Couple restoring 1770 home in Pfafftown

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Suzanne and Jon Hanna are working to rehab this 1770 Pfafftown home to live in with their son, Mack, daughter, Claire, and dog, Grit. (Lauren Carroll/Journal)

FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — Jon and Suzanne Hanna gave the property a passing glance when they saw the “For Sale” sign, but they didn’t stop, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

Eventually, Jon investigated the Pfafftown farm land with its kudzu-covered structures and dilapidated out outbuildings. He found that it was deeded in 1770. There wasn’t even a Forsyth County then.

“We had to go to Danbury to see the original deed,” he said. “Forsyth County was not established until 1849,” said Jon, who is a history buff. Danbury is the county seat of Stokes County, which was partitioned to form Forsyth County.

The Hannas had been looking for a farm for some time where they could raise their children, Mack, 9, and Claire, 3. “We have never owned a new house. We like recycling old houses. We like the old soul in things,” said Jon, whose business, Eco-Logic, focuses on sustainable landscapes.

When Jon and Suzanne realized the enormity of restoring the home and property, they almost walked away.

But Jon sent an email to the Preserve Historic Forsyth website and started a conversation with its founding president, Catherine Hendren, and other preservation enthusiasts. Through their assistance and the North Carolina tax credits for historic preservation, the Hannas took on the project. In 2010 they made a rent- to-own arrangement. They started making renter payments that were wrapped into their final deal. They did this so they could start the arduous process of cleaning up before they were the official owners.

It became officially theirs in 2011. The restoration process is well underway and the property has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The log dwellings constructed ca. 1770-1790 and ca. 1800-1820 retain elements such as 18th- and 19th-century board-and-batten doors and hardware, double-hung wood-sash windows, wide board floors, flush-board interior sheathing, a vernacular mantel and enclosed staircases,” says the application for the registry.

That the original structures pre-date the American Revolution is not lost on Suzanne, who teaches British literature and English at Salem Academy.

“I love that we are doing this and I love to work near Old Salem,” said Suzanne, whose enthusiasm for history mirrors Jon’s.

Jon points to a square cut-out high in one of the stripped down log buildings. “That’s a rifle port,” he said. “It might have been used for defense against Indians or Civil War marauders.”

The house is the oldest non-Moravian log house in Forsyth County. On the historic registry, the home is officially known as the Waller home. “As the Waller family grew and prospered, they moved from a one-and-one-half-story log dwelling erected in the late eighteenth century into a two-story log residence constructed in the early nineteenth century,” says the registry application.

In 1940 the structures were purchased by Raleigh Stanford and Irene Smitherman Joyner who updated the buildings with mid-century touches: faux-brick rolled asphalt siding and knotty pine paneling.

The Hannas have stripped the asphalt siding to uncover the log houses. They also removed the pine paneling and weather boarding, which they intend to recycle in their home. When they “modernized” the log buildings, the Joyner family also built the outbuildings — a tobacco barn and pack house that held the cured tobacco, a corn crib, a meat-curing house, chicken coop and a barn. Someday, Jon said, they will restore those buildings, too.

“There are still Joyners around here and they have come by and said how much they appreciate what we are doing,” Jon said. The Hannas refer to their homestead as the Waller-Joyner home.

While their dream home slowly comes to fruition, the family is renting a home nearby. Piles of red dirt surround the site and trenches are laid for new construction.

Claire and Mack race around the property with their dog Grit and the seven, egg-laying chickens already in residence. Suzanne’s bee hives are in progress. A summer garden supplied some vegetables and tasty snacking for visiting deer. Winter crops of collard, kale and Swiss chard are in the ground.

Suzanne shows off the architect’s drawing of the new construction to be added to the original log dwellings: a family room and master suite.

The whole project was a mere thought in 2010. Now the reality is coming to light. It has taken an incredible amount of work and resources, Jon said.

“It was at the point of putting it back together or pushing it over,” he said. About the waiting Suzanne adds, “All this time to complete the project has given us a chance to think and be thoughtful.”

If you have an idea for a home that could be featured, please send an email to red.walsh@prodigy.net.