Though it may be one of the oldest houses in the county, when he moved it in the 1950s, Jack Hatcher said it was more like putting together an Erector Set.
Hatcher, who estimates the house to be more than 200 years old, carefully dismantled its tongue-and-groove walls, ceiling and floors and moved it board by board to its new 68-acre home off County Line Road in Harlem.
He bought the house for $200 from a paper company that had acquired the property where the house originally stood, about eight miles away near Marshall Road.
"I took a lumberman's pencil and marked each piece so I could put it back together exactly as it came down," said Hatcher, who worked for five years to reconstruct the house.
When he first saw it, most of the exterior boards had deteriorated, but the interior, which was used at the time as a barn to store hay, was solid.
He modified the structure to accommodate its new purpose as a weekend retreat for his family, using flagstone for the fireplace and first-floor exterior, and adding a kitchen - something that would not have been inside the original house. He also took out some walls to open the downstairs area and put in larger windows in the dining room, which were taken from Harlem's old schoolhouse, which was torn down in the 1920s.
The second floor of the 1,800-square-foot house includes two bedrooms, a bath and a glass-enclosed porch, which has been used as an art studio for Hatcher's wife, Minette.
The house is decorated with antiques, many of which were passed down from family members. The most unusual, which they now use as a coffee table, is a Dutch oven that cooks with heated rocks.
Hatcher knew the house to be the residence and practice of a Dr. Steiner. But while he was restoring the house, a descendant of the Jesse Mercer family - founder of Mercer University - told him it was her family's original home before the end of the Civil War.
"She said the Mercers lived there, and freed their slaves prior to the Civil War. After they freed their slaves, there were hard feelings, so they packed their bags and moved to Macon and started school, which was later Mercer University," Hatcher said.
Hatcher said he believes the two-story house, with its enclosed stairwell, was built by the Huguenots. Pine boards, some of which run the length of the house and are up to 2 inches thick.
The interior still has what is believed to be its original hand-forged L-shape and strap hinges and other fixtures. Some boards are nearly 2 feet wide, and the walls are pegged together.
Hatcher had another rustic cabin that burned, which is why he took on this project. Located beside a 2-acre pond, the house sits on 68 acres dotted with dogwoods, azaleas, camellias and mountain laurel that blooms in the spring. Today, it is used primarily for entertaining and as a weekend retreat for family members.
"I missed the cabin that burned terribly, and I wanted another place on the pond where we could stay overnight and have parties, things like that," Hatcher said. "When I started, I didn't know it was going to be that big of a project. I sort of got carried away."
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