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House restoration turns in to social media event PDF Print E-mail

By Carolyn Lee
The Imperial Republican

Aprons. Civil war button. Horseshoe. Marbles.
When Stacy Hust Towns and husband Chris moved back to the family farm last spring and began renovating the old farm house, they found treasures behind plaster walls, above door frames and scattered around the yard.
These treasures, as well as the renovation, are featured on the Towns’ Facebook page, “The Farmhouse.”
Stacy Towns’ love of her great-grandfather James O’Brien’s farm began years ago.
She was born and raised in Imperial, graduating from Chase County High School in 1985.
During those years Towns spent as much time as possible at her grandparents’ house southeast of Imperial. Phil and Emma O’Brien lived on the place until they retired to Florida in the 1970s.
When Towns graduated she moved to Cheyenne, Wyo., where she and Chris renovated Chris’ great-grandfather’s house while raising five children.
She delivered mail while Chris was the superintendent of a construction company. He now works at Lamar Fertilizer.
They visited the old homestead whenever they were back in Imperial. It sat empty for years, gradually being swallowed up by trees and tall weeds.
“I loved this place. I have so many good memories about it,” Towns said recently.
The couple purchased the house and ground it’s on from her mother and aunts, who still own the rest of the land.
They moved a camper trailer in last May and got to work. And a lot of work it is.
The house was built in 1904. The walls are lathe and plaster, with nails precisely set.
But the roof was rotten, the foundation is crumbling, and bats, swallows and pack rats had made their home in it.
The Towns are making repairs “paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “Our goal is to slowly restore it.” They’re now working on the roof and replacing upstairs windows.
In the process, they have to demolish the walls in the 3,300-square foot house.
And, that’s where most of the treasure comes in.
Horsehair binds the plaster together. In the process of pulling that out, Towns has found paper doll dresses, a salt shaker, a horse shoe and more.
A pack rat evidently loved her grandmother’s hair curlers, as well as Christmas tree ornaments.
The “coolest thing” she’s discovered, Towns said, is that when the moldings were nailed to door frames, someone slipped skeleton keys behind them, evidently fitting the locks on those specific doors.
Towns plans to ask relatives if they would like any of the memorabilia. She also plans to keep some of the items in a display case.
In the mean time, people are wondering what the Towns are up to. To keep them informed, and to show her exciting discoveries, “The Farmhouse” blog was created.
“I’m surprised when people I don’t know comment on it because I don’t advertise,” she said. “When I post a picture and 300 people look at it, that’s crazy. It’s pretty entertaining.”
“Basically it (Facebook page) is about the process of working on the house. I’ll say ‘Today’s work was ripping out walls and the ceiling upstairs.’ If I find anything, I post it.”
She even educated people about window weights after ripping out a window frame and finding them inside.
When cleaning up the yard, tearing down old buildings, or just walking around, the Towns have found interesting items such as her mother’s scooter.
Towns said if she goes out specifically to find things, she won’t see anything. “Any time you’re working, though, you’ll find something.
The Towns and youngest child Tegan, 11, who is home schooled, are living in a trailer during the renovation project. She expects it will take at least two years.
There is no electricity in the house, so the Towns will probably install solar and wind power.
She said they “got lucky” with their neighbors, who have offered help, water and equipment for the project.
“I love the place. I don’t mind the work,” she said as she looked around the yard on a warm winter day.
Surrounded by the things she loves.

 

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