LUMBERTON — After spending over a year restoring a mansion in Lumberton, David Thomas thinks the Mona Lisa has it easy.
“Historical architecture is like the most beautiful paintings in the world, but they are not kept in controlled, static environments,” Thomas said. “They are left out in the weather for 100 years.”
Those years took their toll on the house at 1102 N. Elm St., which was previously owned by the late Col. Neill Archibald McLean, an illustrious lawyer and orator, and Caswell and Alma Freeman Britt. It is now owned by Joe Freeman Britt Jr. and his wife Yummie Britt.
Thomas’ company, D.P. Thomas Construction, carefully restored the four-bedroom mansion, which had sagging wood and termite damage, among other problems, and showed before-and-after photos during a recent meeting of Historic Robeson Inc.
The home, which was built in 1907 and purchased for $1,000, now boasts historic character with modern day updates.
“The details make the difference,” Thomas said, as he pointed out features that were kept, like the period sink from the kitchen that was moved to the laundry room, and the enclosed porch that was opened up into a breakfast room.
The rare solid tree columns were kept, except for one that was heavily damaged and was replaced with a modern-day hollow wood column.
Portions of the home were completely gutted, and asbestos shingles from the roof were removed. The foundation, which was on clay and sand, was reinforced with rock.
“Clay is the worst material to build on, short of quicksand,” Thomas said. “ … Without good foundation there is no reason to continue with good work.”
Sarah Britt, the president of Historic Robeson Inc.,
“That is the last of the five Southern colonial mansions left in Lumberton,” Britt said. “All the others have been torn down. … Joe Jr. told me the reason he wanted to keep that mansion is because he had such fond memories of playing hide and seek at his grandmother and grandfathers as a child. He wants his boys to have that same experience.”
During the meeting, Britt also announced that the two Charleston Battery Benches that the organization is putting in the garden next to the Proctor building will be in memory of the late Honorable Henry A “Sandy” McKinnon, given by the children of Murphy and Betty Bowman, and in memory of the late Dr. J. Irvin Biggs and Ann Moss Biggs.
The Charleston Battery Benches will replace benches that have been there since about 1975.
For information, or to donate a bench in memory or in honor of someone, call Britt at (910) 739-1610.