The historic Winkler-Perkins house on South Bridge Street in Wilkesboro is getting a complete makeover this summer.
Barrin and Rose Healey Presnell of Hamptonville-based Gypsy Haus LLC bought the 127-year-old Queen Anne-style house from Preservation North Carolina, a Raleigh-based private nonprofit historic preservation organization, in April 2018.
The Presnells said they hope to complete the restoration before November and then put the property up for sale. County records show they paid $25,500 for the two-story, 3,062-square-foot house, vacant for about 20 years. It sits on a quarter-acre lot.
“We just wanted to save the house,” said Rose in an interview Tuesday. “It makes a prettier house than it would a parking lot.”
The structure was donated to the Town of Wilkesboro in 2010, and was in danger of being demolished after redevelopment plans fell through.
The Wilkesboro Town Council granted Preservation North Carolina a two-year option to buy it from the town for $1 in 2016, with certain restrictions for its protection. The agreement also called for proceeds from the sale to the Presnells to go to the town, minus Preservation N.C.’s costs.
“When we first started on the house, we started everything at once,” explained Rose. “Something just said, ‘Hurry, hurry, get it done.’ It felt almost frantic. But it’s really winding down now, and it’s almost a comfortable type of feeling.”
The first major aspect of the undertaking was replacing the leaky, damaged roof with a complete new roof. North Wilkesboro-based Kimmer Roofing finished this in May.
Kimmer also repainted the home’s exterior German lap siding in June. The Presnells chose a custom blue color called “tree swallow.” Rose said she tested out 20 different color swatches before she found the perfect shade. After the house was repainted, she said, several people stopped and said it added beauty to the home.
Also in June, custom kitchen cabinetry was built and installed by Bob Dalton, who had come out of retirement for the work. Earlier, Dalton made reproduction decorative exterior corbels to match the originals.
Rick Parks of Statesville-based Parks Floor Sanding & Refinishing restored or replaced much of the original heart pine flooring in the house. Many sections of the floor had to be re-leveled, especially toward the back of the house.
The one and a half bathrooms in the original home were reconfigured by Yadkinville-based Tommy Hughes Plumbing Co. to become two full baths and two half-baths with all new plumbing. The home now has five bedrooms instead of the original six, with one converted into a laundry room.
Construction on a backyard porch began in March and was completed in May. “The back of the house was an eyesore; it just looked pitiful,” said Rose. The back wall along a small stoop was moved back 18 inches to the original position so the deck could be constructed.
Next, the Presnells plan to install central heating and air conditioning. Historic half-round gutters will be mounted later this summer.
Barrin Presnell said that as a licensed electrician, he plans to do all the electric work in the house.
“I’m not saying the downstairs is done, but it’s a lot closer than the upstairs,” he said. The couple is currently doing plaster repair to the walls upstairs.
The windows are next, noted Rose. She said she will reglaze and then repaint the original window sills. “It needs storm windows, and that’s what we’re going to look into next.”
The stained-glass front door has been restored to its original splendor, including a brass doorbell that rings by turning a key.
The exterior of the house has original German lap siding and one-over-one double-hung windows. The interior also includes eight fireplaces, shiplap walls and ceilings in some bedrooms, wood floors and wainscoting throughout.
History of house
William Carter Winkler built the house in 1892 with his wife, Mary Louisa Bower Winkler. They passed it to their daughter, Elizabeth Winkler Perkins, wife of Bon S. Perkins. They in turn left it to their son, Carter Perkins, and wife, Carol Hardin Perkins, of Wilkesboro.
The nonprofit Child Abuse Prevention Team/Our House leased the home from Carter and Carol Perkins in the 1990s and used it as its base of operations until moving to 203 East Main Street in Wilkesboro in 2002.
In 2005, the Perkins couple sold the home to Michelle L. Hall, who donated it to the town in April 2010.
In October 2010, the town had Wilkes high school art students paint murals on boards used to secure the house’s exterior. The murals were removed prior to recent renovations.
In July 2011, the town deeded the house to the Wilkes Heritage Museum for $1, under the condition the museum develop plans for reviving the structure within three years. When the museum didn’t develop the plans, the house reverted to the town for potential disposal in January 2015.
The home has an A-framed attic affording views of the Wilkes Heritage Square to the north and the Brushy Mountains to the south. Rose said she makes new discoveries of historic items every time she visits the attic, making it her favorite part of the house.
The roofline and upstairs parlor are among additions made to the house prior to 1920. More renovations were made around the middle of the 20th century. The house’s original façade featured an L-shaped porch and two front-facing gables. The porch was later extended to wrap around the house.
The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009 as a contributing structure to the Downtown Wilkesboro Historic District. Under terms of the sale, remodeling by the Presnells must be approved in advance by the town’s historic preservation commission and Preservation N.C.
Rose said the commission has been mostly cooperative, but a couple of times the couple wasn’t able to restore something to the degree it wanted and that was frustrating. “We’re used to, if we want to do something, we just go ahead and do it,” said Barrin.
The Presnells have restored and sold multiple historic houses in northwest North Carolina since 2005, personally doing much of the work. What started as their part-time passion soon grew into a fulltime business.