It was the light, not the history, that sold him. When filmmaker Curt Hahn walked into his Aberdeen Woods home for the first time 16 years ago, it was empty apart from a single folding chair. “I sat in that folding chair and looked at the way the light came into the house, and as a filmmaker, just like a painter, light is everything,” says Curt, owner of independent film company Film House, who raised his family in the 183-year-old home.
Now, with his youngest child off to college, the historic home is on the market, ready for another family to write the next chapter of the home’s history. And a rich history it is.
Originally built on 4,500 acres bestowed via a land grant from the government of North Carolina – because the land was part of western North Carolina at the time – the house was once the centerpiece of a working farm. In fact, according to Realtor Richard Courtney, the property was the original home of a well-known Nashville farm. After the real estate listing posted, Richard received a call from a man with Purity Dairies who knew a bit about the home’s history.
“He was 81 years old,” Richard says. “He told me that he had been born there and that it was the original home of Purity Dairies, and that he lived in the house with a couple of other families.”
The land was farmed well into the last century, up until the 1950s or ’60s. And then, gradually, it was sold off piece by piece as urbanity encroached on the once bucolic landscape.
“Ultimately the final sale was when they sold the original home and developed a subdivision around it,” Curt says. And even though a modern-day neighborhood has now grown up around the house – vastly different from the rolling hills and pasture lands that once surrounded the home – this house still stands out.
“It’s certainly a unique house,” says Curt. “Obviously any house that’s been around for 183 years is not going to be like the other houses in the neighborhood.”
And it’s rare for a home of this period and stature to have survived intact, he adds. Often in similar situations, developers would level the original home to put up multiple new homes in its place. In a best-case scenario, they might preserve the original structure and turn it into a neighborhood clubhouse.
“Fortunately for us, they did neither,” Curt says. “They left it as a single-family home on a lot that’s three times bigger than any other lot in the subdivision, and it’s the centerpiece of the neighborhood.”
A previous owner had undertaken a major restoration around the middle of the 20th century. Curt, who studied architecture before going to film school, was impressed with the care the previous owners took in restoring the home.
“When we were renovating the house in 2002-2003, one of the workers called to me and said, ‘Come look at this,’” Curt says. “And he banged his hammer on something that sounded like steel – because it was a steel I-beam. In the 1950s during that renovation, they had removed a wall of the living room and expanded the living room to incorporate what had been a porch. That steel I-beam shows you the level of care they took.”
In fact, where many older homes have sloping floors and cracks in the plaster, this house has none of those issues, Curt adds. It also doesn’t have the tiny, compartmentalized rooms common to older homes. It’s open and airy, with spacious rooms and high ceilings – perfect for a modern-day family. And of course, there’s all that spectacular light.
“The light in the house is amazing,” Curt says. “They were siting it on 4,500 acres, and so of course they sited it in the perfect location.”
The details of the home reflect its history in beautiful ways. For example, a wood staircase that winds its way up from the entry features a thick newel post that was carved from a tree on the property. Wooden peg hardwood floors are indicative of the home’s period, and three fireplaces would have offered heat before the existence of central heat and air. A clawfoot tub is the centerpiece of a light-filled master bath. And the kitchen, originally a separate structure, now connects to the main house.
“The kitchen was originally eight feet away from the house,” says Curt. “But interestingly, the foundations were built at exactly the same height off the ground, so when they connected the kitchen to the house in the ’50s, the floors lined up perfectly. You’d never know they weren’t part of the same house.”
Also in the 1950s renovation, the owners incorporated the original sleeping porches into the interior of the house. During their own renovation, Curt’s family added a screened-in porch. “The house has two rooflines, a steeper and a shallower,” he says. “The shallower goes over what used to be the sleeping porch. When we built the screen porch we made it steeper in the middle and then more gradual on the outside, which exactly matches the rest of the house. So the screen porch feels like it’s been there forever – it doesn’t feel like it’s been added on.”
Though the house has maintained its architectural integrity and historic character through multiple owners and two major renovations, it also incorporates modern technology, most notably the solar panels that line the sloping roofs at the rear of the house. Plus, it has a three-car garage.
Richard Courtney, the listing agent on the $1.1 million property, says the evolution of this house is the most striking and extensive renovation he’s ever seen. “It’s one of the top restoration projects in Middle Tennessee, I would say,” Richard says.
Through Film House, Curt himself produced a video that showcases the 4,286-square-foot home and its surrounding property.
Curt’s currently building a very different type of dream house – an “extremely contemporary” structure in nearby Williamson County. He’s happy that he’s leaving the house better than he found it, adding to its original wooded landscape by planting 23 trees over the years.
“Architecturally speaking, my goal was to be as faithful to the original house and the feel and design of the original house as possible, especially from the exterior,” Curt says. “And on the interior it was to make it work for modern living. So we have a home theater with surround sound, but it doesn’t conflict with the original nature of the house. You can feel the bones of the original house. It expresses its historic nature. Everywhere you turn you see touches that say, ‘boy, this house has been here a long time.’”
To learn more about this beautiful historic home, visit nashvillehistoricfarmhouse.com.
Enjoy a tour of the property in this video created by owner Curt Hahn: