By Emily Beckett
Old wagon wheels line the gravelly driveway leading to Junction Park, a place where sounds of the city are replaced with chirping birds and running water.
It’s a place where sunlight peeks through the lush, green tree canopy on a clear day, and if there is a breeze, it’s sure to reach anyone sitting on the house’s wrap-around porch.
The seclusion of this vacation rental home in Verbena has rendered it one of Chilton County’s best-kept secrets for almost a year, but word of its charm is beginning to spread.
Located about five miles from Interstate 65, Junction Park is situated just off Highway 31 near Lake Mitchell.
Owners Steve and Jan Thomas of Shelby County describe it as a “rustic chalet on 75 acres” in their listing on Vacation Rentals By Owner, a vacation properties website.
The house, formerly a private residence, welcomed its first vacation guest in September 2011.
“We actually have had it built for about six years, and we rented it to an individual for about three,” Jan said. “Then, she moved, and we decided to do what we designed it to do, which would be a vacation rental home.”
The Thomases built and furnished the current house, which sits at the end of a private, quarter-mile driveway guarded by a gate.
The original house belonged to a woman named Eugenia Cherry and was named Junction Park because it is where the Chestnut Creek and Sandy Creek meet.
According to historical accounts, Cherry enjoyed showing off the grounds and frequently allowed people to visit, making her home somewhat of a local attraction.
“This place, back in the late ‘40s, early ‘50s, was kind of a showplace for this area,” Steve said of Cherry’s scenic spread.
After Cherry and her caretaker passed away, the house fell into disrepair and eventually had to be torn down.
The Thomases decided to make it “a lifetime project to restore the property to some of its original beauty,” salvaging as many of Cherry’s items as possible along the way.
Steve and several of his close friends built the new house from logs they cut or purchased locally. Some of the wood predates the Civil War.
The house has a spacious common room with a fireplace and large windows; a full kitchen with a movable island and a dining area; a wrap-around porch with patio tables and chairs; three bedrooms; three bathrooms and sleeps as many as 10 people.
Each bedroom has an open bathroom complete with an original, refinished claw-foot tub.
“Look old and run new,” Steve said, noting the tubs. “That’s what you want to do.”
Jan focused her efforts on choosing antique furniture and décor for the house, some of which belonged to Cherry herself.
Several original paintings by Cherry hang on the walls in one of the downstairs bedrooms.
“We came up with the idea that maybe we could furnish it with some of our antiques we’ve been collecting for many years,” Jan said. “We just furnished it with things that we like and hope that someone else would like it, too. I didn’t go for the manicured look; I wanted to go for natural.”
An old armoire stands tall enough in the 900-square-foot loft bedroom upstairs for sunlight streaming through the fan window to dance across the surface of its dark grain.
Stained glass windows—compliments of Jan—hang in front of the regular windows and add vibrant jewel tones to the room, in contrast with the unpainted, exposed wooden beams.
The focal point of the common room is undeniably the twin chandeliers made with hayrack wheels from the property and deer antlers donated by a friend. Another eye-catcher is the staircase railing made of old-fashioned school desks welded together.
“We’re like the scavengers. We try to look for things like that, that are unique and rustic,” Jan said. “Sometimes, things that were made back in the olden days are really more convenient than what’s made today.”
Outside, the house is shaded by woods and surrounded by water from the creeks that converge and eventually empty into Lake Mitchell and the Coosa River.
Jan planted a flower garden behind the house for guests to enjoy as they walk around the yard or look out the windows of their bedrooms.
“This has really been a labor of love for us because we just have really fallen in love with the place,” Jan said. “(We) decided early on … we need to share this with others because it’s such a beautiful place nature-wise. I call it a stress-melt place.”
The venue’s peaceful ambiance and historic charm seem to be a hit.
From spring vacations to family reunions, wedding anniversaries and group meetings, Junction Park hosts a variety of guests.
In addition to its antiques, the house is stocked with books, movies, CDs, Bibles and other Christian reading materials.
“We like to try to use this as a springboard for a Christian-based atmosphere,” Jan said. “The Lord has blessed us greatly. We’ve been able to kind of make things work.”
To learn more about Junction Park or to make reservations, go to www.vrbo.com/373554.