FANCY GAP, Va. — While it may not always be visible to the general public, restoration work continues on the historic Sidna Allen House a short drive up U.S. 52 in Virginia.
When some of the upcoming restorations are complete, the famous Carroll County home may not look completely the way most people remember.
Mark Harmon, of the Carroll County Historical Society, is one of many of people who have been working on restoring the home since repairs began in 2016. In the two years since the historical society took over ownership of the home, the group has raised money and finalized plans to restore the Queen Anne-style home, built in 1911 by Allen.
The home will forever be linked to area history a year later, when on March 14, 1912, the Carroll County Courthouse Tragedy resulted in a shootout that left five people dead in Hillsville, Virginia. For his part in the episode, Allen was sentenced to 35 years in the state penitentiary.
Just as Baldwin-Felts Detective agents were on the hunt for the Allens following the shootout, Harmon is in fast pursuit of the original weathervane from the house. Additionally, he has spent many hours finding the original color schemes for the window trims and underneath the porch – colors that most folks won’t recognize when they are added, hopefully this summer.
“I think we may get some flak about the dark green trim around the windows. Sidna Allen wanted his windows to stand out so he put dark green trim around them and he put light green trim on the front porch ceiling,” Harmon said. “We had to go through a long process to match the paint schemes of 1910. It was a painstaking process and we spent many hours doing it.
“It was not haphazard. We want to paint it original and we want people to see it like Sidna Allen did. Most people have never seen that because 10 to 20 years after the Sidna Allen House was taken from Sidna Allen, it was a rental house and people just painted over it white because that was easy. And we do have five layers of white paint to get underneath to the layer of dark green paint.”
The Carroll County Historical Society is offering a reward to anyone with knowledge of the whereabouts of the original weathervane that was on the house. The society wants to use the original or replicate the old one down to the last detail.
“We do have some good photos, but we need more and better photos to study the design,” Harmon said.
He said the most recent restoration most people notice is the brick foundation which was finished last year. Those bricks are similar to the original and took much time and effort to match back up.
“We didn’t just go out and pick up bricks. We had to match them up with historical brick, had to get it approved by the Virginia Historical Commission, and they approved the brick so it was as close as we could get. I think it is a good match,” Harmon said. “And since then we have put the kitchen entrance flooring down, the tongue-grooved flooring, plus the four Ionian columns on the kitchen entrance. And right now we are hoping to have the front porch finished but we ran into a snag.”
Harmon said while trying to restore the porch, the historical society ran into problems with water leaks. The leaks were caused, he said, when the house was jacked up to put the brick underneath to make it level. It was then they found the existing shingles were put on the house when it was settling, which caused them to blow off when the foundation was moved.
“So now we have to replace the shingles on the front porch and to replace the shingles like they were in 1910 is expensive. There is only one company in the entire United States and Canada that does this,” Harmon said. “All the shingles have a 50-year warranty, but they are real expensive. They cost $400 for a square with 100 linear feet. You also have to install them from the bottom up, so it also takes someone special to put them on.”
Additionally, Harmon said columns for the front porch and the front porch flooring can’t be installed until the water leak from the roof is repaired. Modern electricity is also being put in the house.
There are many more people to thank as well, he noted, including Roland and Virgil Hall, who have graded the grounds to allow for a driveway to the south side of the home with gravel. He said the Friends of the Sidna Allen House have also made it possible for the society to purchase 38 Ionian columns for the front porch (which must wait for the shingles to be put in place). The kitchen entrance siding has also been painted and columns have been installed to the exact specifications of the original columns, which have not been up for about 80 years.
“The ones most people remember were replacements that were very generic for the rental house it turned into and not the great Sidna Allen House,” Harmon said. “The kitchen porch flooring has been installed which matches the original tongue-and-groove flooring, which has not been on for years. Most people may remember the numerous replacement floorings.”
Harmon said the front porch ceiling will be replaced with an exact replica of the tongue and groove that was created by Grayson Millworks.
“They had to create a set of knives to cut this unique design in the ceiling. This design of ceiling is used on the inside of the house and on the kitchen entrance,” he said.
The Friends of the Sidna Allen House have made it possible to restore the windows on the front porch, which are ready, but must wait until after the shingles, ceiling and siding are in place so it will not endanger the home’s one-of-a-kind stained glass windows.
“We have spent a long period of time on each part of the house to be accurate and that continues with an ongoing project of getting the spindles of the front and kitchen entrances correct to the original house,” Harmon said. “We will reconstruct the boiler room on the back of the house, but hope very soon to put public restrooms in this area. We have the design and blue print by Yancey Powers in Hillsville, thanks to his massive help with this whole project. He has worked many hours volunteering his many talents.”
Harmon said Southern States of Hillsville donated materials for hydro-seeding, grass seed, fertilizer and lime for the grounds. The hydro-seeding was completed by the late Tony Robinson and his wife Lynette Robinson, along with C. J. Baldwin and James Williams. He also wants to thank the students of Carroll County Middle School who came out on a Saturday to clean up the grounds so it could be seeded.
“We would like to thank the Friends of the Sidna Allen House because they have made it possible for us to do a lot of things with financial support. There have also been a lot of donations from a lot of people in Carroll County that have really helped us do a lot of things with this project,” Harmon said. “I want to thank all the members of the Carroll County Historical Society for their many sacrifices in the restoring of this magnificent house.”
The Carroll County Historical Society hopes to raise more money for the home’s restoration on Saturday, Aug. 25, at noon when artist P. Buckley Moss will be signing her new print of the Sidna Allen House.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on [email protected].