Step back in time in this historic Mount Sterling home

By Tanya J. Tyler

Contributing Writer

Even before they bought the house, Steve and Sue Muse felt its call.

They knew some of its history and they could even see it from their previous Mt. Sterling home. It was a Federal-style house built in the early 1800s, and it sat atop a hill with wonderful panoramic views of the rolling farmland stretching to the horizon.

“We lived in a house on a road not far from it,” Steve said. “We always dreamed of having this house.”

But it took a while before it became available.

“We moved away and came back and started working with a Realtor,” Steve said. “She got so tired of hearing us talk about this house that she went to the owner and asked if they wanted to sell it. And they did!”

For the pair of history buffs, it was a perfect place to call home. Its builder, William Yeates, was a delegate to the North Carolina Assembly and voted to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

“He lived in this house and his son lived in this house, too, and raised his family,” Sue said.

Yeates added some interesting features to the three-bedroom, 3,286-square-foot house. The unique exterior architecture details include blind brick arches around the front four windows, a style most usually found in colonial homes in northern New England. Yeates was apparently very fond of New England architecture.

“The first time I was in this house, the one word I could think of was ‘authentic,’” said Sue. “Everything in it was just authentic. It was real. This house was alive. It was an authentic Federal house and it’s very obvious.”

Inside, fireplace mantels, doors and window casings have been meticulously restored to maintain the integrity of the architecture. In the upstairs, bedrooms there is ample closet space and linen presses that are original to the house, another New England architectural touch.

“It’s just like everyone who lived here made an effort to preserve the integrity of the house and take care of it,” Sue said. “We put a lot of love in this house.”

The Muses worked hard, striving to preserve that integrity and keep the home’s historic aura and Federal flair intact.

“We had to do a lot of repairs,” Steve said. “The rooms were dark so we just tried to bring it back to life with the colors, making it the way it would have looked back in the 1800s. That was our vision.”

The house received new plumbing, a new roof and a new heating system. Most of the floors were redone, but they kept the authentic square nails in many of them, and two of the four fireplaces were repaired so the Muses could use them.

“This house is remarkable,” Steve said. “Once you get it up to temperature, it doesn’t take much to keep it warm or to cool it.”

Down to the Dirt

Perhaps the most intriguing room in the house is the kitchen. Working with local builder Chad Bliffen, the Muses tackled a project that ultimately proved very satisfying.

“They took the kitchen down to the brick, down to the dirt and all the way to the rafters and built the whole thing back,” Sue said. “It took three months.”

When they tore out the ceiling in the kitchen, they discovered some beautiful overhead beams that appeared to be hand-hewn, possibly from trees that grew on the property. They decided to do a cathedral ceiling and leave the beams in place. They make a stunning accent, and Steve further highlighted them by stringing lights around them.

“I knew a dark kitchen isn’t popular, but a white kitchen wouldn’t go in this house,” Sue said.

“It’s her dream kitchen,” Steve added.

Other remodeling projects included turning a sunroom into a TV room for Steve and a bathroom addition to the first-floor owner’s bedroom. Chad Bliffen also built the front porch that Steve enjoys so much.

“I wanted the porch to look like it had been on this house forever,” Steve said. “I wanted a front porch to just enjoy the view. When you sit on the porch, you don’t notice the subdivision (behind us). My dog and my cat come up and I’m in heaven.”

Step Back in Time

The house has seen a lot during its existence, including a Civil War battle that left a bullet in the front door. You can still where the door was patched.

“At one time it was a very large farm, but it just progressed through time and lost acreage,” Sue said.

There’s still enough land to make it a viable, manageable farm. Surrounding the site’s 12-plus acres are centuries-old maple and oak trees and some fruit trees – peach and a variety of apples. The Muses have also planted a garden, and Sue cans much of the bounty it produces.

Although a subdivision is currently being built along the road behind the house, there’s still enough space and land to feel as if you’re all by yourself, ready to take a step into the past.

“When you’re in this house, you don’t feel modern,” Sue said. “You go back in time when you come through the door.”

This week’s feature home is listed with Brenda Murphy of Murphy Realty Group.