Home gets a new home|Piece by piece, house moves north on Cherry

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 6, 2009

On the corner of Cherry and First East streets, a “For Sale” sign tags a house that has been nearly a century and a half in the making.

Dubbed Springfield, the house is a hybrid — built around 1860, it offers 21st-century amenities.

The house was painted pink in its most recent life, with Vicksburg’s signature pierced columns lining its porch.

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For most of its existence, it was at 1831 Cherry St., between the Carr school building and the railroad viaduct.

After Nancy Bell of the Vicksburg Foundation for Historical Preservation heard the house had been set for demolition, word got to Anchuca Mansion owner Tom Pharr. The home’s former owners donated the building to the Foundation and soon Pharr and his aunt Sandra Hollingsworth had undertaken the project.

“We didn’t intend to do it, it just happened,” Pharr said.

Pharr and Hollingsworth made a plan to disassemble the building “board by board,” Hollingsworth said, and to  reconstruct it in another neighborhood. That idea also spawned from the disassembly and relocation of Hollingsworth’s own house a few years earlier.

“Basically, it was our only hope of saving any part of that building,” said Toni Lanford-Ferguson, chairman of the Vicksburg Board of Architectural Review, which approved the project. Pharr and Hollingsworth “in essence, saved the house.”

With the Architectural Board’s blessing, the pair chose the house’s new location, on Cherry at First East Street, near Anchuca.

“It’s definitely found its place on the corner and really completes the streetscape,” Pharr said.

While deciding on a place to rebuild, Pharr looked for more than just a vacant lot — the neighborhood he chose, established nearly 200 years ago, houses 21 antebellum structures, including Anchuca and Duff Green Mansion. Springfield is the neighborhood’s first “new construction” in about 85 years, Pharr said.

Other cottages neighbor some of the mansions, giving the block a sense of socioeconomic diversity that appeals to Pharr.

“The neighborhood — it’s not a black neighborhood, it’s not a white neighborhood, it’s not a rich neighborhood, it’s not a poor neighborhood,” Pharr said. “It is uniquely an American place.”

All the pieces of the old structure were kept in a storehouse during the construction, and builders picked from the pile as they went along. Hollingsworth estimated they used about 85 percent of the old materials for Springfield.

And nothing went to waste.

“Everything we could salvage from the original house is in this house,” Pharr said.

When additional flooring was needed for the more-than-6,000-square-foot space, the high beams were sanded down and used as floorboards.

It wasn’t an inexpensive idea. Between the labor of taking down the original house, revamping the materials and building the new house, which includes a number of green features, Springfield ended up costing much more than new construction, Pharr said.

The tri-level home has four bedrooms, a four-car garage, seven walk-in closets, a fireplace and a dependency kitchen. From the street, visitors enter a brick-laid courtyard with a sugar kettle fountain and stairs leading up to the front porch.

Springfield’s front replicates the original structure “to the inch,” Pharr said. White pierced columns meet a tan porch, on which sit two wooden rocking chairs. The formerly pink front is painted white and accented with deep green shutters.

“It’s quintessentially Southern,” Pharr said.

Inside, more than 4,100 of the square feet are heated and cooled. White crown molding borders the soft-yellow walls in the double parlor on the main level. Pharr said he set up lighting and made the wall space accommodating for art work.

On the upper level, a window in the den looks out past a church steeple to the river.

A suite-office-kitchen combo share the bottom level with the garage and two storage rooms. The living space could be used for guests or rented out as an apartment.

Springfield is listed at $595,000, the same amount it cost Pharr to disassemble the old house and construct the new one. Although the home is more expensive than some other Vicksburg listings, Pharr said the house is more than a temporary residence.

“(It’s a) place people can fall in love with and care for,” he said. “The houses that were built here were built to be investments for generations to come.”

Since Springfield went on the market in March, many people have toured the home but, besides the tenant living in the downstairs apartment, it remains empty.

Still, Pharr remains optimistic and Lanford-Ferguson is appreciative that the house is standing, saved from its planned demolition.

“A lot of people don’t understand that once all of those (historical structures) are gone in what makes our city unique, it’s just no longer there, and our city’s no longer unique,” Lanford-Ferguson said. “Every time one of these wonderful structures goes down, it’s just part of our heritage.”


Contact Andrea Vasquez at avasquez@vicksburgpost.com