Memories prompt Deen to restore a 1940s Trenton home
By Carrie A. Mizell
Wesley Deen has fond childhood memories of shooting squirrels in the backyard of the old Hardee house on First Avenue in Trenton.
“Those squirrels were eating all Ms. Marie and Miss Vida’s pecans and they wanted something done about it,” Deen recalled with a smile and a shake of his head.
Growing up, Deen considered the Hardee home the nicest house on First Avenue, and he should know; after all, he was raised just down the street.
His fondness for the Hardee house prompted Deen to take the home off the hands of the First Baptist Church of Trenton when they listed it in the newspaper last year as available to anyone willing to move it off church property.
“A week or two after the church had stopped taking bids, I called up there to see what had happened with the house,” Deen said. “That’s when they told me they just wanted to get rid of it.”
After talking with church officials, it didn’t take Deen long to contact Hunt’s House Moving and make plans to pull the house from Trenton out to his property in the country, east of town.
Moving day dawned on May 19, 2009. Since setting the home on its new foundation, Deen said it has been a pleasure to put in long hours restoring the home to its original glory.
“I tell people that we are not re-modeling the house, we’re re-conditioning it,” Deen said. “It’s the Hardee house rescue effort.”
Built between 1947 and 1948, the home was the pride of rural mail carrier Kenny Hardee and his wife, Marie. The Hardees reportedly built the home using the death benefit money they received after Kenny’s son, Cary Hardee, was killed in World War II.
Cary Hardee was reportedly the first soldier to die in World War II from Gilchrist County. Some say that he was an Air Force fighter pilot, and when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor his plane never made it off the ground.
Cary was born to Kenny Hardee and his first wife, Mamie Lancaster Hardee.
Mamie died in childbirth, so Kenny and his second wife, Marie, raised the brave solider. When word reached home that their son was missing, the Hardees held out hope that their only son would return home someday, but eventually filed for death benefit funds the government was offering after World War II.
The four bedroom/two bath home the Hardees built still has original three inch pine floors throughout, which Deen restored, as well as some of its original beadboard walls, particularly in the kitchen.
Prior to moving into the house on December 7, 2009, Deen re-wired, re-plumbed and put new air conditioning in the home.
Structurally, many of the rooms in the home are just as they were when the Hardees built it. Deen said he has changed one of the home’s bedrooms into a TV room and adapted another to make a larger master bathroom.
“After working on the house for the last six months, I’ve got a pretty good idea of all the ins and outs,” Deen said.
“The attic looks like a barn! I could put two more rooms and a bathroom up there, but I’m a bachelor; I don’t need all that,” Deen continued.
As he works to restore the home, Deen said several of his family members have pitched in with antique pieces they have come across, or in his mother’s case, formal drapes for the dining room, which Wesley affectionately calls, “funeral home drapes.”
Deen has also put several family antiques in the home, including a loveseat that once belonged to his grandmother’s grandmother.
“It’s really an accumulation of things in the house,” Deen said. “I’m not an interior decorator! I’m just trying to get it back to the way it was when the Hardees lived here.”