Foundation restoration

Sharon and Roger Hudson and their three daughters were living in Woodland Ridge in the early 1980s when they decided to take a drive to The Plains to see an old house that had belonged to Sharon Hudson’s late aunt and uncle.

“We had always wanted to redo an old house,” Sharon Hudson said. “I said let’s ride out and see where Aunt Ethyle and Uncle Roy lived.”

When the Hudsons pulled into the driveway, they couldn’t see a house, just vines, bushes and overgrown trees. They were driving away when Roger Hudson saw the sun reflecting off the old tin roof.

In 1982, they signed a purchase agreement to buy the property.

“We were young and stupid,” Sharon Hudson said. “We hadn’t even been in the house. It was all locked up.”

The sellers sent the Hudsons a key, and when they saw what they had bought, they knew they had more than a project.

“When the property was appraised, the appraiser wouldn’t even place a $500 salvage value on the house,” Roger Hudson said.

Even so, the Hudsons were determined to save the old house and make it their home. Most of the work they did themselves.

“We moved in when it was unlivable,” Sharon Hudson said. “We persevered on. That’s what we did.”

Those attending the Zachary Historic Association’s annual historic tour June 23 can see the home the Hudsons brought back to life.

The foundation was the first big problem.

“All of the major supports under the house had been eaten by termites,” Roger Hudson said. “I would cut out the old 8-by-8 beams, and Sharon would put one on her shoulder and throw it on the fire. There was nothing in it.”

When the chimney on the east side had started to settle years before, someone strapped it to the house.

“It pulled the house over, 2 feet away from the chimney,” Roger Hudson said.

The Hudsons completely replaced the beams under the house, leveled it, pulled it as straight as they could and replaced the original floors.

“The walls were just wooden boards with old cheesecloth and wallpaper,” he said. “We resurfaced the walls with Sheetrock and kept all the baseboards that were original. It was pretty easy to make duplicates for the rest of the house.”

The original wiring of the house was a light bulb in the middle of each room, so the Hudsons completely rewired the house and redid the plumbing. They built out the attic to create two bedrooms, a bathroom and a little sitting room.

The original plan was to use the fireplaces in the winter and take advantage of the high ceilings and cross ventilation in the summer.

“It was not long that we discovered why we used to drive through the countryside and everybody was sitting on the front porch. That’s because they couldn’t stand it in the house,” Roger Hudson said. The result was the addition of central air and heat.

The house dates to about 1840, said Betty Tucker, historian and archivist for the Zachary Historic Village.

“It was the second house of James Young, who got the property in 1797 from a Spanish land grant,” she said. “The Youngs and Mills in this area are mostly direct descendants of James Young.”

The home stayed in the Young family until 1887. Two years later, it was purchased by Benjamin S. Harrell and his wife, Euola Bostick Harrell. It stayed in that family until 1947 and changed hands several times until it was purchased by Sharon Hudson’s aunt and uncle, Ethyle and Leroy Carroll, in 1958. The Hudsons bought the property in 1982, after Carrolls died.

Sharon Hudson says that the home is perfect for her family, even though the first couple of years were tough.

“Our two younger children rode the school bus home,” she said. “One of the first days they were on the bus, the driver stopped in front of the house and called out, ‘Who lives in the haunted house?’”

Hudson said that one of the girls came in the front door and yelled, “If I had known where the next bus stop was, I’d have gotten off there.”