Love brings new life to old house

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John David and Mary Helen Myles fell in love with their home before they bought it, and their work has carried that love to a new level.

By Lisa King

John David and Mary Helen Myles have a 174-year-old baby.


They have restored their 2-story brick Federal-style home they bought in 2002 with such loving care that the structure, known as the Dale Place, received the Ida Lee Willis Memorial Foundation Preservation Project Award in 2006.

Myles, a Shelby County Family Court judge, is widely known throughout Shelby County for his love of history, and he went to great lengths to ensure that the house, when restored, should be as much as like the original as possible.

This stately house, built in 1839 by John and Jane Dale and sitting back a bit from Webb Road at the end of a gently curving driveway on Webb Road, changed ownership several times until the Myles bought it.

When restoring the house, Myles built a large, airy sunroom onto the back of the house, all enclosed in glass walls. He said he placed the room in that manner so that the view into the back yard would be visible even from the front foyer.

"I love the garden, and I wanted to be able to come in the front door and see all the way through," he said.

The door in the back of the foyer used to lead into the kitchen but now leads into the sunroom, and when that door is open, the view into the back of the property, situated on 26 acres, opens onto a beautifully landscaped lawn, surrounded by a wooded area, is superb.

The overall effect is both stately and elegant, with brick columns lining the garden, complete with a stone patio behind the smokehouse. But even though the grounds are breathtaking, the entire effect avoids the appearance of being elaborate, a quality that Mary Helen Myles says is what she likes best.

"I like the simplicity of it," she said. "I like the simplicity of the architecture-It just suits me. Just plain, simple Federal."

Myles said she is also very pleased that restoration efforts were able to preserve the home's original flooring and woodwork, as well as six of the seven fireplaces and front staircase.

The house also has a unique feature in that all of its doors are composed of several different panels in varying patterns, something that Myles said he has never seen before.


The history of Dale Place

Down through the years, some very notable families have owned or had connections to the Dale Place, which is listed on the National Register of Historic places. The Dales built the house on land purchased in 1812 by John Vaughn, Jane Dale’s father. John Dale was a Baptist preacher who is associated with the Long Run Baptist Church and considered to be a founder of the Simpsonville Baptist Church.

In 1881, Jane Dale’s grandson, Leonidas Webb, bought the house. He was a farmer and a founder of the Bank of Simpsonville and owned the Old Stone Inn for a number of years in the early 20th century. The property was passed down to his wife, Melinda, and then to his granddaughter, Dorothy Dixon Watson, and then to her daughter, Darlene Ellis in 2000.

Ellis sold the house and 10 acres to the Myles, and continues to own and reside on the remaining 300 acres. The Myles eventually purchased 16 additional acres from her.


The restoration

The house had major water and structural damage because of previous attempts at modernization in the early part of the century. Those renovations left the kitchen wall buckled, and the addition of a front porch caused problems in the foundation of the first floor rafter tails because of blocking vents and missing downspouts.   

The Myles' restoration efforts, from 2002 to 2004, in addition to such necessities as new plumbing and wiring, addressed such issues as salvaging and restoring original flooring, removing the front porch and building another, rebuilding six fireplaces and dismantling the kitchen and replacing it with a 2-story addition consisting of two bathrooms, a utility room, a first-floor bedroom and "the only closet in the house."

"While this sacrificed the original kitchen, it allowed the addition of modern necessities without impinging on the remaining original structure," John David Myles said.

The addition was constructed in clapboard to distinguish it from the home's original brick. Gutters were added, although the house didn't have them originally because it sits on a very flat lot, and were essential to the structure's continued preservation.

In a further effort to restore the house as exactly as possible, Myles even shipped 24 small samples to a conservation company for a paint analysis to determine the exact shade of the paint originally used, and he has repainted those portions of the house in that color.

In describing how much work the couple put into the restoration, he said, "The good news was that nothing had been done to this house, and the bad news was that nothing had been done to this house, so what we did was virtually everything."

These painstaking efforts at precise restoration, which earned the Myles the preservation award, were a labor of love, he said.

"I've been collecting for this house all my life," he said. "We just sort of fit into it."

Mary Helen Myles agreed.

"We would drive by here at least five years before we bought it and envision how we wanted it to look," she said.

The couple moved in just in time to celebrate Christmas in 2004.

Myles said that the journey to complete restoration is not over, with columns planned for the front porch and some additional work needed on the shutters.

"There is always something to be done to an old house," he said.

Inside stuff

Address:1908 Webb Road, Simpsonville

Owners:John David and Mary Helen Myles

Statistics:2 stories, 8 rooms, 2 baths, 6 working fireplaces.

Architecture:Federal, brick, with Greek Revival decorative elements

Built:1839 by John Dale

Ennui:The house, which had fallen into grave disrepair, was restored 2002-2004 to its original grandeur, and the Myles were recognized in 2006 for that effort.