Archive Contents

In Wilcox County –

Dry Fork antebellum restoration 
rivals finest in South

When James Edwin Tait’s great-great-grandfather, James Asbury Tait, built his home, Dry Fork, in 1832, the plantation was one of the largest in Wilcox County. In comparison with many plantation homes in the antebellum South, it was a modest structure. In size, design, and appointments it resembles George Washington’s Mt. Vernon, which is also not very large when compared to many plantation homes, such as Carter House in Williamsburg, Virginia.

James Edwin and his wife, Gail, perceived that this historic structure could not only be restored to its 

Jim and Gail Tait 

original condition, but could also be expanded to rival the finest restored Southern plantation homes. The Taits enlisted the services of James Barganier, a partner in the Montgomery architectural firm of Barganier, Davis and Sims, to plan the restoration. Mr. Barganier also designed additions made to the home, the pump house, the pool and pool house, as well as the formal French parterre garden.

Although the home has been expanded, Mr. Barganier and the Taits went to great lengths to maintain the historical integrity of the original dwelling. The home is now the Tait’s permanent residence.

The original structure, which had approximately 3,500 square feet, now contains over ten thousand square feet. The four columns supporting the two story front portico are original. The back porch was replaced with a gallery (walkway) which connects the two new wings.

These wings are offset from the front of the house so that they do not detract from the front facade or the four rebuilt chimneys, which rise on each side in front and back of the ridge of the original roofline. Cedar 

Ralph Martin and Allen Shumate, Dry Fork farm manager, chat on the porch of the restored log cabin.
shakes for the roof of the entire structure are identical to those used on the original roof and were milled from trees cut down on the property for construction Heart pine floors in the addition match the heart pine used on floors in the original house. The hallway or dogtrot down the center of the 171 year-old home remains just as designed by James Asbury Tait. In addition to the hallway, featuring a reverse staircase to the second floor, the first floor portion of the original house contains a parlor, dining room, library, and study. The second floor of the original home contains four bedrooms. Baths for the upstairs were added above the downstairs gallery addition.

This view of the “dog trot” in the middle of the original portion of the house faces from behind the reverse staircase, which leads to the second floor.

The west wing addition is a large room with solid cypress paneling throughout. It contains a sitting area, game area, with a professional size billiard table, a half bath and a bar. The east wing addition contains a dining area, kitchen, wine cellar, half bath, and laundry room. Huge pine beams from the porch, removed for the addition are exposed in the kitchen ceil

Gail Tait states, “We have been working on  

The view from the second story of the front portico is magnificent.
the house for over four years, and we will probably never be finished.”

And she is most likely correct, even as Thomas Jefferson continued to redesign and refine Monticello throughout most of his life.

The modern kitchen retains the atmosphere of by-gone days.

A variety of vegetables are grown in raised boxes from early spring to late fall.



Archive Contents


Date Last Updated January, 2006