1790s cabin found behind modern walls

1790s cabin found behind modern walls

Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 9:12 pm
By: AP

CLARKSVILLE (AP) — Trevor Dean was lying in bed one night, reading “Cabins to Castles,” a book about Clarksville homes by Eleanor S. Williams. The book said his home on Sango Drive had a signature under the stairs from the late 19th century. “I had to get up and go look,” Dean says. When he opened the small peg-joined door under the stairs, there, plainly visible, was written, “Sam. T. Halliburton, 1879.” Dean was intrigued. The more he read, the more fascinated he became. Searching the house, he turned up more clues. “I found an old article about the house under the eaves,” Dean says. Dated April 27, 1969, the article from The Leaf-Chronicle by Stanley Gower tells some of the house’s history. In 1836, a bachelor, George Coffee Halliburton, bought the land, on which sat a log house. “The one-room cabin was built of yellow poplar logs and chinked with bentonite clay taken from the fields,” the article says. The story dates the original cabin to 1790. Halliburton married Mary Grant and added the current front part of the house in 1840. Later, their youngest son, Samuel Turner Halliburton, whose name is on the stairs door, inherited the house. At the time of the 1969 article, the house was owned by the Porters, who called it Castle Troy. During the 1980s and 1990s, the late Tom Dillard, former director of the Clarksville Parks and Recreation Department, owned the home and lived there with his family. Trevor Dean, who is from London, bought the home with his Clarksville native wife, Susan Holt Dean, in the winter of 2005. Susan graduated from Clarksville High School in 1970, and was happy to return to her hometown. “We moved in, started working on the house, then we started getting to know people. They called it the old Porter house,” Trevor Dean says. “We discovered that her (Susan’s) mother used to play in this house when she was a child. We said, ’This was obviously meant to be.”’ The more he learned about the house, the more Dean’s curiosity grew. “Having started to read all this, I wondered if there were logs behind the walls, so I tore the walls out,” Dean says. “We discovered the logs in here, and in a moment of madness, I said, ’I wonder what the floor looks like?”’ Dean hired Bill Best, of Best & Son construction, to answer that question. “He said, ’Cool. Let’s get in there and rip the floor up,”’ Dean says. “We rip the floor up and discover all these logs. They’re trees, really.” The floor of the original log house is supported by 11 huge poplar trees, hand sawn flat on top but still rounded and covered with bark on the sides and bottom. Excitement electrified the 18-by-24-foot room the day the discovery was made. “In the 26 years I’ve been doing it, there are some places I’ve seen, but nothing of the magnitude of this, with the bark on the floor,” Best says. “If you look at the way they were thinking, it’s absolutely amazing. Basically, what I’m seeing is the size of the logs. Their whole train of thought at that time was the strength of what they’re creating. Now, we have engineered floor systems. This is massive.” Best estimated each tree-as-floor-joist weighs at least 400 pounds. Dean points out the way the one-room cabin provided some measure of safety for its occupants. There is only one tiny window in the place, once used to keep a lookout for Indians. When the occupants went to sleep in the upstairs loft, they locked themselves in for further protection. Best says he loves seeing more than 200 years of history exposed under his hands. “It’s a real pleasure to be involved in something like this,” he says, marveling at the Indian window. Dean says he is happy the house has been well taken care of to this point, and hopes others in old houses will realize their historic value. “What we’re trying to do is restore the house back to its original glory,” he says. “America at this point doesn’t realize its history. They save stuff that’s really old, but stuff that’s kind of old, they tear it down and build something new.” Susan Holt Dean hopes to make a bed and breakfast of the house someday, but in the nearer future, plans to host private functions such as bridal teas and baby showers in the home. The end of Gower’s article in The Leaf-Chronicle from 1969 says of the Porters, “Their two-story historic home bids fair to be standing another 100 years.” Dean likes the sound of that. “If we have anything to do with it,” he says, “it will be.” Information from: The Leaf-Chronicle, http://www.theleafchronicle.com Published in The Messenger 7.16.08

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