The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

For Love of An Old House

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1983-2012

Issue: October, 1983

for love of an old house 1The Calfee house today.The house had been in the Calfee family since 1800. It was probably Henry Calfee, who originally came from Pulaski, who purchased 2000 acres of land in Carroll County. The oldest marker in the Calfee family cemetery is of Stephen Calfee, who died May 3, 1880, but several graves marked only with a stone may be much older.

The last Calfee to be buried there was Lynch Calfee. The 1850 Carroll County Census listed Elizabeth Calfee who, I have been told by relatives, was Stephen’s aunt. This Elizabeth Calfee married George L. Carter.

Through Mrs. Alene Goad of Pulaski, we have several photographs of a wedding that took place February 11, 1917. The wedding was of Helen Jane Calfee and James Eric Hanks, Alene Goad’s parents. The wedding took place at the Calfee home and the wedding party then moved outside for photographs to be taken. These photos show the house in its original glory.

The first I knew of the Calfee family was in a letter from Mrs. Marjorie Phillips of Greensboro, North Carolina who is the present owner. I will quote to you from her letter:

for love of an old house 21917 wedding at Calfee house.“On August 30, 1962, the Lynch Calfee house was put up for auction and I was fortunate to purchase two tracts with the house. Enclosed is a picture of the house as it looked when purchased. It was being used to store hay and the double porches had pulled away from the house and the flooring was bad. My husband told me to burn the place down it looked so bad. Every room leaked and we put in a case of window panes, but I felt the house had good possibilities. I loved the double porches with the side staircase going to the upper level. They are 52 feet long. The flooring around the fireplace in the living room had to be replaced. The men who did the work found an Indian tomahawk next to the stone used previously for a hearth. Power Calfee, son of Lynch Calfee, told me the original fireplaces were the kind you could sit in a corner and warm. They were replaced about 1876.

The house is two large buildings, and these were joined together after it went into their family. He said the log buildings were standing in 1800 when it went into their family. Each log building had a stairway, but they closed them and put in one in the middle room. All the doors are pegged and there are wide boards on the walls. There have been several interesting things found. There is a large map of the world dated 1839 and a large map of Virginia dated 1889. I have dug up many old bottles. One says it is good for man or beast. The old blacksmith bellows was in three pieces and I had it made into a coffee table. Of course the leather was replaced but the original handmade nails are still in it.”

for love of an old house 3Calfee house when purchased.In a later correspondence with Mrs. Phillips, she says:

“I didn’t mention that I had the springhouse redone last year. Tree roots pushed it off the foundation and they used a chain hoist and raised it and put a cinder-block foundation where it was rock but at least it is not leaning, ready to fall. It dated back to the 1800’s and I hated to see it fall.”

I know the present day descendants of the Calfee family must regret the home not being in the family any more but Mrs. Phillips has done her very best to restore the home to its former splendor and loves and respects all it stands for… as the photographs accompanying this article will attest.

It is a gracious, lovely place which shows the rewards of saving the past for not only the present but the future.

I often feel a sadness when I see an old home either being torn down or just falling from age when just a glimpse of it tells of the splendor of its youth.

The Calfee house is one that has been saved. I hope other people will, seeing the results of the photographs, consider the restoration of older homes as well.