Strasburg holiday tour uncovers historic homes

Four Mile House will be featured along the Strasburg Holiday Heritage Homes Tour on Saturday. The house was restored by Diane Laferriere and Bert Cole. Rich Cooley/Daily
The dining room of the home features a walnut dining table that accommodates the owners' extended families. Rich Cooley/Daily
Bert Cole converted the house's former summer kitchen into a bar area. Cole built a display case and his daughter provided the wine bottle corks to make a unique countertop. Rich Cooley/Daily
The family room features hanging stockings by the fireplace and the Christmas tree. Rich Cooley/Daily
The living room of Four Mile House is shown. Rich Cooley/Daily
A line of poinsettias lines the steps of the Four Mile House. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – Serving as first-time hosts for the Strasburg Holiday Heritage Homes Tour on Saturday will give Bert Cole and Diane Laferriere the chance to showcase the restorations they’ve made to the historic Four Mile House since purchasing it in 2011.

After substantial research, Cole estimated the front four rooms of the house were built around 1840 and much of the rest was built later in the 1800s. With the couple’s experience in construction and passion for history, the house made for a perfect personal renovation project – and the space has served well as a family get-together spot for the nine children and 11 grandchildren between the two.

The couple christened the house in 2012 with a Four Mile House painted sign, as per the label on a Battle of Fisher’s Hill map from 1864. Cole said that during the Confederate retreat, Colonel Alexander “Sandie” Pendleton set up a skirmish and was fatally wounded near the house, brought there temporarily before his death in Woodstock.

Since its rich history, a number of different owners through the years had changed the face of the home. An outbuilding that Cole said was originally referred to as a summer kitchen was later used to bottle honey with an unfinished second floor. One of Cole and Laferriere’s numerous projects at the house was to use the upstairs as a cozy guest bedroom and transform the downstairs into a home pub complete with a television and a custom shadowbox-style bar.

“I’ll probably never be done because I’ll always find something that I want to fix,” Cole said.

While they’ve tried to keep much of the remaining historical integrity of the house intact as they’ve done with the pine flooring, certain parts like the poorly insulated windows called for more modern replacements.

“I fought that battle with myself for years because of the old glass and everything you want to keep,” Cole said. “It looks so much better with the new windows in it, even though it doesn’t have the nice old blown glass.”

Cole said he and Laferriere are looking to install central heating and air and redo the kitchen and upstairs bathroom in the coming year. Other pieces in the house include some elements of family history, like an heirloom bedroom set from Cole’s grandparents in the upstairs guest bedroom and bricks from Laferriere’s ancestors’ Ohio farm in the living room fireplace.

The Christmas tree in the family room is decorated with homemade ornaments and the living room tree bears historical and memorabilia decorations from their trips and travels. Never ones to be stingy with the Christmas décor, the couple emptied boxes upon boxes of wreaths, nutcrackers and garlands last weekend. That visible holiday spirit was part of what encouraged Cole and Laferriere to make their house a stop on the tour.

“I’ve always wanted to do that because I’ve always thought that we decorate pretty good, especially for Christmas,” Cole said. “We went last year to the Strasburg tour and that kind of motivated us, too.”

Despite the long checklist of future projects for the Four Mile House, Cole said he wants to do renovation work on another 19th century house in the future.

“Once these old houses are gone, you can’t recover them, they’re done,” he said. “And it’s a part of our history that our kids or our grandkids will never know.”

The Four Mile House is one of six homes with a story or two to tell on Strasburg Heritage Association and Massanutten Garden Club’s tour. Other locations for the tour include Strasburg Nash at 144 Front Royal Road, the Crabill House at 112 E. King St., the Dosh House on East Washington Street, Richard’s Farmhouse at 402 Zea St. and the Smith House at 291 S. Holliday St.

IF YOU GO:

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 12.

Tickets: $10 and can be purchased in advance or the day of the tours at Hotel Strasburg, People’s Drug Store or the First Bank or BB&T in Strasburg.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com

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