A place apart

Observer-Reporter | June 16, 1996

As reported by Denise Bachman  in the Observer-Reporter, June 16,1996:

” AVELLA – When Dale and Marcy Tudor lived in Germany in the early 1980s, the exchange rate for dollars to marks was at one of its all-time lows. So when they traveled around Europe on their vacations, the Tudors stayed at guest houses to save money.

‘We loved the experience,’ Mrs. Tudor said. ‘We enjoyed the opportunity so much that we decided a bed and breakfast would be in our future.’

After Tudor’s liaison assignment with Bayer AG in Leverkusen, Germany, ended, the Tudors returned to the states and moved to the North Hills of Pittsburgh,

But they weren’t content. They really wanted to open a bed and breakfast, so they started to look for property. They found what they considered to be the perfect place to open a bed and breakfast — a farm on Sugar Run Road in Avella.

‘We were looking for an old house and 10 acres,’ Mrs. Tudor said. ‘We found an old house and 104 acres.’

They moved into the old 14-room farmhouse 10 years ago. They spent the next six years – and, Mrs. Tudor said, they’re still not done – restoring the circa 1870 house to its original architectural design. Four years ago, they opened Weatherbury Farm to the public. They selected the name from the setting of Thomas Hardy’s novel, ‘Far From the Madding Crowd.’

‘It’s been a big change in lifestyle,’ Mrs. Tudor said. We chose the name to emphasize that the farm, while only 20 miles from the hustle and bustle of Pittsburgh, is a place apart, where life passes at a different pace – slower, somehow richer.’

Plus, Extravagance, which was the original name of the farm, did not suit the atmosphere the Tudors were trying to achieve at their bed and breakfast.

The house was structurally sound when the Tudors purchased it in 1986. although it had been updated over the years, most of the original architectural features remained intact.

‘The house was beautiful and clean, and it had been updated. There was a lot of ’60s wallpaper,’ Mrs. Tudor said.

The Tudors wanted to make the house more historically correct, so they removed the wallpaper and ripped up the wall-to-wall carpet. Instead of removing any plaster, they patched walls and ceilings with spackling. Ceiling tile was removed and replaced with drywall, and a suspended ceiling in the master bedroom was removed and the ceiling beneath it parched. The original windows were retained and sealed.

‘We had no idea how much work an old house entails,’ Mrs. Tudor said.

Restoring the original wood floors also was a major undertaking.

‘My in-laws couldn’t understand why we taking out wall-to-wall carpet when they were putting it in,’ Mrs. Tudor said.

The floors were originally varnished, and many had been painted a number of times, sometimes even over the unvarnished parts. Mrs. Tudor dismissed the idea of stripping all of the floors after spending eight hours a day for six weeks stripping just the living room floor.

‘After that, I started to paint,’ she said, noting that painted floors wee typical in houses built in the late 1800s.

The only interior architectural change they made was the addition of two guest bathrooms to accommodate their guests. Space for the bathrooms was taken from a bedroom closet and a hall linen closet.

The furnishings, color schemes and other personal touches make the house very warm, comfortable and inviting. Most of the furniture was discovered on the property — in the basement, summer kitchen and garage — and at antique flea markets and auctions. Several items the Tudors picked up during their travels abroad and in the United States are displayed through the house. Mrs. Tudor also did quite a bit of stenciling around the walls and above the baseboards to enhance each room’s ambiance.

The living room, like all of the rooms, contains several period items and has a real country feel. Dried herbs hang from a rack in one corner, an old Smith-Corona typewriter and feather pens are situated on an old desk in another corner and a large basket of yarn with wooden needles sits in another. Sheep and Amish figures comprise the pieces of a wooden chess set displayed on an end table.

The living room also offers a full view of the dining room, which features white walls and country blue woodwork. An old hutch, a dry sink, an old work bench and a weaving loom are among the room’s furnishings. A built-in, pass-through cupboard is in one corner of the room.

The music room, decorated in pink,mauve and green,m is across the foyer from the living room. A silk area rug from ‘Thailand in the center of the room ‘changes’ colors from different angles.

‘If you look at it one way, it’s dark. If you look at from the other way,it’s light, Mrs. Tudor said.

The second floor is spacious, and pictures and prints from the Tudors’ extensive travels hang from the walls in the hallway. Among them are the Old State House in Boston, The Eiffel Tower in Paris, Old Main at Penn State University and a scene from Hong Kong.

Each of the two guest bedrooms has its own personality. The Patterson room, named after the second family to own the home (1945-1966) is very bold. it is decorated in burgundy, blue and whit4. The floor and the woodwork are painted blue, and the blue stenciled houses and burgundy checks around the middle of the wall resemble the design on the comforters on both the double bed and the day bed. The room also has two large closets.

Jane’s room, named for a member of the farm’s founding Murdock family, is decorated in lighter tones. Here, too, the stenciling matches the bed and window dressings. A beautiful old clothes cupboard was acquired for $15 at an auction.

The hallway wall between Jane’s room and a guest bathroom is dedicated to the Tudor family history through photographs and an explanation of the family name.

The second floor also contains an office, the master bedroom, another bedroom for the Tudor’s son, Nigel and three bathrooms.

A stairway off the back office leads to the kitchen, which had been updated by previous owners who replaced the original windows with short, stocky windows and installed modern cupboards that resembled those in the Tudors’ North Hills home. so the Tudors replaced the replacement windows with windows that are similar in width to those in the rest of the house, although they are shorter to allow for cabinets beneath them. They also installed cabinets built in 1905 that they found in a house that was being demolished. Those cabinets are from the right era for the kitchen, which was added to the house in 1910.

Many of the kitchen’s furnishings either look antique or are old. There’s an oblong kitchen table the Tudors acquired from a parsonage in Tennessee. There’s an iron stove and a refrigerator, circa 1929. Kitchen utensils with red handles hang from a rack above the sink area. A gum ball machine serves as a fish tank.

The home’s exterior and grounds are just as enchanting as the interior, although Mrs. Tudor said the exterior restoration is an ongoing project. The exterior clapboards on the house were retained because of their character, stripped and painted. The Tudors also reconstructed the porch, using old photographs and markings on the clapboards.

The standing seam metal roof is mostly original. When the back ‘L’ need to be replace, the Tudors discovered it has not historically correct — batten construction was used, rather than standing seam construction. The Tudors educated themselves on standing seam roofs, purchase 100-year-old-plus tools and built it themselves.

Flowering shrubs embrace the house, and there a re a woodland garden and a vegetable garden. An annual garden of cottage flowers line the fence, and the Tudors are working on a fragrance garden and old rose garden.

In May, the Tudors received one of five 1995 Rural Sustainable Tourism Awards presented by the center for Rural Pennsylvania. The award is designed to encourage environmentally sustainable tourism in rural areas and is presented to organizations that actively promote and implement environmentally friendly activities through recycling or other ‘green’ tourism practices.

Plans for the farm include converting the old summer kitchen into two guest bedrooms’ restoring the exterior of the farmhouse; enclosing the back porch, which overlooks the herb garden; and erecting a 20 foot-by50-foot green house, where Mrs. will cultivate old-fashioned flowers and Nigel will grow exotic plants. The Tudors purchased the glass greenhouse, circa 1930 in 1993. They had  it dismantled before transporting it to the farm for storage.

In their’ spare time,” the Tudors raise Hereford cattle, Scottish Highland cattle, which are distinguished by unique shaggy coast of waved hair and elegant horns and are the oldest know breed of cattle, Southdowns (sheep), bantam chickens, Guinea fowl, Indian runner ducks, African geese and doves. ”