Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Gate House {Restoring The Mansion}

This post has been a long time coming.  As in, people have actually been asking if they missed the post because they've been waiting for it since they knew this was a project we finished last year. So I"ll confess one reason this post is so late in coming.  I wanted to have my lawn mowed... but I also needed to wait for a cloudy day so I didn't have crazy shadows and the two just never seemed to synchronize!  Especially since I mow lawns for a living....  mine always is the last on the priority list.

So let's take a stroll down memory lane and see this beautiful Gate House back in 1963....

And let's step back even further into time and talk about what this was! 
Long before the 1963 photo above, there was an interurban train car that ran from Jackson to Battle Creek in the early 1900's.  You can still see where the tracks once were along the front of our property, to the east of the Gate House.  This Gatehouse was one of the train car's stops before it got to Parma.  It is rumored that Mr. Miner, who lived on this estate at the time, hired prisoners from the Jackson State Penitentiary to help him build his magnificent waterfalls (see HERE), plant thousands of trees, and more, and the prisoners would wait in the gate house (aka guardhouse) for the train car to transport them back to their home behind bars.  Whether that is completely true or not, I cannot verify!

The story of the Interurban Train Car ended with a tragic crash in 1923 which you can read about HERE.

So when it came turn for the Wielenga family to take over this estate, the little Gate House needed some desperate TLC, as you can see in the next few photos.  

The round columns on the front had been replaced with square wood posts and covered in aluminum siding.

The aluminum siding, put on by the Lefere's in 1972 had become a terrible eye sore forty years later.

The pillars that greeted you as you pulled into the drive were also a sight for sore eyes.
I'll post on their restoration soon!

Let's peek at the inside which really stayed quite nice!  It's paneled floor to ceiling and has carpet on the floor.

The kids went to work ripping off siding:

Yours truly removing the shutters....

The Lefere's always documented the date they did something so it was no surprise when we found this written on the old wood siding under the "newer" aluminium:

And not only did we uncover the date and who did the work - Nate Shong - but we uncovered a door on the back side!!

We loved the look of the door, but it does not open because of the paneling over it from the inside.

I put the boys to work painting the posts white and when they were almost finished a light bulb went off in my head and I remembered the four old pillars I had found out in the barn!  

I was giddy with excitement as I ran to the barn with a measuring tape, and the old black and white photo of the gate house in my hand that showed round columns.  YESSSSS!!!!!!!  I snapped a photo on my phone and quickly texted it to the hubby.

The boys were not thrilled they had painted the square ones only to replaced.  I told them it was a character building experience.

 They were too long, so Tim had to cut them shorter.  So that might make you wonder... if they come off the gate house, why wouldn't they go back on?  Since there were only two on the gate house and four in the barn, we are thinking maybe they are from the bandstand that was once in the backyard.  Just a guess, as we do not have any photos of the bandstand, just a diagram of it on the old map (See the map HERE).

Here you can see the white pillars the boys needlessly painted - thanks boys - and my mom working on the east side window.  Of course she got in on some of this project!  What's a project around here without my mom??

Notice the transom windows (well, what used to be windows, the glass is gone) over the door!  That was another detail that had been hidden by the aluminum siding.  You can see them back in the black and white photo!  

A close up of the transom "window" (it has plywood behind it now where glass once was) and the cast iron hanger for a flower pot (thanks Shirley Larson!).

So what do we use it for?  Well right now it has the kids lemonade stand stored in it for "some day" and the kids wait for the school bus in it during nasty weather.  Other than that?  It just sits and looks cute, recording everyone who pulls into the old Trail Acres Driveway.  Oh the stories it could tell!

And the view from my front porch.... :)

One last comparison of the then and now photos and I'll let you go!
Thanks for your patience as I walked you through some of the restoration of the Gate House!
And ohhhhhh how did I forget to mention that BEAUTIFUL fence around the top that it once had? Oh to have that back - sniff sniff!!!!!

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sharing here:
TDC Before and After


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Very impressive Tammy! I'm impressed with your and Tim's energy levels to keep working on all this stuff. We do too, but most people don't work so much!

  3. I'm absolutely loving watching your blog... please keep all the posts coming! I'm living vicariously through you! (Just a little note, maybe you mean "transom" window?) Thanks for sharing all your awesome work on this exceptional property!

  4. I'm always giddy with delight when I see a new post about your home & property! :) The gate house is beautiful! A funny side note, we too live in a house that was previously owned by a Lefere family & they documented all the house updates as well :)

  5. This is seriously the cutest property that you're redoing! I love, love, love the gatehouse!

    xoxo, SS

    Southern And Style

  6. Kammy, I adore this restoration and it being a family project. :) What a Blessing to have such a wonderful home and I KNOW it appreciates all your loving attention.
    How great is it to remember and use the pillars. :)
    Love seeing the old photos.
    I'm betting you (somehow) receive the fencing for the top of the gatehouse AND... historical photos of your home. Enjoy and thanks so much for sharing! ~ Christina in FL


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