You can take a house out of the country, but can you take the country out of a house?
Designer and builder Barney Keith is now out to prove that you can combine the best of both city and country living, as he attempts to reconstruct a large Pennsylvania log cabin on a quarter-acre lot in North Arlington.
On the corner of Old Dominion Drive and Williamsburg Boulevard, Keith is reconstructing a 192-year-old log house that until last winter stood in Hunterstown, Pa., about eight miles outside of Gettysburg.
The 25-by-30-foot log cabin will be far from the simple house it was in Hunterstown, however. Attached to it will be not only a greenhouse but also a large modern extension to accommodate a master bedroom, complete with vaulted ceiling, skylight, double-bathtub, bidet and walk-in shower that could double as steam room.
The house was designed by Keith, who says he builds about one house a year, each unique. "I build one-of a-kind houses that will have benefit to the community they are built in . . .I design them, build them, live in them and then move on down the road."
Keith initially had hoped to live in this house, too, but now he says he is not certain he can afford to because the costs of building it have run much higher than expected.
"I started it out for me, but the way it's running, I'm not so sure."
While Keith will not disclose his costs, he says, "I have to sell it in excess of $350,000."
Keith had been looking for a log house to build on the Arlington lot for about a year before he found the Hunterstown house last November. He chose this one because of its very large hand-hewn oak logs, which are about 18 inches wide, and the "excellent" notch work where the logs meet at the corners.
It was these physical characteristics, not the house's history, that attracted Keith. Yet, he notes, the house does have an interesting past. During the Civil War, its basement was the hiding place for the entire population of Hunterstown as it hid from Union troops. Also during the Civil War, a cannon ball was fired into the house.
Keith decided to move the house to the lot in Arlington despite the "huge risks involved." For instance, Keith said, when you buy a log house to rebuild, "you always run the risk that 60 percent of the logs will fall apart" from old age and insect damage.
In this case, however, Keith was lucky. He had to replace only six to eight of the 55 logs used in the house.
The log house and basement underneath will be the main living quarters of Keith's house. The first floor will have a living room with large fireplace, a bath and a room that could serve as a den or library. On the back will be a brick-terraced deck and greenhouse. Upstairs, two to three bedrooms with two full baths are possible.
The kitchen with an eat-in area on one side and a dining room on the other will be in the basement. But Keith notes, the kitchen will be very airy and open because most of it will be enclosed with glass. The kitchen's ceiling will be the old pine floor of the log cabin.
Keith has designed the house so it should cost only $150 a month to heat and cool, thanks to a passive solar system, heat pumps and a new gas system.
The modern wing, which will be covered with cypress siding, will have a den/office with a half kitchen and a master bedroom with a loft.
Under construction since June, the house is still far from finished. Only the frame has gone up and major work lies ahead in chinking the log cabin with mortar.
Nonetheless, the superintendent of the project, Ernest Kirk, predicts that the house will be done within 2 1/2 months. "We hope people will be able to enjoy Christmas dinner in it," Kirk says.