Roanoke College restore historic Clay Street 'tiny home'

Published: Jan. 17, 2018 at 5:35 PM EST
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A once historic run-down old home in Salem is getting a new lease on life, thanks to Roanoke College.

Professors and students have been working on restoring what is known as the "Clay Street House" and the project is nearly done.

The two-room house was built in the mid-1800s. It has gone through a major transformation, from a dilapidated building to a neat two-story home.

The college finished the bulk of the restoration of the two-room home at the end of last year.

By today's standards it would be considered a "tiny house," but back then it would be considered a normal sized home.

"It's really a proper house, this is a two-story structure, Christian Wertz, the owner we are interpreting was a wealthy affluent merchant," said Dr. Whitney Leeson, Roanoke College Professor of History and Anthropology.

"This certainly was a proper house."

Dr. Mark Miller, a history professor, explained this was a more ordinary house.

"This was a significant property. I think a part of why this house gets saved and what's unusual is people are usually interested in saving the big houses," said Dr. Miller.

Dr. Miller says in Salem in the 19th century the Clay Street House only had one room on the bottom floor and one room on the top floor, but some of the nicest houses in Salem only had four rooms.

"You've got to get the scale right. Christian Wertz would be offended if he were here today he would say 'excuse me this is not a tiny house, it is a nice house," Dr. Miller said.

In the 1880's there weren't more than 120 houses in Salem, so families lived together in houses or in rooms above shops, Dr. Miller explained.

He said entire families would live in one room.

"Things were a whole lot simpler and tougher and leaner in the 19th century," Dr. Miller said.

The next step for this home is to move furniture in.

The home will be used as a history teaching tool for area schools.