In part-one of this three-part post about our weekend lake retreat, I'm going to share a story that I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever be telling! It's a story about a longtime dream coming true, however the dream was too small and when it all came together it was much more than I could have ever imagined!
The dream goes many years back to my childhood. My family had friends that owned a simple little cabin on the lake where we would visit often during the summer months. It wasn’t a fancy cabin at all but it was very comfortable and I loved being there! I have great memories of swimming, going on boat rides, playing with friends and just spending time there. I also remember the delicious meals that consisted of what I call lake food. You know; tomato sandwiches, deviled eggs, potato salad, coke bottles floating in ice and not to forget, homemade peach and vanilla ice cream made in an old fashioned hand-cranked ice cream freezer. Because of those memories, my dream was to one day own a small, simple cabin on the lake. It was a great dream but sometimes life has a way of steering us in other directions!
In the summer of 2015 my husband and I realized we were ready to slow down and simplify our lives a little bit and the way we hoped to do that was to find that simple little cabin on the lake. We knew that because we had a rather small budget (in lake property terms) that we had no choice but to look for something small, rustic, and even something needing a little work. We have renovated several old houses so we were willing to do some repairs if needed.
We spent lots of time online looking at lake properties for sale and occasionally we would find something in our price range. We visited cabins about to tumble off of hillsides, cabins that were a serious fire hazard, cabins with floors falling in and cabins with absolutely no access to the water. Needless to say, we were getting pretty discouraged until one day I was online looking at lake properties and I found something I had not seen before. There was a listing of a foreclosure that looked like it had potential and the price was within our budget. After seeing it, we knew right away that it had great potential and we fell in love with it!
Now before you get too excited, let me tell you about the downside of it because there was definitely a downside! It had been sitting empty for two years with no maintenance or yard work. The interior had basically been stripped. Now, when I say no yard work—I mean kudzu, privet and wisteria, had engulfed almost the entire cabin. As far as the exterior of the cabin and the grounds, due to the overwhelming growth of vegetation, we pretty much bought the property sight unseen. The interior was a little bit better but not much. It knew it was also going to require an incredible amount of work. Before we made the decision to buy, I looked at Mr. Blue and asked him if he was up to the task. He responded, “I think I have one more renovation in me, so we took the plunge and never looked back!”
The very first thing we did was to hire a man with a bulldozer to clear some of the property. The remainder was done with a bush hog and by hand. I will spare you most of the details other than to say that it has been over three years of consistent work, inside and out. We keep telling ourselves that we are almost finished. But on the other hand, those of you that know me well know that for me a home is never truly finished. It is always a work in progress.
Now, this is the good part where things get really interesting!!! The first time we went into the attic we noticed there were brightly painted spots on all of the rafters, which were difficult to explain. There was also an old pole barn on the property where we discovered the underside of the tin roof was adorned with some rather unique paintings. After scratching our heads, trying to imagine why these paintings were there, our wonderful Realtor, Margie Miller, called and said that another Realtor, that was familiar with the property, said that at one time the cabin and surrounding property had been some type of art school.
Well, loving history and a good story, you can just imagine how we reacted! We could hardly wait to start researching the history of the property! Mr. Blue is excellent when it comes to research and it didn’t take long before he was in touch with just the man who could give us the answers. After contacting the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, we were told we needed to get in touch with Mark Harris. A few weeks later we met with Mark, the president and founder of the Dixie Art Colony Foundation. Little did we know that the information he would share with us that day would change our lives. Mark explained to us that we had bought the site where the Dixie Art Colony met at Lake Jordan from 1937 until 1948. To our amazement, he was able to show us vintage photographs that showed our cabin was once used as the Dixie Art Colony studio and lodge. It was a place where artists gathered on a regular basis to expand their artistic talents and bond with fellow artists.
Many of the artists, including the co-founder of the colony John Kelly Fitzpatrick, became very prominent southern artists. Mark also made us aware of the Dixie Art Colony Foundation and its future plans. Needless to say, Mr. Blue and I were absolutely overwhelmed. We could simply not believe what we had stumbled in to! We didn’t understand at the time how the whole experience would not only enrich our lives but also start a whole new chapter in our lives.
Coincidence or perhaps fate, during our initial meeting, Mark and I discovered that we had lived two doors down from one another when we were toddlers, and that we had actually attended the same kindergarten at the same time. Later when I was looking though some old family photographs of my sixth birthday party, we discovered that Mark was in one of my birthday photographs. All I could say about that was WOW!
Don’t worry the story doesn’t end here! My next blog post will be all about the history of the Dixie Art Colony and will be written by Mark Harris himself. Mark’s knowledge of the artists and the colony is phenomenal. You will be fascinated with his story about the colony. As the old saying goes…if only walls could talk! Stay tuned; believe it or not, the story gets even more interesting!
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