July 26, 2010

Restoration breathes new life into Tenant Farm

Jeb and Peggy Hart turn an old farmhouse into a beautiful getaway

ESSEX — A diminutive brick farmhouse and two one-story outbuildings stand close to Middle Road in Essex.

For years, the house was scarcely visible. Untamed brush and grasses and scattered remnants of rusting farm tools, once-functional household furnishings, broken toys and an above-ground swimming pool nearly hid this cluster of the remains of a small 19th-century farm.

The locals referred to it as the Tenant Farm. Today, completely restored and enhanced by carefully designed landscaping, it bears the same name. To the west across a sweep of grassy fields, Adirondack peaks rise from the horizon.

"The views from this old tenant farmhouse are fantastic," said Jeb Hart, who bought the property as a renovation project and weekend getaway with his wife, Peggy. "The road that we are on has very little traffic except for the beginning and end of the day."

They embarked on their odyssey three years ago.

"You get deeper and deeper as you do things," Jeb said. ...We began by cleaning up all the stuff left around outside. Next we turned to our neighbor Lauren Murphy, well versed in restoration in this area, for advice on craftsmen to tackle the specific problems inside.

"We dealt with poor drainage in the basement, installed new wiring and plumbing, replaced various supporting beams and the kitchen area. We had a master builder from the area design and build a period fireplace."

The Tenant Farm, built about 1850, was once owned by and served a much larger brick farmhouse built across the road in 1828. Farm tenancy is an agricultural production system with varying meanings depending upon the locale, time period and arrangements made between a landlord or landowner and a tenant. The tenant farmer works the land and may or may not be paid for his labor in part or he may make payments to the landlord. A contract made between landowner and tenant determines the arrangement and terms of the tenancy.

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