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Inside a renovated 1920s Ford cottage
The fireplace is original to the structure. - photo by Photo by Katie McGurl

The uniquely compelling “Ford era” of Richmond Hill’s history is a significant fiber in the tapestry of our community.

Harry and Vanita Morgan, an Atlanta-based couple, knew this when they purchased land on Ford Plantation a few years ago.

“We love this part of the world,” said Harry, a native of Swainsboro. “And then we found this little piece that just fit what we wanted, so we claimed it.”

The lakeside lot the Morgans purchased boasts its own history. Rice was grown in the shallow water in the 1700s (the remains of a number of small dykes are still evident) and a tiny four-room cottage, built circa 1927, came with the land. It had been the home of Henry Ford’s farm manager.

The Morgans had hoped to build a new home on the lot, but were taken with the dilapidated, historically significant cottage.

Rather than have it torn down, they decided to renovate.

With a little love, a lot of patience and hard work, the Morgans have transformed the farmer’s quarters into an updated, cozy retreat worthy of a fresh start in a new century.

Every detail of the renovation was done with the historical integrity of the home in mind.

The rotted siding was replaced using cypress wood and a circular saw to achieve the same look as the original.

“We had to go to some extreme to find that wood,” explained Harry.

Where extra space or amenities were needed, care was taken to keep the look consistent. A window off of the second bedroom was removed and a small bathroom put in; it was made to look like a shed from the outside. The original bathroom was extended by a few feet.

“It was so rotten because water had gotten in,” said Vanita. “We had to take it out and put it back on anyway, so we just extended it … and used some of the wood from the old lettuce barn.”

The Morgans also added a screened-in porch, its entrance taking the place of a set of three windows.

The roof of the cottage was originally shingled with clay Ludowici tile, made in the town it was named after. Each individual tile was removed, cleaned, and put back. Cracked or damaged tiles were replaced with new Ludowici tile, which the Morgans tracked down themselves.

In 2007, after about two years of work, the cottage was finished.

“It’s a very surreal feeling, almost mystical,” said Vanita. “We wanted to save as much of it as we could. It was always a different challenge, but we love it.”

The Morgans and their extended family, especially the grandchildren, enjoy frequent visits to the cottage. Harry and Vanita have plans to build a companion cottage, and will move in to their lovely home full-time by 2012.

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