Spirit of Rowan 2023: The Kesler Newsom Kepley Farmhouse is still standing

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 26, 2023

In 1844, a two-story Federal style house with a central hall, two rooms on the first floor, two rooms on the second, an extended porch and two brick chimneys was constructed by an unknown builder in the western part of Rowan County near Dan Nicholas Park. It may look different now, but few would have thought that house would still be standing.

For almost 40 years, the house would remain in its Federal style, a popular type of architecture in the United States from 1785 to 1815. The White House is a perfect example of Federal architecture.

But the times were changing, and so was the architectural style of houses throughout the nation. Americans were tired of the Federal-style and craved something new.

So in 1883, the original house underwent a major renovation. Enter the Queen Anne style. Instead of the even, square shape of Federal houses, Queen Anne style was more asymmetrical with steeped roofs and a round or polygonal front corner tower.

According to a report created for the Rowan County Historic Landmark Commission, during the 1883 renovation “the west wall of the house and the chimney on the west wall were removed. The rooms on both floors were extended approximately eight feet. A two-story ell was added to the right side of the front elevation with an interior chimney built between the two rooms. A one-story ell was added to the left side of the rear elevation that contained a dining room and a kitchen separated by an interior chimney.” An ell is a wing of a building perpendicular to the length of a main portion of a house, getting its name from the shape of the letter L.

But that wasn’t the last chapter in the house’s long journey.

In 1975, the North Carolina Department of Transportation announced “The Widening of Bringle Ferry Road” project. NCDOT acquired most of the home’s front yard for the project, so the house had to be moved approximately 150 feet south.

“They put beams underneath the house and they jacked it up and tore off the back porch then hooked it up to a big truck and just pulled it down the hill,” said Bill Kepley, whose parents had purchased the house before the project.

Kepley was in his early 20s when his parents decided to buy the house and had started a company called “Restoring and Remodeling Consultants.”

“My parents paid me to be the project manager of this and I drew the plans and helped them decide what the additions would look like and sort of help them pick out the wallpaper,” Kepley said.

His parents had bought the house to restore it to its former glory because by the 1970s it had fallen into disrepair. They were trying to “really restore the house and follow the period architecture and style that it was done in and have more of an authentic house,” Kepley said.

The renovations were completed in 1978 and Kepley’s parents moved in that year. A garage was added to the house in 1985. They would spend the rest of their lives in the house until their deaths in 2022.

In January, the Rowan County Historic Landmark Commission and the Rowan County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to designated the house, now called The Kesler Newsom Kepley Farmhouse, and the 1.57 acres it sits on as a Rowan County historic landmark.

The house is now listed for sale at tmrrealtyinc.com.