced, all with the use of historic preservation tax credits.

The Simonsons insulated the ceiling of the small basement beneath the original dining room in order to eliminate drafts. They removed the wall between the kitchen and the add-on room beside it to expand the kitchen and retrieve as much of the service fireplace as they could. Last year, the floor of the living room was removed, insulated beneath and replaced.

This year, an addition is planned to expand the first floor of the house beyond the kitchen. This will give the family two new bedrooms, a bath and a utility room that will hold the washer and dryer. Susan's father has joined the family, and their children are eager for space that is their own.

The Simonsons are carefully restoring their treasure, going slowly, matching its needs with their resources. The old house has always been a family farmhouse, sheltering many generations together, sometimes renters, sometimes hired help, often several generations of a single family. And so it is today. Crickhollow has a new family to care for: the Simonsons, their children and Susan's father. The farm will forever be a part of the family's history.

Terms to know

 Voussoir: One of the individual masonry units of an arch or vault, often wedge-shaped to keep the arch from sagging.

 Quoin: Large stone or rectangular pieces of wood or brick used to decorate and reinforce the corners of a building by alternating the long and short sides of the stones.

 Closed string: Strings are the inclined beams that support a staircase. When these beams enclose both the treads and risers, rather than being cut to let the treads lie on top of the strings, this is called a closed string stair.

 Roof plate: A continuous, horizontal member that distributes the vertical loads from a series of rafters.

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