Restoring family homestead preserves heritage, memories

Gloria Austin, Special to The County
9 years ago

Home improvement can be for a couple of reasons. One, the owners wants to sell. And, two, to preserve family memories.
A house is just a structure. A home is built with love. And, that is what Billy and Debbie Carpenter have done with their 1301 B Road residence.

The Carpenters have the property for sale, but the intent of remodeling was done to safeguard a family’s heritage.
“I have lived here all of my life,” said Billy. “It has changed on the inside, but the structure is still the same. I like it and wanted to stay here. Everyone else left and I was the only one here. So, I took care of my mother and father what I could.”
Debbie added, “It is the homestead. His brothers still consider it home.”
The house is believed to be more than 150 years old.
“I was always told it was an original Hammond house,” said Billy. “My father bought the house in 1939.”
Henry and Sadie Carpenter were married July 5, 1939 at seven o’clock in the morning.
“She moved in and he went and plowed fields that day,” said Debbie. “They had a wedding reception that night at a neighbor’s home.”
If walls could talk, many stories and recollections of farm life would be shared. But, those walls are nothing but shadows of the past. The Carpenters gutted the entire house — finding “insulation” was newspaper from the 1800s — down to only the bare studs in 1989.
“You could look right straight through the house,” said Billy. “We really stripped it.”
Debbie’s brother, Terry Wallace, got to work and gave the homestead a facelift. The construction of finished walls to insulation and new wiring to the exterior new shingles to the roof. The home once heated with wood and gas stoves is now fitted with heating oil.
The old barns that housed the horses, cattle and other animals were traded for a three-car garage; the wood shed turned into an inviting den. An open kitchen set apart to a smaller dining area, which is having its double doors replaced with new windows; to a laundry space and a quaint living room.
“The main floor still has a little bit of a slant,” Debbie pointed out. “But, we kept it that way because it was the character of the house.”
Off of the main house in the front is a deck that was initially going to be open, but the mosquitoes forced the Carpenters to close it in. The windows have plexiglass and in the summer that is taken off to let the breeze blow unrestricted through the decorated covered entrance.
Walking up the stairs to the second floor is the original banister to connect yesteryear with a contemporary setting. The Carpenters had help restoring the handrail to its original state.
“There was about 10 coats of paint on the rail,” Debbie explained. “We took it back to its original wood.”
Upstairs, a guest room, along with bedrooms have been remade into a toy room and sewing space and a small bathroom. The old attic has been restored to an updated master bedroom.
“No one believes we put so much work into it,” Billy said. “A new house might have been a little cheaper to build, but I just like the old homestead.”
The house sits on 63-plus acres of ground in Hammond. The snowmobile and four-wheeling trail is adjacent to the property.
Since the overhaul, the house has been repainted and the popcorn ceilings re-sprayed and new doors added.
“We have kept it up,” said Debbie. “Twenty-five years ago, it was all modern,” Billy added. “It is still [up-to-date] but older.”
The early homestead on a dirt roadway was an outline of traditional farm life filled with taking care of animals, while planting and plowing potato and oat fields.
“We cut our own seed by hand,” recalled Billy. “Dad, who worked in the woods all week around Princeton, would come home at the end of the week and take care of the farm. We would help him with the chores.
“We would milk the cows, bring the milk to the pantry and mother would separate the cream and milk, making her own butter and buttermilk,” he added.
The neighborhood kids would gather at the Carpenters’ homestead, as Billy gathered those memories with a smile.
“The McAfee kids and Richard Briggs,” he said, “a bunch of us were always hanging out. We didn’t go to school in Houlton. We went to the school down the hill for eight years.”
The Hammond School was a one-room schoolhouse, which now serves as Hammond’s Town Office.
Through reminiscing, glimpses of a simpler life are revealed and the relationship of owner and home are coupled together. Childhood glances of Billy and his three brothers and three sisters at home, playing and working, come to mind. However, the homestead is vast for just two.
“It is too big for us now,” Billy said. “The kids are grown.”
“We are in a different season of our life,” Debbie explained. “It was well worth doing the house. But, there is just the two of us.
“We would love to see someone with kids fill up the rooms,” she added. “This was always a house with kids in it.”
The Carpenters have breathed new life into an aged farmhouse, forging a path for someone to carry the torch and create their own story to be chronicled.
“If we sell it. We sell it. We will get something smaller,” said Billy.