BY RICHARD AMRHINE
Get ready for plenty of “re” words in this story—
like recycling, reusing and reclaiming—because all of those activities play a key role in the construction of a log cabin at Farley Vale Farm in King George County.
According to Edward and Weber Taylor, who have owned the 932-acre property since 1957, many of the materials being used were already there, from excavated rocks that have lodged there since the beginning of time, to the railroad ties from a track that has come and gone more recently.
“We wanted to reuse as much as we could of what was already here,” said Weber Taylor about the project, whether it occurred naturally or was otherwise a part of the property’s history.
The plan was to provide son Letcher with a place of his own to live on the family farm, which borders the Rappahannock River. The family settled on building a log cabin, because they like the rustic nature of a cabin and felt it would fit nicely on the historic property. Weber Taylor loves the the beauty of the wood.
Letcher Taylor explained that his mobility has been limited by an issue with hip-replacement surgery. But what he loves to do, and by all accounts does very well, is cook. To let him pursue that talent, most of the cabin’s main level will be a kitchen. Among other things, the kitchen will include a 60-inch professional stainless-steel range. There are also large windows that will provide ample views of the “vale” and the Rappahannock.
But that sort of information is for the next story, when the cabin is completed.
HIRING BARNES CUSTOM
Perhaps because they live on a farm that was settled in 1794, the Taylors appreciate something that has lasting quality. So they called on John William Barnes III, who owns Barnes Custom Inc. of Montross, which, as his business card indicates, “specializes in custom and log homes.” This project is both.
“We have always appreciated the old way of doing things,” said Barnes. “Some companies will give you a kit and say ‘Here you go,’ and you’re not going to be happy with what you end up with.”
There’s no question this cabin is being built for keeps, starting with the poured concrete foundation that creates the lower level. Barnes engineered a firewood window to supply a wood stove, the main source of heat.
Plumbing was roughed in down there for future use.
Watching Barnes and his crew work, the confidence they have in what they’re doing is obvious. Last week they were building the log walls, which are 6 inches thick and will provide an R–value in excess of typical stick-built homes.
The Eastern white pine logs, Barnes’ preferred material because of its predictable nature, come milled and grooved to fit tightly together. Prior to construction, the logs are coated with the wood preservative borate. The exterior side is then stained to provide a rich appearance.
Barnes said cedar is a natural choice for cabins because of its weathering and insect-repellent properties. Unfortunately, he notes, “There are no big cedars anymore. They’re all gone.”
Once in place, the logs are screwed down tightly with oversized bolts. Even though they’ve been kiln-dried, Barnes knows that the logs will shrink up to an eighth of an inch over time as they continue to dry, and he takes that into account. Window and door frames are built accordingly, and sticky-sided foam weather stripping is used between logs to automatically expand and fill any gaps left by shrinkage.
Earlier this week the crew installed roof trusses with the help of skilled crane operator Kenny Jones of King George Welding.
Before long, the corrugated steel roof will be added. Barnes said that with its baked-on finish, the biggest difference between it and a standing-seam metal roof is the lower cost.
Materials from the property are being used all along the way. For starters, recycled railroad ties from the track that once ran across the property were used for retaining walls, terracing and outside steps. Weber Taylor gave son Letcher credit for designing and building those.
In a field nearby, stones pulled from the ground during the ongoing sand and gravel operation on the property sit waiting to be used for the kitchen fireplace’s surround and other decorative applications.
Weber Taylor said a barn that may have dated to the 1700s had to be taken down years ago, but the boards and the huge hand-hewn center beam were set aside for future reuse.
The reclaimed barn boards have been milled and planed and will become the cabin’s flooring. The beam will be reinstalled across the length of the cabin’s vaulted ceiling, adding to its rustic appearance.
Letcher Taylor, who was named for grandfather D. Letcher Stoner—owner and operator of Fredericksburg Hardware for a generation—said the whole project has been about reusing materials from the farm because of the history involved.
Weber Taylor said she is fascinated by the property’s history. Arrowheads found on the property attest to its early use by American Indians.
Later, in the 18th and into the 19th centuries, the property was owned by the Corbin family. In 1858, one member of that family, Spottswood Wellford Corbin, married Diane Fontaine Maury, daughter of Matthew Fontaine Maury, the famed “Pathfinder of the Seas” whose family lived in Fredericksburg.
“There was a lot of shipping and receiving done here” that served the young nation, Weber Taylor said, and there were warehouses built near the river.
She said that although there were at one time some 10 slave houses and an overseer’s quarters on the property, there was never a plantation house. The operation was run by the owners of Moss Neck Manor, directly across the river in Caroline County.
Some Civil War relics also have been discovered on the property.
More recently, thanks to the Taylors, some will recall Farley Vale as the $1, $2 and $5 fishing hole.
GOOD FIT FOR BARNES
Barnes is effusive about the opportunity to build the cabin, not only because of the history of the site, but because of the Taylors’ desire to use reclaimed materials. To limit his commute back and forth to Westmoreland, he stays several nights a week onsite in a converted school bus with a designing table on board. It “helps me connect” with the cabin, he said.
“We always like to replicate the way things used to be done,” he said, and that has been the key element of this project.
“I liked how we all sat down at the table with the architect and we all knew how it was going to be done,” said Barnes, who also runs Warsaw Glass in Richmond County.
Despite the project’s complexity, he expects to have it completed sometime this spring.
Richard Amrhine: 540/374-5406