Jim and Chris Baron may fall into the minority. After all, how many people can say they’ve lived in the same house for 40 years? Further, how many can say the house they’ve lived in for 40 years was also built by their own family?
“I refer to it as a good old-fashioned barn raising,” Jim said.
For those who don’t know, a “barn raising” refers to the collective action of a community, in which all members help to build or rebuild a barn.
While the Barons didn’t get a barn, they did get a house.
The Barons moved from Minnesota to Williamsburg in 1971 when Jim landed a job at William & Mary. After living in a smaller house in town for a while, they decided they wanted a bigger house, especially since they had two kids and another on the way.
After finding an ideal lot overlooking Lake Pasbehegh in the First Colony neighborhood and selecting a contemporary architectural building plan, they enlisted the help of Chris’ father, Arnold Duevel, an accomplished farm and house builder in Minnesota and Army Air Corps veteran of WWII.
With the help of Jim’s father and other family members from Minnesota, Duevel arrived just after New Year’s in 1978 and got to work pouring concrete, laying foundation and putting up walls.
Two and a half months later, the Barons moved into their new hillside home overlooking the water.
Chris recalled that it was just barely livable at the time, but the family was so excited to move in, it didn’t matter.
“The exterior siding was mostly plywood,” she laughed. But her father came back over time and finalized the build. And, when their family grew to five children, a fifth bedroom was added on the third level.
“It’s amazing, we wouldn’t have half the house if it wasn’t for them,” she said.
For 1978, their contemporary home with slanted rooflines and upside-down floor plan — the bedrooms are all located on the basement level — was a novelty considering many of the homes built during that time were colonial or American style.
“My father-in-law was very enthusiastic about building this house,” Jim said. “He liked doing things there were different and original. So the idea of a garage roof covered with solar heating collectors and all four bedrooms in a walk-out basement so that they’d stay cooler in the summer was right up his alley.”
Chris’ father also brought his Midwestern building sensibilities with him.
“The house is very well built,” Chris said.
“We have six-inch insulated walls, 12-inch cement blocks and the joists under the floor are two by twelves,” Jim added.
In addition to the house, the Barons loved raising their family in the First Colony neighborhood.
“It’s a neighborhood with easy streets for kids to get on their bikes, meet friends, go to the beach, and then they built the pool,” said Chris. Their sons also enjoyed fishing on the lake.
The interior of the home also features other elements made by family, including a bench, mantle and grandfather clock, among many other items. Some of the furniture comes from their home state of Minnesota, and family pictures of weddings, grandchildren and relatives populate the shelves and bookcases.
“I think it means more when you have a little bit of yourself in your home. It has been a magnificent home for raising a family while the open floor plan and wrap-around deck lends itself to hosting family and friends,” said Chris.