A Southern Restoration: Cabin Fever
For thirty years one couple has poured labor and love into the restoration of four antebellum dwellings near Madison, Georgia
Nearly three decades ago, John and Carolyn Malone responded to a newspaper ad placed by a broker of antebellum log cabins. With only the snapshot in the paper to go by, they decided to buy a handsome 1840s structure from Summershade, Kentucky, and arranged for it to be delivered to the property they had purchased near Madison, Georgia, an hour east of their Atlanta home. This log cabin would be just what they had envisioned for their weekend escape, though they had assumed it would need some work. Little did they know how much.
Three days after Christmas, a truck pulled up to the site they had chosen for the cabin. A group of college kids on their winter break jumped out, dumped a pile of logs on the ground, and drove off. In other words: Some reassembly was required. Luckily, John was able to turn to neighboring carpenters and masons, who taught him how to chink the logs with a hand-troweled mixture of clay, mortar, and sand to keep them airtight. One neighbor helped him build a rubble fireplace with gathered stones to replace the ones that didn’t make their way from Kentucky. Never having done this kind of work, John wondered if the fireplace would draw well enough to heat the cabin in winter.
“John,” his neighbor said, “that fireplace will suck a cat off the floor.”
Such was the beginning of the Malones’ long-term project: transforming fifty-five acres of former cow pasture into Summershade, their farm named for that first cabin. John has since reassembled three more 1840s log cabins on the property, including, just last year, a structure from Tennessee used originally as a dogtrot. It faces the original building across a grassy lawn, which slopes gently down to a pond jumping with bass and bream. A bushy magnolia hugs the edge of the pond, alongside black gum, bald cypress, red twig dogwood, and a frizzy thicket of giant cane. Great blue herons and kingfishers stop by to fish and bask in the prettiest resting spot along their migration routes.
The setting speaks of timeless natural beauty, yet all of it was created by the Malones—even the pond, dug as a source of underground irrigation for John’s nursery business.