Restoration and Preservation

Fortsville is on state and national registers of historical houses. Its primary period of historical interest starts before 1792 and extends through the civil war (1861 – 1865). It was built and inhabited by wealthy, slave holding  plantation owners. As the civil war approached, the plantation was not producing enough wealth to maintain it in its former manner. After the civil war, it remained in the hands of relatives but various family members lived in the house and were not generally so well off anymore. By the time around 1925, financial obligations caused the family to lose the property. It was acquired by another family who have operated the farm ever since but who never lived in the house. Instead a number of renters lived in the house until the house and 4 acres were separated from the farm and sold around 1975 to Mr. and Mrs. Earl Sowers. The Sowers began work on restoring and preserving the house while living in a mobile home they put on the property.  The Sowers restored all first floor rooms to approximate the condition they could be expected to have been found in their better days. Little was done to the second floor, however.

The Sowers sold the house and lot to Frank and Betty Ann Lifsey in 2005. We Lifseys hoped to further improve the house and yard and use the house as a center piece of a Christian work. The exact nature of that work was not known, but the fact that this was a pre-civil war plantation house gave it some authenticity to address unresolved issues involving race and class. We also believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to make real progress. With these things in view, we began working on restoring/preserving the house.

We installed central heating and air conditioning for the first floor. The exterior needed painting and some repairs. The foundation and underpinning required some reinforcement. All rooms upstairs required painting, patching or replacement of walls and ceilings. Another bathroom was needed to go on the second floor. The Sowers had already roughed in plumbing for the bathroom and brought electrical wiring to the attic. From there we extended wiring to all upstairs rooms with sufficient outlets.

To what level of restoration should we attempt to bring the house? We decided not to do anything which would prevent later restoration to a higher level but to make the house livable and attractive in the near term. We call this total preservation and partial restoration. The furnishings of the house are quite eclectic. We will not favor the occupants of 1800 over those of 2000. All have lived here. It is not just a historical home but a continuously used home and the furnishings reflect that fact.