ST. FRANCISVILLE — Len and Lynn Kilgore had run out of projects. Then they saw the picture of an old country cottage on the cover of The Advocate's Real Estate section.
One look at the little farmhouse and the Kilgores were captivated. It took several months of negotiating, but they ended up with the perfect family retreat just south of St. Francisville.
The original one-story, four-room house, built in the late 19th century by John I. Daniel, was originally part of Star Hill Plantation.
"The Daniels raised a big family with a lot of kids here," said Len Kilgore, a retired lawyer.
The Daniels later added a wing to the house, but in the 1950s, after John I. Daniel died, family members took off the wing and moved it and Daniel's widow to the backyard of the home of a grandchild in North Baton Rouge.
The farmhouse, back to its original size, was mainly abandoned until 1997, when it was purchased by a couple who began a major renovation that included the addition of a room across the back of the house for a den and modern kitchen. The Kilgores bought the little house just in time to celebrate Christmas 2000.
Even though the renovation by the previous owners was fairly complete, the yard was a total mess.
"We did all the landscape," Len Kilgore said. "I planted at least 50 different native species and built a pond. I hauled every wheelbarrow of pea gravel for the walks. I planted every blade of monkey grass."
The home is basically a center hall with the master bedroom on the right and the living room on the left. In the back corner of the living room is a table that opens to seat 10. From Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, the living room doubles as the dining room.
"We leave the table up during that time," Len Kilgore said.
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Behind the living room is a guest room. A room behind the master bedroom has been converted to a small master bath, a powder room, a laundry room and a closet.
Even before the Kilgores purchased the home, they decided that they would decorate it in typical country style.
"It's mostly furnished with hand-me-downs," Len Kilgore said. "We decided that we wanted the house to look like we always lived in it."
The home is filled with collected art and works by Len Kilgore, an accomplished artist.
"From the time I was a little kid, I always drew and painted," he said as he recalled a time his family was living in Lake Providence, where his father was principal of the local school. "One day, I had to stay in the classroom during recess because I was punished, so I took some colored chalk and drew a complete Nativity scene on the chalkboard. The teacher walked in and called my parents."
As a young lawyer, Len Kilgore studied watercolor with the late Henrietta Joseph. He painted for a while until work at his office and work on the house took most of his time. After his retirement in 2016, he picked up the brushes and began studying with Libby Johnson.
Lynn Kilgore, an accomplished woodworker, built a number of pieces of furniture in the home including the kitchen island made from old doors she found in a shed on the property and reclaimed molding from a salvage company in New Orleans. She made twin beds now in the guest room and several smaller tables and accessories in the home.
"I go through phases of crafts," she said with a smile.
These days, the Kilgores split their time between their home in Baton Rouge and their northern retreat.
Their three grown children, spouses, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and other family members love to visit in the country home. There are extra beds in a shotgun house the Kilgores moved to the property and remodeled.
"The Kilgore family thinks this is the family homestead," Lynn Kilgore said. "We have even had two family weddings here."