By Bonnie Williamson
Majestic and luxurious are not words generally associated with log cabins. Rustic and visions of a simple structure that may have housed someone like Abraham Lincoln come to mind. A three-story, 8,400 square foot structure situated on 186 acres of pristine forest near Paw Paw, West Virginia, defies any preconceived notions about log cabins.
After entering through an ornamental gate at Crooked Run Farm, which remains securely closed unless a visitor has permission to enter, one travels down a three-quarter mile paved driveway lined with unique street lights. At the end of the journey is one of the most solid and beautiful homes imaginable, containing just about every comfort a human being could ask for, comforts essential to the man who designed and lives in this unique structure: Michael R. Brown, 78. Brown lives in the house with his wife Tracey.
“I knew what I wanted for a house” says Brown. “I didn’t want rustic. I wanted elegant. I wanted something solid that would last. I knew log cabins tended to be dark so I made sure we had plenty of large windows. I also wanted arches throughout the house: windows, doors and entry-ways. I just did that to give the house more character.”
The logs used for the full-log construction were shipped in from Montana, carried in by eight 18-wheerlers. They are huge, thick and a very dark wood. The solidness and strength of the structure is attested to by the flagstone raised decks.
“Whole log joist provided the strength,” Brown says.
The front doors are solid cherry. The lighting in the tall foyer has sconces made by Brown’s nephew Coby Brown that represent oak leaves. Mountain stone used throughout the inside of the house and outside, including two fireplaces, came from just four miles down the road. The gambrel roof is copper. A gambrel roof is usually a symmetrical two-sided roof with two slopes on each side.
“It avoids a boxy look,” Brown says.
Ten-foot ceilings are throughout the home. The kitchen, which is 700 square feet, has granite counters from India. Marble from Spain is included in the master bath. The house has four bedrooms, including two master bedrooms; a library; a reading room, which is a bump-out or an extension of a room that creates a projection in a wall, has sturdy log posts framing its entry; Jacuzzis in the bathrooms; a three-car garage, not to mention a gym, including a sauna; and a dumbwaiter that carries laundry between the master bedroom linen closet and the main floor laundry room. Large walk-in closets abound and there is what Brown refers to as “oodles of storage space.” One of the master bedrooms has a private balcony.
Brown says the home has three miles of electrical wiring to meet its needs and an eight-zoned intricate heating and air conditioning system. Those are just a few of the amenities inside the house.
Outside there’s a swimming pool, a green house, tennis court, spa, and just down the road is a steel barn that has 12 acres around it. It includes stalls for horses, fenced in areas for horse training and an apartment on the second floor. Multiple streams and trails in the surrounding woods are also maintained by Brown.
“My son-in-law teases me and tells me I have my own national park,” Brown says.
Brown is responsible for every detail of Crooked Run Farm, even buying the 26 area rugs throughout the house. Three months was spent sanding and staining the 2,800 and groove boards used for ceilings. That attention to detail and tenaciousness have governed Brown’s life. His interests and pursuits are wide ranging. At one point, he raised Tennessee Walking horses. He even had a brief stint with the San Diego Chargers for a year.
Originally from Kansas, Brown began his working life at Litton Industries in Beverly Hills, California. Litton specialized in electronics and ship building for the federal government.
“I started out with a minimum wage job then worked my way up to Chairman and CEO,” he says, smiling.
Brown retired in 2001. With family in both Frederick, Maryland, and Harrisonburg, Virginia, Brown says he discovered his current home by wandering around back roads.
“I was impressed by all the large trees in the area. Some are as high as 100 feet tall. It was so unique. I had to buy the land,” he says.
After the purchase in 2002, Brown lived in a mobile home then moved into the apartment over the steel barn he had constructed. Wood from his beloved trees was used in the apartment. He stayed there for almost three years until construction of the home was completed in 2005.
Brown says he had never designed a house before.
“A contractor friend said to come up with a plan, the list of things I wanted in a house, put that away, revisit it, put it away again then bring it out for a third time and then have meetings to start the work,” Brown says.
Brown wanted to take advantage of the beauty of the area surrounding the house. The numerous large windows, plenty of areas to sit outside, even a fire pit for outdoor cooking all are part of that effort.
“My grandchildren enjoy making s’mores in that fire pit,” he says.
Brown says as soon as visitors walk through the front door, they can see straight through to the back of the house and get a taste of the mountains and grandeur surrounding them.
Located not far from Paw Paw, a town named after the wild fruit that grows in abundance along with Brown’s beloved trees, Crooked Run Farm, at 610 Pin Oak Road, is a unique and awe-inspiring structure. American furniture manufacturer and designer Gustav Stickley once said, “There are elements of intrinsic beauty in the simplification of a house built on the log cabin idea.”
Crooked Run Farm definitely gives new meaning to the words log cabin. Not exactly a simple structure, but its beauty is beyond compare.