On Hwy 51 just outside of Sandy Cross Ga, the road bends and then curves to the right. In the middle of that curve is “THE” farmhouse. You know the one...green shutters that compliment the green roof. Set back from the road in the middle of a pecan tree grove just far enough so that you have to really to look for it. When you see it, you also see the peeling white paint, the busted up screened front porch, the elegant and yet simple front door, that has warped with rain and sun.
This is the house that catches my eye and holds my undivided attention every time I head to my husband’s parents home. Out here there are dozens of farmhouses, barns, chicken coops, cow pastures, small brick churches and pecan groves. I am swept up in the story of this house. “Why is it empty? Who would abandon such a home? Is it for sale? Why hasn’t it been fixed up yet? What does it look like inside?” My husband hears me recite these questions every trip and has no answer for me. So instead of asking him the same exhaustive list of questions for another 7 years, I decided to ask these questions of myself and find the answers. But not just for this farmhouse, but for the style itself...for all abandoned farmhouses across America...for any farmhouse. What is the story?
Of course the American Farmhouse has become a design and decorating style all unto it’s own in recent years. Thanks to the talents of “Chip and Jo,” FleaMarket Flip, American Pickers, HGTV, etc… It has been bottled up and mass produced in every Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and Bed Bath and Beyond across the country. It is a design phenomenon and everyone wants a piece of it...my question, WHY?
The American Farmhouse Style as described by Andersen Windows is “First emerging in the Midwest in the mid-1800s, the American Farmhouse style ranges from small, simple structures to more elaborate homes bordering on Victorian...The American Farmhouse style is typically one-and-a-half to two stories and features asymmetrical massing with a gable at the front of the house. These homes feature simple detailing, open floor plans with central chimneys and often include wraparound porches.”
Sounds romantic and tantalizing doesn’t it? I wonder if our grandparents and great grandparents would share a similar sentiment? The same generation that lived through Great Wars, Great Depressions, and Wars to End All Wars...would they be held captive by the quaint gables, exposed brick, and shiplap walls or would they be reminded of hot summers, and cold winters. Outdoor plumbing and gas lanterns...working from sunup to sundown and eating whatever was left over from lunch for dinner.
To me the Farmhouse style is more than a style. It’s more than a trip to the local flea market for rusty tools or weathervane parts to hang on your walls. To me its history. It’s beauty. It’s family. It’s life. I come from a line of sharecroppers and mill workers. People who etched and picked their way through the hard Georgia clay and made a life during a time of uncertainty and hardship.
I remember my great grandmother’s mill house in Lagrange. I remember the single light bulb hanging from the center of the kitchen. I remember the floor plan that allowed summer breezes to cool the house from front to back. But could also be shut up in winter to contain the heat from the central double sided fireplace. I remember the oak tree lined streets, the backyard laundry lines, and sheds filled with every kind of memory from decades of life gone by. I remember oak floors, stained from wear and faded wallpaper peeling to reveal newspaper stuck plaster walls.
Every memory a story of a life lived before mine. Of a generation and a way of life gone. Maybe part of the intrigue and lure of the Farmhouse Style, is that it harkens back to a simpler way of life. No smartphones, Facebooks, Direct TV, and unlimited data plans. It was just life. A man could work hard, sleep hard, love hard, live hard...but it was basic. It was simple. It was for the grabbing and designing and creating and executing. Everything served a purpose and nothing was wasteful or wasted.
For a time it has seemed that we might lose that history; that drive; that desire to hack out a life of our own. The 80’s, 90’s, and even early 2000’s were decades of progress and new build. Every one wanted new and bigger and better. Family farmhouses and estates were passed over by younger generations for John Weiland Neighborhoods and shiny brass chandeliers hung in double height foyers. These homes fell into neglect, disrepair, and forgetfulness. They were irrelevant to a society moving forward not looking back.
I would never wish back the days of the housing bust of the early 2000’s, but I’m somewhat glad that we had to step back as a society and reassess our “forward progress.” Because what happened during that time has since altered societies perception on home. We no longer look to the bright shiny object of big homes and big cars. Instead we look at the affordable and forgotten homes of the past. In some cases, because it’s all one could afford and in part, because we all took a moment to pause and see the beauty of past architecture around us.
In my humble opinion, the American Farmhouse says, “Come inside and sit down at the table. I’ve got vegetables roasting. Fried Chicken seasoning. Fresh ice cream to churn. Stories to tell. Love to give...and Peace to offer. Come and rest with me.”