By MARINA WATERS
On the side of Tavern Hill Road, a two story farmhouse sets at the foot of a hillside surrounded by a mountain silhouette. The farmhouse is believed to have been built around the turn of the century and comes with its own set of history. But for the Finley family, who moved into the home in November, it offers the family of three a place they plan to build their own history on a backroad in Jonesborough.
“We fell in love with the surroundings,” Andrea Finley said, standing in the middle of the open area that joins the kitchen, dining and living area — along with a view of rolling hills through the large windows on either side of the house. “It was between this and a newer remodel. We knew this one needed work, but I cried when I saw it (laughs) because the other one just didn’t have the charm and the outdoors here. I mean, look out that back window. It just won my heart.”
The house was said to have been the first stagecoach stop in East Tennessee and later served as a tavern. But the Finleys are hard at work to find more details about the farmhouse’s beginnings after a man with a metal detector and a bit of history showed up at their door.
“After we lived here for about a month, there was a guy who stopped and said, ‘Hey, I’d like to metal detect around your house. Do you know the history of it?’” Andrea’s husband, Shaffon Finley, said. “I told him we knew just what was in the listing. He said people used to come from Hales Chapel and they would come down and on their way to Jonesborough they would stop here. It’s pretty close to Jonesborough.”
Even without knowing the full history of the farmhouse, it’s not hard to imagine the stories of the people who once roamed through the house, like the long gone strangers who might have once stopped in for a cold drink in the 19th century on the dusty road between Boones Creek and Jonesborough or bygone travelers who likely gathered to share the warmth around the aged fireplace still setting in the center of the open living area of the house.
Though the Finleys said a good amount of work had already been done to the farmhouse when they bought it, they’re dedicated to honoring the history of the old homestead. A staircase adorned with a mosaic made of broken china leads you to the upstairs bedrooms that also serve homage to the home decor techniques of the past — the floors in the upstairs bedrooms are painted just as they would have been in previous centuries.
“The reason the floors are painted is in old farmhouses they would put spare wood, whatever was left, in the floor,” Andrea said.
“It didn’t all match up, so they painted it. We tried to keep it true to that,” Shaffon added. “They were already painted up here.”
As if hand-stenciled tiles in the upstairs bathroom (which will sadly have to be removed after a shower leak) and painted floors aren’t enough to give the farmhouse personality, Andrea and Shaffon have made sure to put their own personal touches in and around the house to honor their own history.
In the upstairs hallway, a small wooden letter board that was once used at the church Andrea grew up in hangs on the wall between pages from old hymnal books. And next to the old red water spigot on the side of the house rests a concrete slab embossed with odd shapes and is believed to be an old doll mold.
“As a kid I thought it was the coolest thing,” Andrea said looking at the piece she used to ogle over as a child. “At my grandmother’s house it laid up against the house. I always thought it was an angel as a kid. I finally asked when my grandmother passed if I could have it. It just mesmerized me.”
The Finleys would tell you the house is a work-in-progress, but Andrea and Shaffon, along with their daughter, Selah, are also considering another project: turning the shed that was said to have once served as a smoke house into an Airbnb.
But for now, the ground has been leveled for a future fire pit overlooking the hills behind the farmhouse, a small garden filled with tomatoes, small pumpkins, cucumber and other vegetables is well on its way and the family’s two goats, Honey and Sugar, stand nearby hoping for a piece of bread from Selah. And that’s precisely what Andrea and Shaffon pictured when choosing between the farmhouse and another remodeled home — a farm for their daughter to enjoy.
“When it was between the two houses,” Andrea said standing on the porch just in front of the newly stripped front door that took a week to refinish, “I wanted her to have the same type of childhood that I had where you could just run the fields and just enjoy being outside instead of worrying about your crazy neighbors.”
To capture all the farmhouse magic that goes on, Andrea has created “The Finley Farm” instagram account complete with pictures of goats peaking through the fence and various decor throughout the house.
“I think the reason you see all the posts you do with her is because she truly loves it,” Shaffon said. “Like I love playing the bass, she loves decorating. Just everything about farmhouse decorating. And she used to be a photographer as a side-gig so she loves taking pictures of it.”
Andrea may love taking pictures of the farmhouse and the picturesque front porch, but Shaffon had reservations in taking on an older home after the Finleys left their last house which required a lot of upkeep.
“I think what he was most nervous about was the first house that we had had a lot of leaks in the ceilings,” Andrea said. “He was just over home improvement.”
“I was tired of fixing stuff,” Shaffon added. “It’s just something that’s ongoing. This house hasn’t been that bad. I think (the previous owners) worked on it quite a bit. I just know what goes into the upkeep.
It seems the work of getting a historic farmhouse like you want it is never truly finished. But the Finleys are taking it one day at a time and spending each day taking in the East Tennessee surroundings in the home they knew was meant for them.
“I just like character of farmhouses instead of cookie cutter houses,” Andrea said, thinking back to the moment she first fell in love with the farmhouse. “I like something with charm that’s different.
“I could just see life being good here.”