by Shannon Lee. Photos courtesy of the A.S. Mason House
Imagine sitting in a rocking chair on a wide, long front porch, fanning your face with the evening paper and watching the shadows of ancient oak trees as they slowly move across the lawn. Or imagine opening the doors on the second-floor balcony and stepping out to look at the impressive view of green trees and well-tended fields…
That’s the way it was in 1866, when the A. S. Mason house was built, and that’s the way it is now that Earl Bates and his wife chose to pour their heart and soul into the Texas home and return it to its original glory. An astoundingly beautiful timber-framed closed dogtrot farmhouse, the home needs a lot of work, but this enterprising couple is up to the challenge.
Here’s what Earl had to say about his lovely new house, the challenges he is looking forward to tackling, and his plans for the future.
Which projects are you most excited about?
I think the foundation will be the most challenging, which is exciting to me. With 5 additions to the house in its 150 plus years, there are a few problems with the 2 concrete slabs and 3 “pier and beam” foundations. The 2 slabs are on expansive soil and have shifted. One of the wood and rubble foundations is all but gone due to rot. The original structure sits on limestone rubble with 8” hand hewn beams as the perimeter sill and has hand hewn cedar logs for floor joists. The original foundation is actually in the best condition, we will need to level and reinforce it, but it should be good for another 150 years when we finish.
What have you learned about the history of your house so far?
As far as the structure and renovation goes, we have recently discovered that the house was originally a single story open dogtrot house. So it is assumed now that the house was “remodeled” in its Victorian look circa 1866, after A.S. Mason returned home from then war.
Any cool surprises that popped up while you’ve been working on the restoration?
In some places, two layers of sheetrock were removed to expose the original wood walls; they are going to look great! They are all tongue and groove old growth pine. One room upstairs had popcorn texture on the walls and ceiling; that was odd. After removing the popcorn, the wood really looks to be in good shape, and unpainted! It will take a lot of carpentry to repair the damage from remodels, but worth it to have to those wood walls!
What are your ultimate plans for the house?
We have completed what I call the blank canvas phase. Basically, we take it down to the original parts so we can better assess the needs and get a feel for the original character of the house. After removing layers of sheetrock, all of the electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems we are ready to start from scratch. We have just completed an assessment with the architect and structural engineer, so plans are underway. We may look at an addition in the back to increase the usability of the house. Anything we do, however, will retain the original character of the house. I recently found 3 interior doors from an 1880’s bed and breakfast, which will work nicely in the house.
Want to learn more about this beautiful home? Earl maintains a blog to keep old house enthusiasts up-to-date on his progress.
Have an amazing hold house story to share with us? Send it our way! letters (at) circaoldhouses (dot) com
AUTHOR SHANNON LEE
Shannon Lee has a soft spot for fixer-uppers that need a helping hand. Over the past two decades she has written about home improvement challenges and victories in blogs, articles, books and more. Though she has loved her share of old houses, today she and her family are finally settled into their dream home deep in the Pennsylvania woods, a place they call Marvel Hill.