The Washington County Fair is just around the corner, and this year, the most curious fair-goers are in for a treat.
The Washington County History & Landmarks Foundation is hosting a “Collections and Curiosities” exhibit inside the John White House at the fairground entrance daily from noon to 9 p.m.
The newest addition to that display is a replica log house that has finally found its way home.
God’s Two Acres was a bright blue house decorated in white shutters that stood along Arden Mines Road in Washington for decades. John and Mildred “Babe” Popats purchased the house and surrounding land in the early to mid-1950s from John’s uncle, Max Shultz.
The family believed God’s Two Acres was settled by a pioneer couple and later served as a tenant house on the Shaw family farm. But when Joni Tomor grew up on the property, it was less a working farm and more a joyous homestead, with a creek cutting through the lush green yard and geese waddling about.
“(My mother) wrote for The Daily Notes. Her column was called God’s Two Acres,” Tomor smiled. “She would talk about the crazy animals we had, the things we did as kids. I was, say, in my 20s and I’m thinking, ‘Ma, you’re getting a little personal.’ It was humorous.”
Tomor said Babe Popats was an enthusiastic historian who documented both family and local history, so when the family sold God’s Two Acres and the house in 1992, everyone knew logs were hidden beneath the blue siding.
“We knew it was a log cabin,” said Tomor. “My mother spent most of her adult life researching history, especially her property as well as Washington County.”
But it was still a surprise when John and Babe Popats learned the purchaser had stripped the siding from their former home, revealing the original logs. Sometime in 1992 or ‘93, John Popats snapped a photo of his former home and his wife commissioned a local artist to craft a model.
“The lady that had lived in that log cabin wanted me to make a replica of that for her,” said Doug Fraley, a Tylerdale artist who completed several wooden models, including the Flat Iron Building, in the early 1990s. “I remember that one distinctly because the back side (of the house), I think it had a long section where there were gun ports in it. What happened with that log cabin? I’d like to know where it went to.”
The big house was supposed to be relocated to the Washington County Fairgrounds but was instead razed, Tomor said sadly. The miniature God’s Two Acres became a fixture in her parents’ home.
“(My parents) had a table set up. The house was full of furniture, down to teacups; the house was set,” said Tomor. “(The kids) would go in and attempt to play with it.
“And if anything was moved, a quarter of an inch, she knew,” Brandy Rossi, Babe’s granddaughter, said with a laugh.
Tomor inherited the replica home when her father passed away in 2014 (Babe passed in 1996), and gifted it to her daughter, Rossi, who simply didn’t have the space. So Rossi asked Lonie Ward, who sells at Antiques Junction, to find the model house a new home.
Ward was unable to sell the model and approached Scott Becker, director of the Trolley Museum.
“I just thought it belonged in a museum,” Ward said.
Becker directed Ward to Sally Mansmann, a board member for the history and landmarks foundation, who toured God’s Two Acres in the early ‘90s – and fell in love with John and Babe Popats’ home.
“I said, ‘Oh, wouldn’t this be cool if ... it could be moved to the fairgrounds?’” Mansmann recalled. “Skip to the present, I get a call from the Trolley Museum. Somebody’s there, they have a replica of a log house that was along Arden Mines Road.”
Indeed, Ward presented Mansmann the log home replica, in mint condition. A sweet front porch enters into a lovely first floor, complete with a fireplace and a staircase to the second story.
“I carved that whole thing, the chimney and the fireplace,” said Fraley. “I’m really glad to hear that it ended up where it ended up.”
So, too, is Mansmann, who added the log home model to the foundation’s Mildred “Babe” Popats collection (which includes handwritten histories and one large oil painting of the Washington County Fairgrounds hanging proudly in the John White House foyer).
“When I first talked to Babe how many years ago, she had a lot of history books. We paid (her) $1,000. That was our first collection for our library,” said Mansmann. “It was like, OK, we already have a collection of hers and now they’re offering a model of her log house. It seems like it was sort of adding to her collection.”
Rossi said she’s glad her grandmother’s beloved miniature home sweet home will be admired by history buffs and the curious for decades to come, and Tomor is excited to have the replica included in the foundation’s collection.
“It’ll live on,” she said.
The painting, the God’s Two Acres replica and other curious collectibles representing Washington County history are on display at the John White House daily from noon to 9 p.m. Aug. 13 through 20.
For more on the Washington County History & Landmarks Foundation, visit http://washcolandmarks.com.