Green Guide

Landscape architect opens West Virginia farm retreat

Posted September 3

— When Pamela Bailey started working on her farm retreat, she paid attention to the details of each room.

She wanted each detail to not only preserve the historical integrity of the building but also have a modern touch that didn't look out of place with the rest of the house.

What is now the Five Springs Farm Guesthouse in Fayetteville once was an old storage facility that she said was in "decrepit shape." To the best she could tell by trying to track down courthouse records, she estimates the storage facility was built in the mid- to late 1800s.

"I think it's so cool to do it," she said of renovating the house. "There is a real balance when you're doing historic preservation. How far do you go and still maintain the character without losing it?"

For example, she kept the original old doors leading to the bedrooms. She painted them and installed new hardware. However, the hardware was difficult to find.

"The hardware was difficult because the doors are thinner than modern doors," she said. "So you couldn't get them at Lowe's. I had to go to a store in Lewisburg and found blacksmithed cottage door handles. It's the little details that really set off the house. I really tried to pay attention to the details."

She gestured to what is now a modern bathroom, which once was a porch that led to the outhouse. The bathroom includes modern amenities but also has a flair for the past with horseshoes found on the property hanging on the walls.

She started work on the farm retreat last May, finishing at the beginning of May this year. She worked on it every day but even when she took breaks, thoughts of renovations ran in the background of her mind.

"I remember I took a day off and that's when I found that garage light first," she said gesturing to the light hanging in the sunroom, noting that this is the first time the house has had electricity in its history. "Then I found the kitchen lights. They were exactly what I was hoping to find. They were barn lights, just the enamel fixtures. That color is the one that I had painted 25 years ago on the cabinets."

She started hosting guests the second week of May and plans to close the season at the end of October. People can reserve a room in the two-bedroom house through Airbnb. So far, she's had about 15 guests; she said July and August have been very busy.

She said she moved to West Virginia because she loves the area. A New Englander originally, Bailey had lived in Massachusetts and had worked in Mississippi before settling in West Virginia. She bought the property in Fayetteville in 1992.

"It's a fantastic area," she said. "This is where I learned botany, in the Appalachian area. I loved the forests around here."

She started with animals and a high tunnel for growing various crops. That's when she came to the third piece — the Airbnb. She said opening the house has allowed her to stabilize her farm's annual bills.

She retired about a year and a half ago from work as a research botanist. She has her master's and Ph.D. in botany. She also worked at the National Park Service as a landscape architect for the New River Gorge National River. She learned to love the process of preservation and the restoration of gardens, buildings and landscapes.

She said her experience as a landscape architect helped her see the big picture for the house.

"I have a good spatial ability to see things where most people may not be able to," she said. "If it means a piece of wood in a campground like the Park Service in Glade Creek or here on the farm. A lot of it is a subconscious process too."

When designing the house, she said each room fell into place. She didn't plan it out initially.

"It's not like I had a design board," she said. "It just fell into place. I loved that. I love the design process. I think it's the coolest thing. I think the space works. The detailing is beautiful. I'm really happy with it. It took a lot of work."

She said she caters the experience to the people who stay at the farm retreat. This is one facet of what she says is her mission statement: "A sustainable farm based on stewardship practices grounded in a reverence for the land and its resources, growing wholesome food, and providing a farm stay experience to share this way of life with others."

She recalled one time in particular when a family stayed at the farm retreat. The kid, she said, had never been around chickens before. She delighted in seeing the child's face when she collected the eggs.

She said she also has fresh vegetables or eggs available for her guests, which she said is a highlight for them.

"I strike up conversations and see how their day is going and see what kind of things they have going. I'll have fresh eggs in the fridge."

Next year, she hopes to open in April, but opening is dependent on weather. By that time, she said she's hoping to have the barn finished and animals in the barn. She also hopes to offer classes, in particular classes on herbal plants and garden design.

She said she loves contributing to the energy of the town and wanted to contribute to agri-tourism in the community.

"I love Fayetteville," she said. "I love the energy in the town. ... It's a vibrant community and it's a vibrant environment between the rock climbing and boating. That's what I fell in love with was the energy. I wanted to contribute, and agri-tourism is on the rise. People go to farms as destinations where they can sample food from the farm. I wanted to be in on the start of that movement for West Virginia."

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