After years of stagnation, repairs to the historic Sidna Allen House in Fancy Gap have kicked into overdrive.
Just three weeks after the stained glass and beveled windows were removed for storage, crews have begun excavating under the house, removing part of decks and flooring, while also putting up I-beams and angle irons to support the walls before the house is jacked up four feet within the next week or so.
“It’s pretty exciting and very interesting to see this move along like this,” said Ed Stanley, President of the Carroll County Historical Society group that took over ownership of the home in December of 2014. “We’ve been looking forward to seeing some movement like this ever since we got possession and they were able to turn it over to us. We are very excited to see things happening.”
In the nearly two years since the historical society took over ownership, the group has been raising money and finalizing plans to restore the magnificent Queen Anne-style home, built in 1911 by Allen. Upon its completion, it was considered by many to be the finest home in Carroll County.
The home would forever be linked to Carroll County history a year later, on March 14, 1912, when the Carroll County Courthouse Tragedy resulted in a shootout that left five people dead. For his part in the episode, Allen was sentenced to 35 years in the state penitentiary.
On Wednesday, contractors were hard at work on the historic home. Wolfe House Movers of Pennsylvania and local group Bowman-Griffin General Contractors are both working together on the project, making all the necessary adjustments to prepare the home for the lifting process.
“Everything is going as planned. We were contracted to come in and first dig out the perimeter so we could replace the seal beams so that we have something to lift against,” said Jon Darnell of Wolfe House Movers. “The contractor is working right behind us and we are making good progress. Maybe by the end of (this) week it will be up four feet.”
Along the way, the contractor and members of the historical society have hit a few unexpected snags. The fireplace, for instance, had nothing but field rocks as a foundation, so a new concrete foundation is planned to go under the fireplace.
“They are finding additional things that they hadn’t anticipated, but we shouldn’t be surprised by that because we didn’t know what we were getting into and we didn’t know the state of deterioration until they got into it,” Stanley said. “It’s nothing really major – certainly nothing they can’t overcome in a short period of time. They are doing a remarkable job.”
Stanley said crews would continue to tunnel its way under the house in order to get more lifting beams in place. Once that happens, the house will be jacked up and raised four feet to make it easier to dig a footer and lay cinderblock for the foundation. The plan is for the house to lifted for 45 days in hopes of having the new foundation in place before winter weather sets in on the Fancy Gap hills. Thankfully, the work that began this week was a week or so ahead of schedule, Stanley said.
“The earlier the better so we can get that foundation under it before winter weather does set it and starts causing real problems,” Stanley said. “I am hoping before December is over they can have a solid foundation under here and set it back in place.”
Stanley said some of the extra issues that have been encountered are costing a little more than originally expected. He urges anyone wishing to help to send in a tax-deductible donation for the Sidna Allen House. Checks can be made payable to the Carroll County Historical Society with a footnote in the memo section for the repair of the Sidna Allen House. Checks can be mailed to the Carroll County Historical Society, P.O. Box 937, Hillsville, Va., 24343. Donations may also be made through PayPal on the Carroll County Historical Society’s website.
Todd Griffin with Bowman-Griffin General Contractors has donated a lot of time and materials to the project. He said the locally-owned business began the first phase by putting in temporary gutters and black pipe to carry water away from the historic home. Additionally, a rubber roof was placed on the front porch to keep it from leaking in order to prevent further damage before work could begin.
Now, Bowman-Griffin is replacing all the seals and all the rot so that the home will be ready to lift, in addition to providing the woodwork. Griffin said it was an honor to work on a home so deeply connected to Carroll County’s history.
“It keeps your local roots with the county, which is big for us because we got our start here in the county,” he said. “We are doing another big historical house right now between Roanoke and Christiansburg, so we have been lifting houses, houses bigger than this one. But what’s neat about the Sidna Allen House is where we are working right here with everybody local. It is a good local piece that we need to preserve for the history of the county.”
Griffin noted the work to the Sidna Allen House has not been easy. With some sections of the house having dropped nearly a foot over the past 100-plus years, contractors are trying to get all the measurements just right to fit its original dimensions. It has been quite a challenge considering there are no blueprints or floor plans to go by.
“You are basically just taking a sample area and going back where there is deterioration and trying to build it back to what it originally was. There was nothing to work from,” Griffin said. “We are doing all the new woodwork for them, catching it up so they can get the beams. We are just trying to get everything ready for them to be able to lift it.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN