30 years in the making
Posted at 3:40 PM on Saturday, March 18, 2023
Clark Curtis for the Washington Daily News
Thirty years ago, Carol and Edith Jenkins purchased the home at 412 East Main Street. The Queen Anne Victorian building with the only Box Tower in Beaufort County was built in 1893 by Carmer Cordon, who is believed to have worked for the Metropolitan Opera House. “The house was actually built in the town of McNair, which was only one block from the Washington city limits, but was considered country,” Carroll said with a smile.
Carol worked in the Texas Gulf Coast as a systems analyst, and Edith, a graduate of Duke Seminary, was a Methodist minister serving churches in a region that could not afford ministers. Both were captivated by the Kardon house. Edith grew up in a three-story Victorian house in Hyde County. And as a young man, Carroll and his family lived in a house in Richmond, Virginia, built by Dr. Hunter McGuire, former physician to General Stonewall Jackson. “To this day, I remember the huge, wide staircase and the curved wall around it,” Carroll said. “Because of our upbringing and where we lived, the Cordon house was the type of house we were looking for as it had a lot of unique character and style. Every room had windows facing the front, and during the day they must have looked straight out onto the river.’
The abandoned house required a lot of work. It was quite neglected and had a lot of termite damage. It was also known as a haunted house. “We removed some of the old sheet metal from the entrance, and underneath it looked like everyone in town had written messages on the wall,” Carroll said. “They all said Joan and Claire were here. We also soon discovered that we had bats, and lots of them. One night I remember seeing 300 before I stopped counting.’
But despite the bats and the fact that it’s a “haunted house,” Jenkins persevered. They lived in the house for over 25 years, making necessary repairs as needed. Three years ago, they decided it was time for a full rehab. They moved into the house next door after their residents moved out. “After I retired, I decided we needed to do it right,” Carroll said. “We did everything we could to preserve the original house. If it cannot be restored, we make every effort to replace the items with historical replicas of the time.”
They kept as much of the original wood flooring as possible, and Carroll repaired the double-hung windows himself to make them fully functional with ropes and weights. The beautiful hand-crafted wooden archway remains intact, as does the elegant wooden staircase that leads to the second floor. And the fireplaces everywhere have been restored, and when you enter each room, you feel as if you are stepping back in time. “I also repaired and de-rusted all the original rim locks as well as the chandeliers,” Carroll said. “I also ordered vintage cast iron spring locks for the front door. And in both bathrooms, I used some of the ceiling wood from the original summer kitchen to build sink cabinets.”
Throughout the process, Jenkins also collected unique pieces of antique furniture that will be carefully arranged throughout the home. “I bought an old Victrola, a grandfather clock, and even a 1910 3D arcade machine that flips 15 cards quickly, all for pennies,” Carroll smiled. “And this is just a sample of what we collected. We try to decorate the house with as many vintage things as possible in the front of the house and leave the modern things in the back.’
Fingers crossed, Jenkins hopes they’ll be in their “new home” in the next month or so.