Even as a child, Paul Spivey dreamed of living in the two-story, colonial-style home on Hartford’s Main Street.
Spivey would see the house from the window of his school bus. He was in awe of the tall columns on the front porch and the warmth of the house when it was decorated for the holidays.
“I remember when I was a little bitty boy, I rode a bus because I lived in the country, and I said, ‘I would love to own that house one day,’ – I was still in probably elementary school,” Spivey said. “Who knows what the future holds? And, it just fell into place.”
In 2009, the house came up for sale, and Spivey became the home’s third owner in its 109-year history. When originally constructed, the house looked more like a Dutch colonial. Renovations done in the 1960s, however, changed the roofline and added the taller columns, giving the house a more traditional colonial architectural style.
The house is walking distance down Main Street, or State Highway 52, to the town square. It’s next to the local Piggly Wiggly and across the highway from Spivey’s business, Hartford’s Florist and Gifts.
Spivey shares the home with Brandon Watford. He has tried to honor the home’s historic charm by decorating with period furniture pieces in the front room and throughout the house. He even named his Airedale terrier for the home’s previous owner, Ludie Black.
Having grown up in the country, Spivey said he loves the fact the home is in town and close to everything. He loves that people ask to use the home for photographs. Each year, high school students gather for prom photos on Spivey’s front steps – their photos framed by the home’s tall columns and the front door painted in a robin’s egg blue.
“I want everybody to enjoy it – that’s just me,” Spivey said. “It’s a lot of hard work keeping the yard and stuff up but I enjoy seeing the kids come and laugh and cut up, making memories for themselves. During prom season, the whole yard is covered with people.”
Such joy surrounding the home would have pleased Ludie Black. For 70 years, she and her husband Gladstone, known to most as “Happy,” owned the home. Their daughter, Miriam, was born four years after the couple bought the house in 1938.
“Daddy bought it for Mother − they married in 1935 and Daddy bought it for her three years later on her birthday,” Miriam Forrester said.
When she was in the fifth grade, Miriam’s father bought her a pony. He showed up at her school a few blocks away so Miriam could ride the pony home. The pony was kept in a fence toward the back of the property, which is larger than it appears from the road. Two years later, a second pony joined it after Ludie won a Welsh pony in a drawing at a local dime store.
An only child, Miriam whiled away the days on the home’s narrow staircase talking with her imaginary friend Miss Trellis, making mud pies in the yard or playing Monopoly for hours with friends who lived nearby. On Saturdays, Ludie would wash Miriam’s hair and put it in rollers. With a scarf over her hair, Miriam walked along a dirt path to the Rose Theater on the town square to meet her friends for movies.
“We all met up there and paid 10 cents until we turned 12, and then it was 25,” Forrester said. “We got two movies and ‘shorts’ as they called them.”
Gladstone “Happy” Black died in 1997. Ludie remained in the home until her death in 2009. After Ludie’s death, Miriam Forrester walked into Spivey’s flower shop. Spivey asked about the family’s plans for the house − there was to be an estate sale and then the home would be put on the market.
Spivey asked if he could buy the home and Miriam agreed to give him first chance. A while a heart attack and bypass surgery delayed Spivey, he closed on the home later that year.
A fan of estate sales, Spivey has filled his home with vintage touches, including a collection of coffee grinders on display in the kitchen. The formal front sitting room welcomes visitors as they come through the front door. There, Spivey displays an antique gramophone, juke box and a collection of weeping gold serving ware and figurines.
Upstairs, there are two bedrooms and another full bathroom filled with items Spivey has collected over the years.
Mid-century modern vases made from colored glass are on display in both the dining room and even the laundry room, which doubles as a half-bath. Another detail in the laundry room is a window valance made from old flower-shaped brooches.
The master bedroom is large with a wall full of Cuckoo clocks. On the floor is a bear rug made from the hide of a grizzly bear killed in Wyoming in 1978. Spivey purchased the rug at an estate sale in Ozark.
Spivey even has pieces with local significance – such as the black medical bag once used by Hartford’s longtime physician, Dr. Hubert Strickland. The bag contained one item when Spivey bought it – a small notebook with Strickland’s handwritten notes on patients (although, there are no names with the notes).
Today, Spivey has a greenhouse where Miriam’s ponies were kept. He created a patio area from bricks people have given him, simply adding to the patio as his brick supply is replenished. He still has an area he’d like to finish.
During holidays, Spivey keeps up Ludie Black’s tradition of decorating the home.
His favorite thing about the home is the joy others take from it – from the high school prom-goers to the local friends who ask to hold a brunch or bridal shower in the home.
“I love people to come visiting,” Spivey said. “In the country, I never had that; but I have company every day of the week – just people stopping by.”