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A family treasure
An 1837 farmhouse gets a respectful but useful 21st century face-lift
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The foyer of the Thompson family home is all original wood paneled walls, floors and ceilings. The Hauses' master bedroom is off to the right and Ragin Hause's office is to the left. The new kitchen sits straight ahead. - photo by Tom Reed

DAWSONVILLE - Jo Ann and Ragin Hause loved the stacked rock foundation, original heart pine wood floors and beams and all the sentimental value of the Thompson family homestead.

But they also had to have a modernized home in which to live.

So five years ago, the couple enlisted the help of Sullivan & Forbes, a building and remodeling company in Gainesville, to restore the Thompson home that was built in 1837.

"Ragin's marching orders, for sentimental reasons to the family and the history of the family, were that they really wanted to remodel the house and they didn't want to live in an 1830s house," said Larry Forbes, builder with Sullivan & Forbes. "They wanted a new house, so that's where we came up with the idea of doing what we did here."

Jo Ann said she never intended on actually living in the family farmhouse until she met Hank Sullivan and Forbes at a convention at the Georgia Mountains Center.

"We talked to them and told him what we liked and he showed up at our house," she said. "We were hoping that if it wasn't livable we could at least use some of the lumber out of it ... then Larry said, ‘Oh we can fix this.'"

Added Sullivan, "In the new area we tried to bring some of the ingredients of the old in the new," he said.

An old addition to the home that was made in the late-1800s was taken down and remodeled, but the original front section of the home remains, including the master bedroom, an office and three rooms upstairs. The new addition houses a large kitchen, a den, a garage and a portion of the second level.

"The house has been in my family since the land grants, basically," said Jo Ann Hause, who works at Brenau University. "My grandmother lived in it; it has been family the whole time."

The stacked stone foundation was reinforced under the house and Ragin restored an old doctor's office on the property into a shed, among numerous projects.

But the most loved of all the projects was the new porch on the front of the house.

"A long time ago my grandparents built (a porch) that went straight across," Jo Ann said. "But we found an old picture from the early 1900s with a different roof, so they took it off and made it look like the original.

"We've had so many people just drive up, take pictures and ask if they can make their family pictures on our porch ... it's incredible."

Jo Ann and Ragin don't spend too much time on the front porches, but they do love the other two on the east and west side of the home.

"We always say that's the sunset porch and that's the sunrise porch," Jo Ann said. "So you can have your coffee on one and your martini on the other."

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