A home built when George Washington was the nation’s first president is starting new life as an office in downtown Lexington.
Historic preservationists are happy with the transformation that saved the rare, two-story log home built in 1790 from demolition last fall.
“Adaptive reuse of historic buildings is as good as it gets,” said Chuck Corley, chairman of the town Historic Review Preservation Board. “We need to see more of it.”
The changes didn’t affect home’s rustic character featuring interior clapboard siding and ceilings as well as log cabin walls full of marks left by axes that cut trees for the wood.
But the renovation did outfit the building with modern technology as well as a new exterior that’s weather-resistant, a front porch, plumbing, electric wiring and a ventilation system.
Some aspects are updated, such as using a mix of insulation foam, drywall compound and sand between the logs. The blend looks like the mud daubed in those spaces years ago but is much more energy-efficient. And the fireplaces that formerly heated the rooms are now decorative instead of usable.
“In 225 years, everyone has put their own little touches to it,” said builder Danny Cannon, who oversaw its restoration.
The home was moved a mile to Main Street from a 20-acre site off U.S. 378 on which a retirement community is being developed. It now sits behind the law offices of Jean Derrick and Bill Gorski, who plan to rent it out as office space.
The home was built two centuries ago in the Dutch Fork area on the north side of Lake Murray, serving as a dwelling for generations of families. Then it was moved to Lexington 34 years ago to become a private residence.
Derrick and Gorski are happy with the restoration even though the project was more expensive than first thought.
“The estimates were unrealistic, but we did it,” Derrick said.
Both lawyers are local history buffs, so the prospect of converting a local landmark into a useful investment appealed to them.
“It’s a business venture,” Gorski said. “I wouldn’t do it if I thought we’d lose money.”
Work was delayed at the start by record rain last October that left the ground wet for weeks, holding up the installation of a new foundation.
Unforeseen problems such as termite damage also were discovered.
Challenges such as those mean “this is going to be my one and only (restoration) project,” Derrick said.
But the home’s frame is solid despite decades of wear, Cannon said. “Surprisingly, this house is straight and fairly square,” he said.
The project wrapped up four months later than planned, but Derrick and Gorski are delighted at the outcome.
“I wouldn’t change a thing,” Derrick said. “It’s beautiful.”
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483