||Text of op ed May
Joseph S. Hall invested $84,000 in a house he had visited only once in the
last 50 years.
That structure was the Shook-Smathers
house built abut 1800 by Hall's great-great-great grandfather, Jacob Shook.
It is likely the oldest N.C. house west of the Blue Ridge, and it is in poor
Before he opens this rambling
structure to the public, Hall will have invested close to $300,000 in its
purchase and restoration. That's a lot of money for a house that he
will not live in, enough money that Hall may never see it recoup the
investment s the museum he plans to make it.
But Joseph Hall, a retired
college professor who now lives in Washington, D.C., did not buy the Shook-Smathers
house as a financial investment. Rather, its purchase and restoration
is an investment in history -- Hall's own family history as well as that of
the county. His investment is a hope that in restoring the house it
will be a celebration of the past for future generations to enjoy.
When finished, the restoration
of the Shook House should also stand as an example of the best in historic
There have been times since 1993 that the future
of this old structure stood in doubt, questions about whether the Clyde
house would remain standing until the right buyer would be found. Ruth
Jones, a descendant of Levi Smathers who bought the house about 1850, and
two other heirs had refused several buyers, Jones said, fearing they would
destroy the historical integrity of the home and its revered third-floor
chapel. Unfortunately, the house also suffered 21 years of vacancy, as
Jones, a widow and Raleigh resident, did not want to move to Clyde and live
spotted a photo advertising the house in the international magazine of the
National Trust for Historic Preservation. He remembered the house from
a visit in his childhood, and it sparked interest in his family history.
He visited the house, consulted
with architects, and purchased it with a covenant that pledges him to
maintain its historical integrity.
Now Hall has chosen an architect
and contractor experienced in historical renovation. Their assignment
is to restore the Shook-Smathers house to its two original styles of
architecture. When visitors enter the house, Hall said, he wants them
to see how the original portion, built in an early federal period, looked
when Jacob Shook constructed it with nails he forged himself. He also
wants them to get a feel for the Victorian period of the renovations done by
the Smathers family a little over a half-century later.
Though he has not been a Western
North Carolina resident for more than 50 years, Hall has rescued a
historical treasure for this county and the region. He deserves
appreciation and support.
The work should also be seen as
an example of the respect and investment we should give historic treasures
of the past. Once destroyed these old homes and businesses can never
be recaptured. We should work to preserve them while they remain with