Diana Powell and Garry Baxter love family and country life.
The couple’s recent renovation of Powell’s grandparent’s home led them not just on a journey of family history, but a discovery of historical significance for Henry County.
Powell grew up in Woodford County and spent summers at her grandmother Pearl Duncan Powell’s house on Drennon Road. Her grandparents had bought the home in the 1920s and operated a dairy farm and grew tobacco.
“Family is just everything to me. I visited my cousin Dawne here one summer and she fixed me up with Garry,” Powell said. “I have a picture of us sitting in this den on the couch and now we live here.”
Powell said the couple dated for the summer and the relationship ended. Fast-forward 25 years later into adulthood, Powell looked into staying at her grandmother’s vacant house temporarily during a transition period in her life.
“I didn’t think I would stay here. I traveled a lot with my job and needed to be close to the airport,” Powell said. “My Uncle Phil had a farm across the street and he could watch my dogs so I stayed here for year by myself. I didn’t really do much to the house thinking I wouldn’t stay here.”
Powell said her father and uncle Phil Powell leveled out an area on the side of the house where she now has a patio. Her mother and aunt painted the house while she traveled and the house was habitable.
“We (Baxter and Powell) ran into each other and I bought the property without telling him,” Powell said. “His artistic vision for this place is responsible for all of this.”
Baxter’s artistic touch for landscaping and love of the outdoors have shaped the rock retaining walls that insulate the outside portions of the house, the stone laid walkways and complimentary renovations to the grounds around the home.
In the mid 1980s, Powell remembered an exposed wall in the hallway that revealed hand-hewn logs. When the couple started doing renovations in 2001, they found the logs were part of an original structure still intact inside the home and a wooden carved shoe sole possibly used as a guide for manufacturing shoes.
“These logs are so well preserved because I guess they were never exposed to the elements,” Powell said. “We found out that the original structure is a two-story, one-room structure. They just built the rest of the house around it and you would never know it looking from the outside. We think it is at least from the mid-1700s and had to be one of the earlier homes in Henry County.”
Powell said David Clark had done previous work on restoring the couple’s chimney and found horsehair, possible fine human hair and straw mixed with plaster in between the logs. Unlike modern log cabins, the logs are rough, not predominately straight and still have curved knots on them serving more to their true function instead of fashion.
“You can see the hatchet marks clearly where they took the bark off,” Powell said. “When we did the upstairs we could see it went all the way upstairs and had a loft. Someone lived in this one room.”
The one room log structure now serves as Powell and Baxter’s modern den. The walls enclose around the once coal burning fireplace and Powell thinks the original door laid where the only window in the room is now.
“I wanted to open up the walls and make it bigger, but once we saw where (the logs) were we’ve done nothing. The original room is still here,” Powell said.
Powell and Baxter have integrated modern amenities and repairs to other parts of the house. Powell added blue tile above the kitchen counters and a larger window to look out over the property above the sink allowing light to fill the room.
Baxter filled in a well near the back of the house that served as a water sourceand made the ground around it a pleasing sitting area. The farm’s root cellar weds the aesthetic to the practical —merging the necessity for repair with Baxter’s artistic talents.
“The original root cellar had brick around it and the back is covered with my nanny’s original poppies,” Powell said. “Garry took creek rock and recovered the sides of the cellar.”
Powell has fond memories of life on her grandparent’s farm where food was raised in the garden; and large breakfasts were made before the day’s work began. She considers her and Baxter’s renovation to the family home a way of honoring the past and present.
“I didn’t want to lose my nanny’s spirit and my pop’s spirit which were so giving instead of the house just falling down,” Powell said. “My Uncle Phil said this house would’ve fallen down if I hadn’t taken it.”