Open To The Past
The Helms Home
By Lisa Stephens Rahn • Photography by Brian W. McDonald
Townley and Dana Pittman have long had an appreciation for history. Both their families are fully entrenched in the Wiregrass, and Dana’s grandfather, John Pittman, was the Coffee County agricultural extension agent in the early 1900s, a time when the boll weevil’s devastating effect on cotton crops caused the region to diversify, a shift that ultimately led to our title as the Peanut Capital of the World. His character even appears in the play, The Depot, which catalogs this struggle toward progress.
A teacher for more than 20 years, Townley specializes in sixth-grade American history. “We’d become sentimental about the history of Alabama and the history of the county,” she says. This passion for the past was a driving force behind the style of their new Enterprise, Alabama, home, which offers modern living in what is essentially a barn. The couple has friends who’d built a similar space for entertaining. “We’d visited their barn so many times we decided we wanted our next house to be like that,” Townley says.
The Pittman home is made of reclaimed wood and metal, no sheetrock. “So much of this house came from the Wiregrass,” Townley says. “A lot of this wood and metal came off of barns that were falling to the ground.” One of the main objectives was to put to use the reclaimed materials the Pittmans had been holding onto for decades. “We’ve been saving all these things so long; we just never knew what to do with them,” Townley says.
Piecing together a lifetime worth of scavenged goods wasn’t easy, but builder Larry Johnson made it happen over the course of a year. “Every board was hand-sanded, straightened and put up one at a time,” Townley tells. “We were blessed that Larry Johnson and his crew felt the same as we did about preserving a little of our Southern heritage, and worked hard to see that our ideas could be created, even when it was time-consuming.” ... [subscribe to read full article and see more photos]