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Family farmhouse in Winston-Salem has extensive history

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Bobby and Jordan Cooper pose for a portrait. (Photos: Lauren Carroll/Journal and Andrew Dye/Journal)

By Rose M. Walsh/The Winston-Salem Journal

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Jordan Cooper is still trying to figure out where all the light switches are.

“Here it is,” she said as she flips on the light to the first floor porch where a log with 1845 engraved on the bark is hanging on the wall.

The log marks just some of the history in the home that she and her husband, Bobby Cooper, moved into this month. They are caretaking and renting the farmhouse located on the 118-acre tree farm that belongs to Jean Cooper, Bobby’s grandmother. Her late husband, Robert Cooper, was a professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. He died last month. He worked for 32 years in hematology/oncology. The couple had moved to Arbor Acres in August and Jean Cooper still lives there.

“We are in the process of doing a lot of repainting and decorating to give the home a more modern look, but we are trying to keep the history of the farm intact,” Bobby said. The young couple, both 27, were married in August. Graduates of UNC Chapel Hill, they are busy young professionals who appreciate the quick commute from Winston-Salem to the forested land and its nearly mile-long driveway that leads to the old white farmhouse.

Jordan is a manager at Gigi’s Cupcakes. Bobby is a salesman for a medical equipment company. Occasionally he works in a hospital, just like his grandfather. He audits operations where his company’s medical devices are being used.

The house has seen many changes since it was born as a two story, 17 foot by 25 foot log cabin with a cellar in 1845.

“The first addition to this house is the one-story kitchen ell added to the rear (dated circa 1860). The second addition is a two-story frame, three-bay structure attached to the original cabin in 1900 in such a manner that the two older parts form an ell to the newer building,” noted Jean Cooper in her extensive history of the home.

She and her husband brought the farm in 1974. Robert. Cooper raised cattle, built a pond and developed a soil-conservation design. They also added to the native tree population. But the house on the property continued to deteriorate and had become uninhabitable. The elder Coopers decided to renovate and in 1984 moved in. The year before, the land had been named a certified tree farm. While cattle corrals are lingering reminders, the cows are gone and the trees proliferate.

“The four dimensions of certification are wood, wildlife, water and recreation. Deer, quail, bluebirds, egrets and wild turkeys have all found a new home here. School, church, agricultural and civic groups learn here. Grandchildren, friends and neighbors find recreation here,” wrote Jean Cooper.

“Those five trees there were planted in honor of Dr. Cooper’s five grandsons,” said Jordan giving visitors an impromptu tour of the farm. The farm has earned numerous honors: North Carolina Tree Farm of the Year in 2007; Southern Regional Tree Farm of the Year and the American Forest Foundation’s National Tree Farm of the Year in 2008. In 2009 the farm was awarded the Forsyth County Conservation Farm of the Year. A forester watches over the trees and handles all the details of tree farming. Green ash, and lob lolly pine and willow oak are the main crops.

Bobby keeps the generous lawn area cut and trimmed. A smokehouse-woodshed, an outhouse, chicken houses, a double-pen log barn, a sweet potato curing log barn and two tobacco barns in varying states of repair remain as evidence of different eras.

Inside the home Jordan has designated a small area on the second floor as her office. Next door, a guest bedroom from the original log cabin holds photos of the earliest owners and has a short history of the property which is known as Meadow Brook Farm. A large step up takes visitors to the newer wing of the home and the bathroom on the second floor with its exposed brick wall, evidence of a past addition.

Toward the front of the home Bobby has converted a bedroom into his office and “Carolina shrine” with Tar Heel memorabilia from Chapel Hill. Across the hall another bedroom with a bright, red-starred quilt and twin beds remains much the same as it was when Bobby and his brothers visited their grandparents. The room where Jean Cooper played her pipe organ is becoming a workout room with a treadmill and exercise equipment.

The couple have painted their bedroom on the first floor. The mud room, useful in the days of raising cattle, holds a washer and dryer. The kitchen with its lower ceiling and old-fashioned fireplace in the wall has a sink in an island in the middle of the floor. It is adjacent to a dining area with large wooden table where the couple eat their meals.

Bobby and Jordan appreciate their caretaker role and will not be making any major changes while they rent the farmhouse. They will be hosting some of the Cooper family who are in town over this Thanksgiving Day holiday. Jordan is awaiting the arrival of chickens and a Great Pyrenees dog. “The rescue place said we should get the chickens first and then the dog. They say the dog needs something to watch over.”

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