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Home and Garden 2006
Splendor On the Mountain -- Arts & Crafts Home Tipahato
Love and Labor Restore Historic Tipahato to its Former Glory

by Cheryl M. Keyser + photos by Jason Turner

• • • •

Behind a small grove of trees, rising majestically above Raven Rock Road near Cascade, a unique Arts and Crafts-style home called Tipahato has captured the hearts of a couple dedicated to restoring the historic house and surrounding grounds to their former glory — while stamping their home’s décor with personal touches and modern conveniences. The stupendous views alone make it easy to understand why George and Katherine Drastal would undertake such a project. Standing on the home’s sprawling wraparound porch, George and Katherine gesture out toward the wide-open fields, stately woods and picturesque, cascading hills that make the northeastern tip of Washington County one of the area’s most scenic locales.

A weathered sign to the left of the driveway welcomes guests to Tipahato — the Top of the Hill in Shoshone — designed by architect Jake Woltz of Waynesboro, Pa., in 1902 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Tipahato was originally owned by Katherine Augusta Taylor, who lived there with her invalid sister from 1904 — when construction of the house was finished — until she passed away in 1940. “She is buried in the church cemetery next door,” George comments. “Her headstone is the only one which faces the house.” It’s speculated that Katherine Taylor might have been related to Col. Walter Herron Taylor, an aide-de-camp to Gen. Robert E. Lee, who became familiar with the Cascade area during his retreat from Gettysburg and later built a house there (now the Cascade Inn Bed and Breakfast), George continues. The house had a “confused history” following its first owner’s death. It went through various occupants, including a 20-year period when Tipahato housed children with behavioral problems and a time when it was subdivided into apartments.

Arts and Crafts at Its Best
It’s clear that George has done his homework with regards to Tipahato’s rich history — and its remarkable architectural design.

The 6,000-square-foot manse sits on a base of local basalt, with massive pillars of the same stone anchoring a front porch large enough to harbor three cars underneath. The high roof overhangs and brackets, as well as the original red and green trim around the windows, reflect the naturalness of the Arts and Crafts style. Originating as a social reform movement in England during the 1880s, Arts and Crafts emphasizes the values of simplicity and honest work, favoring handmade products over machine-generated objects. This philosophy extends to interior decoration and architecture.

“Homes should look like they are integral to their surroundings, so very often you see, as in this house, the use of a stone base so that the house appears to be rising out of the ground while cedar shakes on the upper level imitate the appearance of tree bark,” George explains.

The house crowns nine acres, much of it bordered by a low, stone wall. The Drastals’ dogs love running around the wooded backyard with its several outbuildings, including a half-buried, semi-circular stone building with a year-round temperature of 55 degrees. It probably was used as an icehouse in days gone by. Another structure serves as a storage shed, and a pump house rests on top of the hill. “We still use water from the original well,” Katherine says. “It is so good it could be bottled.”

A cooking enthusiast, Katherine also enjoys creating dishes with the fruits and vegetables from Tipahato’s garden. And this spring, some 1,000 Siberian wood squill and 250 daffodils will bloom in blue and yellow, casting a radiant glow across the hill.

From the moment one enters the home’s double front doors, characteristic details become evident. The doors’ glass sidelights, for example, are demarcated in an original crisscross pattern, but the four yellow panels are a later addition. Standing in the 11-foot foyer, one's eye is drawn up the glorious 4-foot-wide staircase crafted to scrape off the paint and restore the original wood," George notes.

A Labor of Two Loves
George calls the house a "labor of love," but it also represents a unique story of two loves. About 12 years ago, George and his first wife, Karen, newly engaged, learned that she had a rare form of cancer that had gone undetected. Given six months to live, Karen — with her husband beside her — made it her mission to fight the disease. Her quest to find a serene retreat brought her and George to Cascade and Tipahato in 1997. Karen passed away in 2004.

About the same time, family friend Katherine, then living in St. Louis, was going through a divorce. She and George turned to each other for compassion and understanding. "Thank goodness for the unlimited long-distance plan," Katherine laughs. From that friendship blossomed a bond that led o their marriage in June 2005. And Tipahato became home — and project — to a new matriarch and her two teenage children.

Foursquare and Fabulous
Fortunately, Arts and Crafts houses provide generous space. The light-filled, airy home features a foursquare floor plan. Downstairs, the living room, music room, dining room and kitchen — all measuring approximately 20-by-22-feet — branch off the central foyer. With the exception of the kitchen, each room features  cove ceilings and beautiful bay windows.

The furniture throughout the house mixes antique and modern styles, the dining room from Katherine's side of the family. Her great-great-grandfather made the stunning piece for her great-great-grandmother, and the cabinet has been passed down through the family to the first-born girl. Highlights of the music room include the original fireplace surround in the wood and mauve-tone tile and original paintings by George's mother. A computer scientist specializing in artificial intelligence by day, George also is an artist in his own right. The lamps and clocks that he's handcrafted from exotic woods add warmth and beauty to an already amazing home.

In the kitchen, an oak arch frames up-to-date appliances. Oak and glass cabinets rise above a green tile backsplash in an Arts and Crafts design. The large room hold a center island as well as a breakfast booth.

The foursquare style continues on the second floor, which holds bedrooms, a library and an office that both George and Katherine use. George's collection of jade plants — one more than 30 years old — graces a corner of the office. Of particular note in the library are a table and chair by famous Arts and Crafts artist George Nakashima, whose work is featured in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Major Restoration
When George took over the house, the living room was in the worst shape, with destroyed plaster, woodwork that had been painted over. and missing baseboards. To restore it to its original state, he had the carpenters copy molding and architectural details from other rooms.

One of George's initial impulses was to change the house's 53 windows. "The wind comes up the valley and it it like a wind tunnel," he explains. But architectural historian Jerry Trescott convinced him that it would be almost impossible to find windows as good as the original ones. So George undertook the arduous job of restoring all of them and, in certain areas, adding custom-made storm windows. It was just one of the many challenges the Drastals would face in the lengthy and still-continuing renovation. "I could probably put a carpenter's children through college wit what remains to be done," George quips.

Six rooms still await renovations on the third floor, which houses the home's unique ventilation system. Double skylights can be opened so that fresh air is drawn into the house to cool it during the warm-weather months.

The narrow back staircase, likely once used by servants, leads to the basement. Here, George has transformed a former classroom into his workroom, complete with tools arranged in an orderly fashion along once wall. Another room is being refurbished for Katherine's stained glass workshop. Safely tucked away in a corner are the original, seafoam green shutters; the Drastals don't plan to use them, but want to preserve them for future occupants.

Though the Drastals contemplate the future, they also keep the past in mind. Locally, Tipahato sometimes is referred to as "The Ghost House," Katherine says. Despite its century-long history, however, no mischievous spirits seem to have taken up residence with her and her family. Instead, this magnificent home owes its loving restoration to the good vibes of its current occupants.

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   Copyright 2008. Ridge Runner Publishing.