Text by Joanne M. Anderson
Photos by Always and Forever Photography
Riner was once a thriving village with a sawmill, lumber yard, tobacco factory, tannery, hotel, shoe factory and well company. Originally called Old Forks around 1808 for the confluence of three roads, it was re-named Five Forks or Five Points once settlers converted paths into more roads around and between the gently rolling hills. It was Auburn for a while, but there was another Auburn in the state, so Riner was re-named for Dr. Riner, a well-respected community leader.
Time marched on, and business declined as other centers of commerce took root in the New River Valley. Pastoral beauty and a strong community bond remain, along with a rich legacy in historical homes like the Childress-Hall home, circa late 1870. This two-story wood farmhouse spoke volumes to the Davidsons when they purchased it about 40 years ago.
“Plaster was chipped and chimneys falling apart. The kitchen was outside the house connected by a breezeway,” recalls Anne, “and I thought it was the most beautiful place I could imagine living.” Across the years, those walls have been repaired, chimneys re-built. They were amused reading 1800s newspapers found in the walls when they added insulation. Other renovations have occurred at the back of the house, leaving the front as it was some 150 years ago, though with fresh paint, new shutters, sprucing up and a more recent fence. The front stone patio is authentic, and wood floors have been uncovered to reveal the original, rustic, heart pine. The floor pitch (tilt) on the second floor is a testimony to time and strength in construction. The original parlor is a cheery yellow with family antiques and one of those re-built chimneys.
The kitchen is now part of the house and has been renovated a couple times. Anne upped the charm with raising the ceiling, exposed wood beams, a large picture window, state-of-the-art appliances, an impressive basket collection and one of her own handmade chandeliers. Her natural, artistic flair is everywhere, including paintings by her, her mother and one of her sons, Townsend Davidson, who is an artist in Charleston S.C. Unique crafts, the comfy, country decor and antique pieces handed down and acquired lend a warmth in every room. The sunroom off the kitchen sports a teal motif, brick floor, more open beams, multiple skylights and French doors off two sides to inviting patio spaces flanked with colorful flowers in pots and vines overhead.
The first shower and ground floor bathroom in the house was installed last year ~ the outdoor shower served well across decades. Pampering is now present in the tub by the window, real glassed-in shower, interior closet and classy, crystal chandelier (store bought and hand-assembled). “These old houses had no closets, everyone used wardrobes and armoires,” Anne explains. And so did they until now. The bathroom walls are poplar, and the floor is a new brand of tile which looks like wood. Large windows and a patio door flood this luxurious bathroom with natural daylight and sunshine.
Year round, every window frames an enchanting view of rural life on the outside. The Davidsons moved part of a log cow barn out of Floyd a few years ago – log by log, numbered, marked and re-assembled on a slight knoll behind the house. It is an ultra charming guest accommodation replete with antique iron bed, quilts, old books and a loft. The old smokehouse has likewise been retrofitted. Its white board and batten exterior matches the house, chicken coop and a couple other small outbuildings.
Sweet spots for rest, reading and contemplation are tucked in around the grounds ~ a bistro table nestled under a natural, leafy canopy, gazebo, wood benches straddling a stream. Between two levels of front porches and more patio space off the sunroom, sitting area and master bathroom, the residents can live comfortably outside almost as much as inside. Of course, no air conditioning means windows and doors are open often across three seasons on warm days and nights. There’s no shortage of fresh air or natural daylight.
This historical, homespun, rural homestead is high tech, compared to its day, if just for having a television, telephone and the heated floor in the new bathroom. There’s a computer somewhere, but it’s not prominently placed. What is front and center here is a delightful home with lovely grounds, historical character, warmly inviting rooms and an eclectic decor that causes visitors to linger, ponder, relax and smile.
Since the Davidsons are going on 40 years of ownership with no intention of moving, the property could rightfully be named the “Childress-Hall-Davidson” house. Or C.H.D. Charming. Historical. Divine.