Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bernhardt Miller House Circa 1845

This Greek revival farmhouse was built about 1845 by Sarah Brown and Michael George Heilig. Michael farmed the property and operated a mill located on nearby Crane Creek. John Crawford and Matha Jane Bernhardt purchased the house in1889. There were probably eight children still at home at the time and JC and Martha had three more children born in the home. The house became the property of Ira Leo, youngest son of JC. Leo and Maggie Parks Bernhardt raised their six children in the house. In the 1970’s and 80’s, after the death of Leo, the house stood empty. In 1998 the fourth generation of the family (Karen Miller McConnell and Stan McConnell) began an extensive restoration and renovation.

The center hallway I-formation floor plan was a common plan in the southeast from the mid 1800’s until well into the 20th century. The early 1900’s L addition was removed and the original 4 room, center hallway house was restored. The original section was restored as closely as possible to the original. The front porch was removed and a lean to porch pictured in an early 1900’s family photograph was copied. Scrap molding discovered in the walls of the house showed the chrome green trim color.

An addition to the rear of the house contains a modern kitchen, bath, great room and master bedroom suite. The addition was designed to reflect the Greek revival features of the original section. Woodwork was reproduced, window size and shape was repeated and rescued materials were used wherever possible. The new section blends nicely with the older part of the structure.

Most of the original Greek revival molding with hand carved corner blocks remains throughout the house. The two panel doors are original, all except the front door. However the back door to the hall may actually be the original front door flipped over and cut off to fit the unusual opening. The door style has been copied in the new front door.

The left hand wall was wallpapered therefore left unpainted. Remnants of two different wallpapers applied throughout the years remains on the wall. Newspaper applied in the early 1900’s to keep out drafts also remains. Behind the rear door is a newspaper, The Farmer’s Alliance, which contains the name of the JC Bernhardt.

An original simple banister with spindles leads to the second floor. The wall paneling still shows plane marks from the hand plane used to finish the wood. Old family portraits line the walls of the stairway. Many of the furniture pieces are family pieces and some still stand in their original position. The parlor is painted with Prussian blue paint, a very popular pigment color in the early 1800’s. Traces of this color were found on the walls, ceilings and molding of the parlor, hall and dining room. The unpainted interior wall once again shows signs of early wallpaper.

The chimneys were replaced but the original lintel and hearth stone were reused. The original mantels had been lost over the years so new mantels were designed by Karen and Stan using original woodwork designs. The of the glass in the 6 over 6 windows is original glass.

During the years the house stood empty, Leo's once domestic colony of honey bees built a hive in the exterior wall. The 20 year old colony had built honeycomb that stretched the full width of tnorth wall and had to be scraped out by hand during the restoration. The lentil for the fireplace in what is now the dining room was replaced in the early 1940’s but the original was discovered in the front yard. It had been reused as the step to the front porch. It is now back in its original location. The floor was hand painted by the owners. There is no overhead lighting in this room; the family still dines on special occasions by candlelight from the chandelier.

Floors on the second floor of the house are original heart pine planks. They have been refinished.  Family furniture from the early 1890’s furnishes the bedrooms. The two bedrooms, and a small center room, housed all  of the many Bernhardt children. A gash in the banister was made when Leo threw a piece of firewood at a family cat, he found asleep on his bed.

The addition features reproduced moldings, reclaimed lumber for the floors and family antiques. Bead board paneling from several different rooms of the removed early1900’s addition was reused on the walls in the great room. The tiger maple armoire was made by great grandfather Parks and initially furnished closet space in one of the upstairs bedrooms.

China on the fireplace wall is part of a collection of the pattern used by Martha Jane Bernhardt. A few plates survived but were difficult to identify. The discovery of shards in the yard revealed the details that enabled the family to identify the early china pattern. The kitchen fireplace, one of six in the house, was designed from early American examples and features one of the heart pine beams from the house. The family butter churn sits on the hearth. The bead-board kitchen cabinets are colored with milk paint.

The addition of a first floor master suite and screened porch was completed in 2009. Again molding and style match that of the origional structure. A wall of historical family pictures highlight the hallway in the addition.

The house has been home to four generations of the Bernhardt Family. Our hopes are that many more generations of the family will enjoy this beautiful home. Come by and visit during the weekend of the reunion; we'd love to show you the house where our family grew up.

1 comment:

Liz Miller CDA said...

Great article about the house and restoration. Karen and Stan have done a good job taking care of the house.