Meet the 101-Year-Old Preservationist Saving Agricultural History
[Gun & Garden] Mary Lib Winstead sits in the living room of the Merritt-Winstead House, where she was born in 1918. The windows are cracked against the stifling heat of a Roxboro, North Carolina, summer‐the house never had central air installed, but that doesn’t seem to bother Winstead as she describes her lifelong love of restoration. In the carport, her 1980 GMC Caballero even sports a supportive bumper sticker: "Historic Preservation Is the Ultimate Recycling."

For almost half her life, Winstead has worked to save historic buildings in Person County, just south of the Virginia border‐an especially impressive feat considering she is now 101 years old, and just last fall finished her most involved project yet: an early-nineteenth-century farmhouse that looks as though it were plucked from the streets of colonial Williamsburg.

Winstead’s mission to preserve the Roxboro area’s architectural history began with her own family home, a colonial revival that her father, the town doctor, built in 1915. She and her late husband, Wharton, raised their four children there, making careful updates and cultivating lush gardens that landed the estate on the National Register of Historic Places. She began renovating in earnest, though, in the early 1970s, when she fixed up a log cabin for her oldest son to live in. There were many such structures on her family’s tobacco farms‐cabins, clapboard homes, barns abandoned when the industry waned.

"It’s about the history of our area," Winstead says of her ardor for reviving them. "It’s fascinating to hear the stories that come with the homes." The oldest one, for instance, an early-1800s weatherboard house, belonged to a tobacco factory owner‐she also won it a National Register spot. "They built them so well back then," she says. "They did it right." Winstead wanted to do it right, too: She did much of the work herself over the years, faux-wood-graining doors, marbleizing mantels, and hunting period furniture.

Posted by: Besoeker 2019-06-26