Even a modern structure, designed originally for some branch of agriculture, can be converted into an excellent house if an architect is inclined to undertake the necessary contriving of plans and builders can be found who will follow his directions. Several years ago, a man was bitten with the urge to raise chickens according to the latest scientific methods of artificial lighting and forced feeding. For this he built a substantial structure with steam heat, electric lights, and other elaborate provisions. Being nurse maid to thousands of chicks ranging from a week old to the proper size for broiling was a strenuous job. Further, the creatures developed all sorts of maladies not provided for in the book and the mortality was so high that the project was finally abandoned.
The building stood vacant for some months until it came to the notice of a resourceful young architect. He measured, sketched, and drew plans. Now, what was once a factory for the raw material of broiled chicken is an attractive and compact Cape Cod cottage. Because of site and accessibility, the original building had to be dismembered and moved about two hundred feet. When re-erected according to the plans provided, the result bore little resemblance to the original box-like structure except that the floor space was the same.
Some country homes begin as week-end retreats. Then the habit of being in the country two or three days grows on the family until they see no reason for living in the city except for an occasional overnight ordeal with a stuffy hotel room. To make the average week-end shack a permanent home calls for material expansion. Double-deck bunks have been installed to provide adequate sleeping quarters; and for a limited time they find it fun to cook, eat, and live in one large room. But, when the house is used seven days a week, such condensation is anything but practical. So the establishment must be enlarged. This can be done with ease, especially if the original plans were drawn with such a change in mind. That is, the original structure now becomes the living room, while new wings and additions provide the much needed space for service quarters and conventional bedrooms and baths.
But the week-end place is not always built particularly for the purpose. Many times it is a very small farmhouse acquired cheaply and made usable at a minimum of time and money. When the decision is reached to convert it into a home of larger proportions, whether one realizes it or not, the plan of campaign follows the plan of no less a person than George Washington. Mount Vernon was not always a mansion but was the result of consistent enlargement. When Washington inherited it from his half-brother, Lawrence, it was a story-and-a-half hunting lodge of eight rooms. Then he married Martha Custis, richest widow in the Virginia colony; and, to have a home suitable for her, he had the roof raised and the house made full two stories.