Genealogical Workshop - Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Lincoln County Historical Association



Lincolnton, N.C. - For nearly forty years, Dr. Robert Hart of Hickory, North Carolina, has rescued and restored Carolina life of the nineteenth century, creating in the rolling countryside of Catawba County an entire village, Hart Square – the largest collection of original, historical log structures in the United States. On December 17, 2011, from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., during Preservation By the Cup and Heafner Pottery’s Kiln Opening at the former CMC-Lincoln building in Lincolnton, Bob Hart will sign his new 400-page coffee table book, Hart Square: One Man’s Passionate Preservation of North Carolina’s Pioneer Heritage. Ten percent of the proceeds will benefit the Lincoln County Historical Association.

From corn cribs and barns, to houses and chapels, and even a few outhouses, Hart Square documents Bob and Becky Hart’s award-winning preservation effort with 798 color photographs of the structures and their period furnishings, not forgoing detailed histories and the often humorous anecdotes of moving and restoring them (sometimes at peril to life, limb, and digit). With the exception of two, all of the village’s structures were rescued in the Catawba Valley and many in Lincoln County, including the Blackburn-Summerow-Null-Hartzoge House, from 1793, the oldest structure in the village and one of Lincoln County’s oldest.

Designed and published by Nathan Moehlmann of Goosepen Studio & Press, with a foreword by Bob Timberlake, an introduction by John Rice Irwin, founder of the Museum of Appalachia, and principal photography by Reggie Thomas and Glen Walker, Hart Square tracks the village’s emergence from its beginnings as a wildlife refuge. The Hunsucker House, ca. 1840, the first structure, arrived in 1973 at the suggestion of Paul Hedrick, of Conover, who said, “Hey, Doc, there’s an old log cabin over here just falling down. It would look great on that new pond you just put in.” Becky Hart recalls thinking it was a good idea to move the old house, that it would complement the upper lake. “I didn’t know what it meant,” she says now, referring to the numerous buildings—seventy-five now—that complement the first.

With no intention of moving another structure, Bob reassembled the Hunsucker House along the upper lake to suit an idealized vision of what a log cabin should be.

He moved the structural timbers, leaving the floorboards, ceiling, windows, and doors, and even the handmade brick chimney. As the history of the buildings began to pique his interest, along with their place in the development of Catawba County, he began to salvage everything, including the nails.

By 1998, when Bob moved the Rhodes House, the village had long become an obsession. He had learned to move and preserve as much as he could. With the three-story Rhodes House, built in the early 1800s by Henry Rhodes (1799–1852) and the largest at Hart Square, this included not only the clothesline – its cedar posts and original wire – but also a pair of bib overalls and old shirts found in the attic. “The outhouse was not salvageable, but we were able to provide an original three-holer found at the Charlotte Metrolina Antiques Show,” Bob says. “He’s always there when the gate opens,” Becky says, “to make sure he gets the special finds.”

Bob Timberlake in his foreword to Hart Square writes of these special finds, the historical structures that create the village, and the over two hundred knowledgeable artisans and docents who demonstrate and share the craftsmanship and subsistence of the area’s pioneers on festival day, I’ve visited Colonial Williamsburg, almost grew up in Old Salem, and I’ve seen other restored places all over North America, and nothing compares with Dr. Hart’s village just south of Hickory.

Bob Hart says simply, “I hope the book proves both beautiful and informative, giving us an appreciation of what life was like a hundred and fifty years ago.”A clothbound, 400-page coffee table book, 11.9 inches wide by 12.5 inches tall, with 798 color images, Hart Square: One Man’s Passionate Preservation of North Carolina’s Pioneer Heritage retails for $75.

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Derick S. Hartshorn - 2011
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