Blood, sweat and tears + blueprints, tools and templates + babies, kids and teens + a bold, spiritual tenacity have propelled the Kimzey family to grow while renovating and expanding their unusual house. Across the past two decades, Trevor and Tracy faced many obstacles in crafting a home with the vision of warm hospitality.
In 2000, the young family of four (2 adults + 2 small children) lived in a 1,000-square-foot home daydreaming of a larger family and a bigger house. On a whim, they looked at an old, former church building. “It was not exactly what we were dreaming about, but all that changed when we saw the inside and learned that the house was on a full acre with a large, open backyard,” Trevor relates.
The couple had to have a vision of what could be to see beyond what was – live wires hanging out of the walls, baseboard heaters piled in corners, tools strewn about in sawdust and hardwood floors which had not been refinished since installation in the 1930s.
Rutherford B. Hayes was U.S. President in 1877 when a postage stamp was 3 cents. The country was on the cusp of shifting from agriculture to a more industrial-based economy when St. Mark’s Lutheran Church was constructed in Prices Fork to serve the Lutheran heritage of German settlers. It was moved back from the road 33 years later, and again in 1948 when a basement was finally added, providing space for the expanding congregation.
Just shy of 100 years, in 1974, the church body moved to a new building, and this church was converted to apartments. “These were the dark ages for the former church,” Tracy says. “It was filled with wood paneling, cheap interior construction, and it weathered hard use from tenants.” A rebirth was initiated in 1995 when a couple purchased it and began renovating for a single family home.
“They made significant progress, but left abruptly for new career opportunities,” Trevor explains, “leaving behind an unfinished, and for the moment, uninhabitable house.”
The Kimzeys embraced their vision whole-heartedly, often interrupted with high priority matters like lack of attic insulation, broken water lines, and more. Within five years, their number of children doubled to four, and eventually, that doubled again to eight. It was clear they needed more space.
Trevor explains: “We planned, schemed, and sought input from others. Finally we realized that we had enough volume under our roof. We didn’t need to expand but to use more of the existing space. With a steep-pitched church-style roof, our home had an enormous attic above the ceiling. Unlike modern homes with roof trusses every few feet, the church was constructed with a large-timber frame, mortise and tendon construction. There was lots of open space between only five bent-knee timber frame trusses – affording loads of potential. We sketched, measured and eventually created drawings for a new ‘addition’ into half of the existing attic space. In the summer of 2005, we began a 3-month renovation project.”
Three months cruised into six months – dealing with snakes, bats, change orders and seemingly endless on-the-fly adjustments to accommodate the curious condition of the old building. “On Christmas Eve, 2005, our contractor, who was practically a member of the family by now, rolled out just hours before our holiday guests were to arrive,” states Tracy. The home now embraced 3,100 square feet of living space.
The whole house radiates joy, fun, family, energy and efficiency. The kitchen is more of an L-shaped galley than a substantial space. The dining room table seats all 10 of them, and they willingly squish up for more. A generous 460-square-foot deck can seat another 10 or more, and the 2-story treehouse has certainly had many a lunch or snack consumed inside. The family planned and built both the deck and treehouse.
There are work spaces on every floor, with the very large homeschool classroom in the basement. Three girls share an unusual room in the former attic with three lofts accessed by charming oak built-in staircases, with desks and dressers underneath. The master bedroom is behind the great room, with a step up to the master bathroom on the space once occupied by the sanctuary’s altar.
The backyard is every child’s dream of a place to run and play. An old outhouse has been converted to a playhouse. There’s a trampoline, and the family has backyard chickens and fresh eggs.
For sure, the Kimzey family dream of having a house with character and a large family to fill it have come true. Like many New River Valley residents, Trevor came here to attend Virginia Tech some 30 years ago and never left. Tracy married him here in 1996, and respectively, they left behind their home cities of Pittsburgh and Houston. “Beautiful mountain scenery, vibrant communities, and wonderful churches and career opportunities drew us to start and keep our family right here,” Trevor concludes.
Text by Joanne M. Anderson | Photos by Tom and Christy Wallace♦ End