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Sturdy brick house once stored grain, housed chickens

Perseverance, hard work turned 1875 house back into a home

Saturday, August 31, 2013 - 6:24 am

It takes vision to imagine an old fixer-upper house as a home. But when that old fixer-upper is used to store grain and house chickens, it takes something else.

"Well, you know, we were young," said Linda Stephenson, explaining how she and her then-fiancÚ, Jack, decided to make an uninhabitable house their home.

It all started in 1960, when the couple, not yet married, was planning to build a home on her father's farmland west of Monroeville. One day Linda and her mother were driving past an old brick farmhouse. Linda mentioned how much she liked it. "Well, the light bulb came on," she said.

The 1875 brick farmhouse on her dad's farm – the house that was used for grain and chickens – became their project house.

"I'm not going to help," her dad said upon hearing their plans.

In the end he did help, and by the time Linda and Jack married in 1961 the house was habitable, although not finished – the floors were still just plywood. Jack calls the house a "50-year remodeling project."

Initially they tore everything down to the brick walls inside. Cleaning included taking care of a mess raccoons had left in the attic. A summer kitchen was torn down at the back of the house and a modern kitchen was installed.

The Stephensons re-created a room where the summer kitchen used to be; an antique stove sits in there now.

That wasn't the only room they added. About 30 years ago an acquaintance tore down a log cabin in Ohio and asked Jack if he wanted it. He hauled the logs home, laid them out, dug a foundation and built a mudroom at the back of the house, which has since morphed into more of a family room.

Over the years the Stephensons refinished furniture for the house and collected antiques that give the house its distinct personality. Some of the furniture and collectibles were handed down from family. A dollhouse on display was Linda's when she was a child.

She also collects decorative chickens in various shapes, sizes and materials since the house was once used as a coop. The antiques and collectibles give the home a cozy feel. The house is full; Linda said they stopped collecting years ago.

The Stephensons once owned 80 acres, but sold off several plots; now they have 26 acres. The person who bought the land in front by Monroeville Road still farms it, "and that makes me happy," Linda said.

Their long drive slices through a bean field, then gives way to a stand of trees that provides shade up by the house. Linda has spent years creating a shady, colorful garden in the back of the house.

No farmhouse is complete without a barn, and the Stephensons have a traditional red barn behind the farmhouse; it was built in 1970, replacing an old barn that was purchased and disassembled by an Amish man.

For years the Stephensons used the barn for horses. They have fond memories of riding horses on their property with Father Richard Urbine, who boarded his horse at their barn. They sold their last horse in 1988 and now use the barn for other purposes.

They have no plans to downsize or sell their beloved house anytime soon. Linda said all the work they put into it over the years has been a true labor of love.