By Stephen Smoot
A century and seventy-five years ago, American forces compelled the surrender of Mexican forces two years after a patrol crossed the Rio Grande to attack US Army positions. The dashing “Old Rough and Ready” General Zachary Taylor won election to the presidency.
And closer to home, the stone foundation of the William McCoy house was laid.
Jared and Katie VanMeter recently took possession of the storied Greek Revival mansion facing the Pendleton County Courthouse across Main Street. “Our plan,” said Jared VanMeter, “is to be a historical bed and breakfast.” Work done on the building will focus on protection and restoration, but “no huge changes,” adding that “we don’t want to affect the historical integrity of the house.”
Katie VanMeter added that “we want to restore it as it was when it was built.”
Houses constructed in the Greek Revival style seek to recreate the style of Classical Greek temples. Their designs feature symmetry, proper arithmetic proportion of elements, simplicity, and elegance.
Huge changes have come to the home over the years. After the 1862 Battle of McDowell, Union forces entered Franklin. Federal military officers commanded by John C. Fremont selected the McCoy House as a headquarters and communications post in the middle of the strongly Confederate town. William McCoy himself, despite his son serving in the Confederate ranks, offered the property for their use so the Union would not burn it down.
Later in its history, the McCoy House hosted the Pendleton County Library and also Franklin Town Hall. An adjoining slave quarters served as county Republican executive committee headquarters for a time as well. These uses make it more than just a structure. The McCoy House serves as a vital landmark of the evolution of town and county history.
“They wanted to bulldoze it for a parking lot.” Jared VanMeter explained. His wife added, “We should be happy that we still have these buildings today.”
Restoration work has already started on the building, some of it revealing neat historical details. Katie VanMeter explains that the basement “needs the most TLC,” but also is a part of the house where “you get a peek into what it was.” They speculate that a restored basement could initially be used as apartments, but that it might “ultimately be a spa where people can get their nails done.”
History, however, will serve as the most important drawing card. Browning Boggs, the previous owner, had already started the process of transforming the house back into what it was prior to serving as a government building. This included restoring the wallpaper in the parlor and removing the modern ceilings installed. Fortunately, the original flooring for the most part remains solid though some areas need repair. They will also make sure that furniture showcases the historical and local environment as much as possible. For example, the upper deck with feature “locally made benches.”
The VanMeters plan to organize a soft opening with family and friends as a dry run to figure out “what we like and what we don’t like.” The goal lies in providing the best possible experience for guests, whether they come from across the country or down the street. Jared Van Meter explained that it is important to “get our systems down.”
Other plans include restoration and improvement of the Civil War trail site on the property.
The VanMeters said that they had been in contact with the Pendleton County Chamber of Commerce about Trout Fest. They also hope to include the historical landmark into the Treasure Mountain Festival in some way. Katie VanMeter described how they want to create “a historical Christmas” in their new inn.
Every improvement and every event will highlight the Van Meters’ passion for the house and its history. As Katie VanMeter commented, “It’s already a gem architecturally.”
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