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Renovation project labor of love for Moncriefs
Alderman house
The future residence of Bart and Joyce Alderman faces away from Rahn Station Road. The road passed in front of the house before it was reconfigured years ago. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
The reason was are excited about it is because the house is so old.
Jimmy Moncrief, contractor

 RINCON —  There is a new love in Jimmy Moncrief’s life. It’s not a beauty yet but he is confident it will become one even though it is at least 198 years old.

A master contractor and owner of Moncrief Renovations with his wife, Dee, Moncrief and his construction crew is revamping the house at 288 Rahn Station Road. It is the future residence of Springfield Mayor Bart Alderman and his wife, Joyce.

“The reason we are excited about it is because the house is so old,” Jimmy Moncrief said about the 3,100 square foot structure that features a tin roof and large porch area that the mayor played under when he was a boy. “Nobody in Effingham County has done anything like this with something that old. We are trying to make everything look like it used to.”

“Typically, you usually just bulldoze it,” Dee Moncrief added. “That’s the scary part.”

The mayor is uncertain of the exact age of the home but he has documentation to prove its existence in 1824. It has been in his family for multiple generations. He lived in it with his parents from 1949-68. 

Moved to its current location from another spot on the family property decades ago, the house has been vacant since 2009. It has suffered some termite damage and rot.

“There is a good bit of challenges,” Jimmy Moncrief said while rolling the project plan out on a table in front of the Aldermans.

It took the Aldermans a long time to get to this point. They had a renovation plan drawn up in 2011 that was changed countless times. 

For reasons unknown to the Aldermans, a previous contractor never got started on the project. The Moncriefs, on the other hand, couldn’t wait.

“We enjoy doing stuff like this,” Jimmy said. “We love it. We are excited about it.”

He is undaunted by the challenges.  

“There’s a lot here that’s got to be done,” he said. “... We are redoing all the water, all the electric, all the plumbing. It’s never had HVAC in it.

“It’s going to have new insulation and new windows so that it will be economical to live there.”

The house is sturdy but quirky.

“Nothing in it is square,” the mayor explained. “When we went through it with the decorators, we measured the ceiling. You may have one room that’s nine and a half feet, and another room that is nine and three-quarters.

“The doors are not square and the walls are not square but — for the age — I think it’s pretty good.”

The Moncriefs recently hired a South Carolina company to lift the house nearly four feet so that some foundation improvements can be made. It was originally situated on lightered stumps.

“If you put a golf ball on one end of the house, it would roll to the other side,” Jimmy said.

“And you can’t outrun it,” the mayor joked. “That’s something my mother used to complain about.”

The undulating floor issue will be resolved with new piers and footers. Hurricane ties will also be added.

“Inside, those original (heart pine) floors are still going to be original,” Jimmy said. “They are perfect.”

The walls are a different story.

“Originally, there was all this beautiful wood but, over the years, they’ve covered almost everything with quarter-inch drywall,” Jimmy said. “We’re going to take some of the rooms — mainly, Barty is (making) a library (out of his childhood bedroom) — and take all the drywall off the walls and ceilings, and it’ll go back to looking the way it did originally other than we are adding (space) to (the house).

“They are not doing a whole lot of wall tear-outs. They are changing the bathroom a little but the majority of it will be intact like it was originally.”

The main change will occur in the kitchen, which was added in the 1890s. A wall will be taken out in order to add a pantry and utility room.

Another alternation is the addition of a private porch outside the master bedroom.

“It’s kind of fun looking at the plans we have and compare them to the 125-year-old plan my grandparents had for changes,” the  mayor said.

In addition, all the fireplaces in the house are set to be removed. Semblances of them will be put in place, however.

“We are going to make the fireplaces come out of the ceiling just like they did originally so that it keeps that look from the outside,” Jimmy said. “Since they are not going to use them as wood burners, it would be crazy to spend thousands of dollars on the foundation just so you could see the top of it.

“Everything else, we are going to try to keep it as original as we can.”

A significant change is the addition of a bedroom, bathroom and great room in what is currently a large attic. This move will require stairs to be constructed.

“We are going to add a dormer out front and put new windows in to match the old windows so that it looks the same,” Jimmy said. “Mrs. Joyce wants to keep things as original as she can. She doesn’t want to go in there and modernize, which is a good thing.

“That’s the best part about it.”

The Aldermans hired Norman Owens of Savannah two years ago to help them with their interior decorating. The objective is to stick to a farmhouse style that prioritizes practicality, simplicity and rustic charm.

“A lot of what we’ve done in the decorations and design is to bring it up to today’s standards and what not,” Joyce said. “We are going to have a couple chandeliers in the house — one in the dining room and one in the living room. We’ve also redone a lot of furniture that belonged to our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.”

The inherited furniture has been or will be reupholstered to match oriental rugs that her parents gave to her in 1989. The house will also include a rice bed.

“We have a color chart coming out of (the rugs) to see what we can use,” Joyce said. "(Owens) has been real good about making sure that we keep the integrity of the house.”

The exterior colors of the house, shaded by large moss-covered oaks, will be Charleston White and Hitching Post Black.

“We are going to keep all the wood the same on the outside,” Jimmy said. 

The Moncriefs don’t have a firm deadline to complete the project but they expect it to take about 18 months. Work began about three weeks ago.

The project includes the addition of a pool on the side of the house near the road.

“(Jimmy) does have a deadline on that,” the mayor joked. “It’s Joyce’s birthday next May. She wants to swim next year.”