Historic Homage

The ad copy Realtor Jim McKeighen wrote for his newest listing reads, "Federal House overlooking creek... " What he fails to mention - it also overlooks the interstate. The reasons for leaving out this information seem obvious. No one really wants to live on an interstate. Whenever I see an historic home as I drive down the road, I always feel sorry for the owners. I imagine that they can't (for reasons of finance or loyalty) leave the family home and just decided to stay put when the road came through.

The reality, in this case, is that the interstate was very much there when Tony and Dianne Springate bought the house and farm known as Duncastle seven years ago. Furthermore, they don't sit and stare at the cars as they pass (although with a pair of binoculars I'll bet you could see some pretty amazing sights). The masonry walls and modern windows mask the noise and the front porch and much of the house overlook a creek, a small spring house and gorgeous bluegrass pastureland.

According to McKeighen, this land was originally part of a 3000-acre land grant given to Col. Preston of Culpepper County, Virginia for his service in the Revolutionary War. Preston had never seen the land and was evidently anxious to sell the property because it was said to be "infested with savages." Having relayed this information, McKeighen went on to say, "I'd rather have to deal with selling a house on the interstate than overcoming objections to savages."

When I commented that the traffic sort of sounds like the ocean, Dianne grinned and said, "Oh, it really sounds like the ocean after a few beers."

Once one acknowledges the less-than-idyllic location and focuses on the house itself (it took me about 90 seconds), it becomes clear that this home has been lovingly restored.

The Springates believe that while tenants had come and gone, occupying only the front two rooms, no owner had lived in the house in at least 25 years. When they bought the house they found it in rather rough shape.

They were able to save some of the ash flooring and much of the woodwork including the original double-door presses that flank the fireplace in the dining room, presses in many of the bedrooms, mantles in both the dining room and living room from a renovation in 1842, and the sweeping curved staircase with its small hand-hewn pegged newel.

Many of the additions and repairs were made for practical reasons; for instance, they added closets in all the bedrooms. In several of the bedrooms, closets were built in front of fireplaces but do not touch the structures because Tony and Dianne wanted future owners to be able to utilize the fireplaces if they desire.

Whenever possible they used the most interesting products they could buy or find. When they were unable to keep the original flooring in the living room and wide central hall, Tony, who has access to everything on the market because he is in the flooring business, chose to replace it with Brazilian Cherry.

Tony and Dianne found pillars on the property (they suspect the previous owners had intended to use them for the porch in some manner) from the old train station in Lexington. They placed horse heads atop the pillars to mark the entrance to the farm and used the decorative caps as bases for planters at the base of the walkway leading to the house. They did rebuild the porch and replaced the rotted wooden flooring with concrete but didn't think the columns were an affordable option.

I cannot say what it might be like to sit in a new house on a freeway but in a house this old (the original portion of the house, where the kitchen now sits, it thought to have been built in 1816), there are so many interesting details to see and so much of the spirit of the people who have passed through. The interstate recedes into the background as just a force that flows behind the house, much as the creek flows past the front of the house.


1641 Hume Road


4720 Square Feet

5 bedrooms; 2 and one half baths

12 acres

Built 1816, additions 1824

Contact Jim McKeighen or email jim@mis.net Phone 233-9995

If you have a unique or interesting house for sale contact Lissa Sims at lsims@aceweekly.com.