The Homestead: Diamond in the Rough

September 11, 2014 in Fall 2014 Issue, front by Lookout Alabama

diamond

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The ramshackle structure David and Carol Beddingfield planned to tear down after purchasing property solely for its view encased a historic log cabin the couple has turned into a mountaintop showpiece.

by ELIZABETH MANNING | photos by Ansley Grider, Olivia Grider and Angie Beddingfield Wilson

For David an Carol Beddingfield, quality living all depends on the vantage point – and sometimes the best perspective isn’t evident at first glance.

In 2004, the couple bought a Lookout Mountain brow lot overlooking Fort Payne, Ala. It came with what looked like an average ranch home in a state of advanced disrepair. Their initial plan was to tear down the house and build a new home in its place. “We wanted brow property, and we thought we had bought the most unappealing home in town,” David says.

That was before they found a hidden gem inside. Behind the 1960s-era, faux-wood paneling, which covered every wall in the house, were old logs. The ceilings were paneled, too, hiding more logs. Upon ripping up the wall-to-wall carpet, the couple discovered wood flooring throughout.

“We never would have guessed we had an original log cabin – the logs were probably milled right here on the property,” David says.

Intrigued, the Beddingfields opted to restore the house and preserve its original bones. Walking onto the property now feels like entering an idyllic fairyland full of flowering plants, winding stone pathways, antique wood beams and fanciful ironwork.[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]

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[/s2If][s2If is_user_logged_in()]David and Carol also have labored to uncover their home’s history. Dr. William F. Koerner, a surgeon from Brooklyn in New York City, built the home sometime in the 1920s after following his New Yorker friend Walter B. Raymond to Alabama. In 1916, Raymond had bought the assets of the defunct Fort Payne Coal and Iron Company, which was reorganized under the name the Fort Payne Company. (The Fort Payne Coal and Iron Company had been the catalyst for the city’s “boom days,” from 1889 to 1893. Northern investors sought to build a “Pittsburgh of the South” from the region’s coal and iron ore. The boom be came a bust when the coal and iron were deemed to be of subpar quality).

Koerner, along with his father-in-law John Bohling, became an officer in the company. With the Fort Payne Company came the holdings to much of the western brow of Lookout Mountain above the town. Koerner chose what he considered the best property and built a vacation home there for himself and his wife, Lillian. During the 1920s, the affluent Koerners split their time between Brooklyn, Fort Payne and Cleveland, Ohio, where their daughter lived after marrying Wentworth J. Marshall – founder of the Marshall Drug Store chain.

In the early 1930s, the Koerners settled in Cleveland for good. Since then, the Lookout Mountain cabin they built has been through quite a few hands and even served a stint as the lodge for the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

David and Carol bought the property from Jeff Cook, a member of the country band Alabama. Remnants of the VFW’s ownership were still present when the couple bought the house, David says. The group built the back patio, and a small, tattered American flag hangs over a hallway door. “When we were renovating the place, the workers wouldn’t take the flag down, so we’ve left it there, too.” David says.

The original logs and flooring were not in perfect condition. The chinking between logs in several parts of the walls was stripped and replaced.

Where structural support was needed, the couple came up with a unique alternative to buying reclaimed logs from the same era. “Logs that would match the rest of the house were expensive, so we used something different: telephone poles,” David
says.

By the time the Beddingfields bought the brow property, they were experienced at do-it-yourself projects; they had renovated one of their earlier homes. Replacing chinking, however, was not part of their experience. “We went to chinking school in Sevierville, Tenn., and it took us about 30 minutes to realize we weren’t going to be doing it ourselves,” Carol laughs.

All the windows were replaced, and much of the wood flooring had to be repaired. The cabin was built with two bathrooms, which was almost unheard of at the time, but the original bathrooms were removed during previous renovations. The home now has three bathrooms, and the Beddingfields created a small den in place of the original bathrooms.

In the guest bathroom, a slew of mirrors decorate the walls. It started out with just one – an antique mirror attached to the vanity. “My son is 6-foot-2, and he couldn’t see himself in it because it was too low, though,” Carol says. She added a mirror above for her son, and the collection grew from there. The couple’s own bathrooms are separate, but feature similar designs. River rock accents the tile showers in both.

The two fireplaces, one in the great room and one in the kitchen, were original to the cabin. The kitchen was redone entirely and updated with new appliances. Carol is responsible for most of the interior décor, with the help of Eva Hill, a family friend from Gadsden, Ala. “I kept the lodge appeal to it, but I have a little bling here and there,” Carol says.

For Carol, bling comes in the form of antique silver and gilt mirrors. The accent pieces mesh with their surroundings, though: antique furniture and eclectic artwork fill the house.

David and Carol hired Bob Elam to design the landscaping, and Turf Tamers executed all the outdoor work. Elam prides himself on using only native plants to create landscapes that would naturally occur in an area, David says. Much of the stone on the grounds surrounding the house was already on site. A dry creek bed runs in front of the home, and a pergola surrounded by oak-leaf hydrangeas sits diagonal to the front entrance.

“I fought them on the creek bed,” Carol says. “I thought it would look terrible, but it’s the highlight of the whole yard.”

The couple tried to use local companies and individuals, like Elam and Hill, for all the renovations they didn’t complete themselves. Mike Bolding did the rock work and built the pergola and fence around the front of the house.
The rock wall tracing the edge of the patio on the brow side has a story all its own. During renovations, Carol was told the rock wall was constructed by some of the men from the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, which built nearby DeSoto State Park. “I’ve never had this confirmed with the historical society,” Carol says, “but I was told that when the CCC was here and they had a lull in government work, they would come do private work for homeowners.”

Carol and David added a screened porch to the back of the house, which offers a view of Sand Mountain and the town of Fort Payne below. “My favorite part of the property is the view from the back porch on my daybed swing,” Carol says.

Located on the scenic Lookout Mountain Parkway, the home is a familiar sight to locals, and throughout the renovation process, the Beddingfields received advice from those to whom they spoke about the home. “Everyone had their own ideas for décor and repair work,” Carol says.

Some ideas were great, some were not our style at all – we would just nod our heads and smile.”

After 18 months of renovation work, the couple moved into the house in April 2006 and now find it the perfect place to unwind from their busy lifestyles. Both are civic-minded and involved in their community. Carol is the executive director of the Fort Payne Chamber of Commerce, and David, former president of the Fort Payne City Schools Board of Education, is currently running for the Alabama House of Representatives.

As for the future of their home, the Beddingfields say they are content with its present state.

“I’m sure we will be making repairs as they come, but we’re happy with the house as is,” Carol says “Any old house is an ongoing project, anyway.”[/s2If]