By JOEL McNEECE
The roof had partially fallen in. Trees had grown up against the sides of the house and ivy had engulfed much of it making it hardly visible from the road. Despite its many flaws, Fred Nabors was drawn to the house by its impressive history, making it one of his most rewarding renovation projects ever.
“I’ve built and renovated hundreds of houses,” Nabors said. “I just got carried away with this one. It is special.”
Known as the Bingham House, this two-story home on the corner of Jackson and Taylor in Calhoun City, dates back to 1905, prior to the founding of the town.
It was originally built by Elijah Aubrey “Lige” Bingham. He was only 29-years-old at the time he built the large home for he and his wife Ellen Elizabeth Doolittle. She was the daughter of Sterling Doolittle, a prominent businessman from Cadaretta who helped with the many expenses of the house construction.
The Binghams operated a large livery stable near the house as well.
“It was the business in town in that day,” Nabors said. “Everybody who came to town had to do business with them.”
Lige Bingham later served the town as an alderman for multiple terms and was also a member of the Calhoun City School Board.
The house remained in the Bingham family throughout its history. The Binghams had four daughters – Blanche Bingham, Blondie Bingham Lusk, Lorena Bingham, and Gladys Bingham McAlister. Blanche and Lorena lived in the house for many years after retiring as teachers in Alabama.
Virginia Boland, of Calhoun City, the daughter of Blondie Bingham Lusk and the granddaughter of Lige and Ellen Bingham, sold the property to Nabors so he could restore the old house.
“It’s just beautiful,” said Boland, wife of Edwin Boland. “We are very pleased.”
The house underwent a major renovation in 1965 prior to Lorena and Blanche moving back in. Nabors said it’s been wired three different times. He changed out everything during the latest renovation.
Built approximately the same time as the Hiller and Mallory houses in Calhoun City, Nabors said the Bingham home has the same “structure.”
Nabors saved a few of the original doors with glass door knobs, most of the original kitchen cabinets and a host of historic pieces discovered in the attic.
Nabors took great delight in salvaging a coverlet crocheted by Lorena Bingham. He spread it across the wrought-iron bed in the bedroom.
Other treasures included an old wash bowl, paintings by Bea McAlester, a large photograph of Lorena’s 1921 graduating class at Mississippi University for Women, charcoal paintings of Mr. and Mrs. Sterling Doolittle, and numerous other odds and ends that were used for decoration.
Nabors restored all the original hard wood floors. He also attempted to maintain much of the integrity of the original house’s walls and high ceilings, although he did run into a major problem in one bedroom.
“There was a honey bee hive in a bedroom wall that we like to never got out,” Nabors said. “We tried everything. We eventually got the queen out and the others followed.”
He did modernize the house where he could, trying hard not to disturb too much of the original layout. The bathrooms had to be expanded slightly as the original house wasn’t built for a bathroom. The limited closets were also extremely small.
The kitchen only had an opening for an ice box, so Nabors had to cut out space to put a modern size refrigerator.
Nabors described the house as “functionally brand new” with all new electrical, plumbing, heat and air, windows and most doors.
Nabors added a separate two-car garage and new landscaping to the exterior.
He recently hosted an open house one afternoon and welcomed more than 120 visitors eager to tour the more than 100-year-old home.
Standing outside gazing at the completed six-month project, Nabors admits he’s grown sentimental about the house.
“This was very significant to me. It’s hard for me to explain,” Nabors said of the home. “I really got involved in this old house.”
Nabors said he will eventually sell the home, but right now he’s still enjoying the completed project.
“I told my wife Faye I would like to spend the night here one night just so I could wake up and sit out on the porch with a cup of coffee and watch the sun come up,” Nabors said. “I think that would be a special experience.”