Brye and Eve Freeman restoring his childhood home on South Fulton
By Maggie Blackwell
for The Salisbury Post
The pristine house at 201 South Fulton Street has a secret: it’s 104 years old. Built in 1904, the Francis Smith house boasts almost 5,000 square feet, five bedrooms and eight fireplaces.
Owners Brye and Eve Freeman have done much of the work themselves. They have poured their hearts into the house ó and it shows. From the extensive high oak wainscoting that Eve scrubs with a toothbrush to the transformative accent lighting outside, all the details have been carefully considered.
Many folks around town assume the grand home is a Spanish Mission home, but Brye asserts that it is not, because it does not have a bell tower. Instead, it is a Classical Mediterranean home. The couple has highlighted its Mediterranean style with appropriate plantings.
“They thought I was crazy when I put in palms,” Brye remarks. “You just have to do your homework. There are 1,100 species of palms, and eleven of them are tolerant of cold down to zero degrees. I’ve got all eleven here.” A small greenhouse, recently approved by the Historic Planning Commission, will provide a warm place for the hibiscus and other tropical flowers to last the winter. Windmill palms, which grow to four feet by four feet, have been planted around the base of the house. At maturity, they will cover the foundation.
The house was painted in March. Brye and Eve chose the color after a vacation to Los Angeles, where this style house is quite popular. They found a house they liked, took a picture and tried to match it as closely as possible. The raised detail, sometimes referred to as bas-relief, had always been painted the same color as the rest of the house. They wanted it to show up better, so they had it painted in a contrasting color. The result speaks for itself.
There are several new methods for effectively painting a stucco house, but because of the age of their house and the paint that had already been used on it, they had to use an acrylic paint with rock mixed in to retain the stucco appearance.
The entryway is imposing, with walkways approaching the front from each side. A spacious front porch with arches and ceiling fans beckons, and massive oak double front doors open to reveal a foyer tiled in original black-and-white hex tile.
Inside, colors are vibrant and definitely Mediterranean in mood. Terra cottas, earthen greens and coral prevail.
“Although the exterior is Mediterranean, the inside was very English,” Brye notes. He says all the wood was imported from England, and there is definitely quite a bit of wood. Quarter-sawn oak floors are rimmed with decorative walnut and cherry borders. Oak wainscoting extends up the walls. The downstairs rooms also have arched oaken frames around the perimeter where mosaic tile once stood. Over the years, the tiles have been lost, however, so Eve has begun the painstaking task of filling them in once more ó all 54 of them.
She has collected vintage tiles to place in the centers of selected frames for each room ó Spanish Army insignia for the living room, Paraguayan floral for the parlor, and a pair for the master bedroom, entitled “Rejoicing in Love” and “Sadness of Love.”
Ceilings are 15 feet high, and the scale of the home is grand, grand, grand.
“Ordinary furniture would look like doll-house furniture,” Brye says, “so we’ve had to find large-scale pieces, to fill it up.” Nine large rooms comprise the downstairs.
Each of the fireplaces has a distinct personality. The parlor fireplace is made of hand-carved Italian marble, with a cherub at front and center of the mantel. The dining room has an intricate quarter-sawn oak mantel, and even the firebox itself has a fascinating detail. The wall behind the logs bears a carved lion’s face; he lights up when the fire burns. Other fireplaces have similar bas-relief in the firebox as well, with different designs. The living room fireplace has a fleur-de-lis.
The parlor is Eve’s special room. Massive oak pocket doors with inset leaded glass provide the entry. The plaster cornice is highlighted with hand painting on the carved details.
The only furniture is a massive white serpentine couch, with a huge white fabric palm tree behind it.
On the walls is a pair of Mediterranean murals, hand-crafted by Eve herself.
“I pretty much do the inside, and Brye does the outside,” she says.
Eve has taken a personal interest in all the work; she’s managed all the painting and decorating herself.
The dining room is distinguished with walls that curve up to the ceiling. Inset arches in the plaster walls provide niches for artwork. The original light fixture is a highlight of the room.
The sizeable kitchen has ceilings that peak at 20 feet. Although the Freemans have plans to update it, it’s certainly functional as it is.
The grand stairway is, well, grand, with a massive stained-glass round window set in the ceiling above. It has lighting behind and is original to the home.
The stairs, in keeping with the home’s theme, are of solid oak, with decorative arches in the banister wall.
Upstairs are four more bedrooms and a bath. The upstairs is characterized by a wide central hall that ends with a walkout balcony centered on the front of the house.
Outside, more space is available in the unattached garage with an upstairs apartment, which is not in use at this time. The Freemans have plans to renovate that as well.
A recent project involved rebuilding the wooden ornamental balconies on the Fisher Street side of the home.
“True Mediterranean homes often incorporate real wood finishes in the trim,” Brye says, “so we went for teak.”
Marine-grade polyurethane weather-proofs the wood, with yearly re-application part of the maintenance.
Many of the West Square homes have had a dozen or more owners. The Francis Smith house has had five: the original Smith family, who built the house in 1904; a family who bought the house in the 1950s and converted it into apartments; the Wilson family, who bought it in the 70s and converted it back to a single-family home; Brye’s parents, the Freemans, and finally, Brye and Eve, who purchased the home from his parents. They share the home with their young children, Skye and Slate.
Brye grew up in the house and has many happy memories of it.
When he recently lived in South Beach, Florida, he observed many similar houses and studied the details that could be restored to his home back in Salisbury. The Freemans have a photo of Mrs. Smith, the original owner of the home, and plan to honor her by framing and hanging the photo in the home.
Freelance writer Maggie Blackwell lives in Salisbury.