A Brief History

Pentimento was designed and built in 1939 by my grandmother as a respite from Greenville's summer heat. Previously used only in the warm months, the house has been completely renovated with a gourmet kitchen and new infrastructure including comfortable, year-round central heating and air conditioning.

Originally framed with hemlock, the house withstood many seasons. The siding is local white pine and the inside is primarily paneled in heart pine. Several local furniture makers, including Walter Cantrell, made many of the original furnishings. The dining room table and benches, and the "tree trunk" railing leading upstairs were built in the house and remain there today. Grandmother furnished the house with many antiques, both fine and rustic. Time took it's toll and those long gone antiques have been replaced with comfortable and inviting furnishings in keeping with the look of the old days.

My grandmother, a naturalist ahead of her time, never allowed other than native plants or flowers to be planted on the property. She loved the split oak baskets made by local crafts people, hanging many from the porch rafters for children to use for picking berries in the woods around the house.

For years there was no phone in the house. Grandmother saw no need, preferring to talk to people directly. At her doctor's insistence, she finally installed one. And that she did reluctantly, installing it in the closet under the stairs so she didn't have to see it. You can still see all the phone numbers written on the closet walls—the first neighborhood phone booth!

We children couldn't wait to get to the mountains. We arrived shortly after our last classes and stayed until we had to return to school in the fall. We ran up and down the hills, played in the streams beside the house and swam in Stone's Lake. We put on elaborate plays and circuses. As circus performers, we swung on grapevines over the ravine behind the house. Grandmother made our costumes. We fashioned Indian headdresses from "Mr. Emerson's" chickens' feathers.

My grandmother, mother and father instilled an enduring love for this land in me, my brother, sister and cousins. I bought my sibling's interests as the property passed to my generation and I inherited my father's dream of fixing the house and living at Cedar Mountain. It took twenty years before I was able to do the renovation that produced the wonderful house you see today.

My goal was to modernize the house while keeping as much of the original look and spirit as possible. My dreams were surpassed many times over through the vision of Bill Nichols, our good friend and architect, and the expertise of Lee Smith and his team of craftsmen: Calvin Guffey, Roger Guffey, Chuck Guffey, Richie Hooper, Ty Batson and others. This project was truly a "family affair!" Stonework and landscaping were beautifully revived by Mike Lee. Most of the stone was originally a part of the house or obtained from the surrounding property.

A new foundation, roof, wrap-around porch, entrance staircase and infrastructure were built. The original pine siding was removed and additional framing, insulation and new, larger windows were installed. The siding was then washed, stained and re-installed. Most of the interior heart pine paneling is original. It was carefully sanded and sealed to bring back its beautiful patina.

The floor plan was maintained with few exceptions. The laundry room was a small screened porch on which stood an old refrigerator. Putting a refrigerator in the kitchen meant displacing the little wood-burning stove, which now decorates the front porch. Nevertheless, the kitchen was completely remodeled and modernized. There were originally four bedrooms upstairs with one tiny bathroom. The old bathroom was updated and incorporated into the upstairs suite. The fourth bedroom was replaced by the large bathroom now serving the other two bedrooms.

The bedrooms are named after the principals responsible for this delightful renovation: Bill ("Nick"), who designed and nurtured this wonderful new old house; Lee, who loved the project and spread that love to his team, inspiring the beautiful craftsmanship evident in every aspect of this house; Tom, my husband, who while never having seen the house in its initial glory, understood my obsession with returning that luster; and me—Frannie.

This house has provided joy, peace and happiness to four family generations. And now a fifth plays in the field in front of the house as have so many children before them. We hope all who enjoy Pentimento in the future will share in its sense of history.

Oh, and the meaning of the name "Pentimento," the old shines through the new, is taken from the world of art. It refers to an underlying image in a painting, an earlier painting or original draft, that shows through the top layer. Although the house has been completely refurbished, its historical old charm still shines through.

— Frannie