October 2007 Issue
A House for All Seasons
An Ashland couple incorporates their love of autumn and antiques into their 19th-century home and shop.
If only Norman Rockwell had visited Ashland in autumn.
More specifically, if only the artist –– beloved for his idyllic slices of American life –– had spent a crisp fall day following the dips and curves of Co. Rd. 1302 that lead to Sally and Don Dilgard’s 19th-century farmhouse and shop. He’d have found inspiration everywhere: the couple’s grandchildren, laughing as they scoop buckeyes off the home’s front lawn to save as keepsakes of the season; the string of customers, chatting as they carry decorative clay jack-o’-lanterns from the Dilgards’ housewares and gift store, The Parsley Pot, located right across the road.
Add the sight (ubiquitous in this northeast Ohio town) of an Amish family riding in their horse-drawn black buggy, and you’ve got scenes for several covers of the Saturday Evening Post.
“Or a Grandma Moses painting,” says Sally, smiling from her seat on the couple’s outdoor patio, and gesturing toward the stately trees that stand sentinel in her front yard –– towering oaks whose leaves cloud the sky with tangerine color in the fall, staging a festive display that seems recreated from one of Moses’ pastoral landscapes.
“Everywhere you look around here is as pretty as a picture,” says Sally, who, along with Don, her husband of 47 years, has reveled in the season since moving to the property in 1966.
But autumn’s essence resides in much more than their stunning foliage. From the 1863 farmhouse’s entrance, tastefully accented with pumpkins, potted mums and a welcoming harvest wreath, to the aromas of mulled apple cider and pumpkin pie, wafting from scented candles burning at the Parsley Pot and filling the air between home and shop, the Dilgards greet autumn with a wide embrace.
“The colors, the smells … decorating for fall leaves things feeling very warm and cozy,” says Sally, 67. “Why wouldn’t you want to celebrate that?”
Fortunately, that enthusiasm for the change in season blends effortlessly with the Dilgards’ longtime passion: collecting antiques. The farmhouse is a virtual showcase of vintage finds, amassed from Sally’s “love of discovering old things” and selected with the expertise Don has honed from his nearly 40 years as an auctioneer.
“I tell people that it’s a disease there’s no cure for –– until you run out of money,” says Don, 68.
He tells the story of how, one winter, Sally and several equally zealous friends braved sub-zero temperatures to get to a big antiques show more than an hour away in Columbus. “And when my car wouldn’t start up for them,” Don says with a chuckle, “they just hired a taxi.”
This time of year, the items purchased during her devoted pursuits mingle with an elegant, autumn-themed décor. “When I buy something, I have a place for it,” says Sally. “I don’t see the point in buying something nice just to stash it away, not using it to display or decorate with.” To that end, the family room features authentic Conrad crockery sharing mantle space with an illuminated garland of colorful leaves. On the enclosed porch, gourds and ears of maize perch atop a wooden table long ago used to feed hungry wheat threshers. Nearby, an old wooden-barrel-turned-end-table holds a grinning, terra cotta jack-o’-lantern.
Between the atmosphere of tradition and authenticity created by the antiques, and the earthy, warm tone set by the brown, gold and cranberry-colored fall accents, the Dilgards find it difficult to pull themselves away from their home to go to work at the Parsley Pot –– even if it is located just across the road.
They’ve been captivated by the spacious, 10-room farmhouse ever since they first laid eyes on it 41 years ago. Back then, the couple and their two young children lived as tenant farmers on land owned by The Ohio State University in Columbus. But one of Don’s other jobs, selling real estate, led him to this Ashland countryside, where he spied the stately white residence originally built by an army supply officer. He brought his wife on a drive to the area to show it to her.
Sally was immediately hooked. “She said, ‘You buy me a house like that, and I’ll definitely move to Ashland,’ remembers Don.
Fortunately, the elderly couple living there were looking to sell. Don made a return visit, met the couple and expressed interest. “That was a Tuesday,” he says. “By Thursday, we’d signed the papers and the house was ours.”
The exterior of the home –– including its pristine white paint, so striking against the bright orange leaves of autumn –– looks much the same as it always has. But the Dilgards spent nine months remodeling the inside, including installing new plumbing and a furnace, stripping all the wallpaper and tearing out the carpet to reveal the original hardwood floors.
“And we did most of it ourselves,” says Don, pointing out the kitchen’s black-walnut ceiling beams that he rescued from an old flour mill in Drumsville.
As if the house’s interior wasn’t enough of a challenge, the Dilgards also set about renovating the old bank barn across the road. The two-story structure, which once accommodated farmers driving their wagons up an outside bank to unload hay on the barn’s second floor, now holds everything from sugar-plum hand lotion and pumpkin-scented home mist, to roasted-apple grill sauce and Autumn in the Country cookbooks. Where a corn crib and chicken house once stood in back, a greenhouse now resides, home to fall’s best-selling Parsley Pot items: pumpkins made from red Georgia clay and topped with a jaunty cap.
“We’ve been selling those like crazy for about 15 years,” says Sally. “You’d think everyone would have one of those pumpkins by now.”
Of course, the Dilgards have more than a few themselves, sprinkled around the farmhouse and greeting visitors at the Parsley Pot’s big, burnt-orange barn doors. They’re just little reminders of the season that Sally and Don enjoy so much. The couple even traveled to New England a few years ago to bask in that region’s famed fall colors.
“It was nice,” says Sally, “but we came back thinking, autumn is just as memorable where we live in Ashland.”