LuRosa Atkins Manor, the new name for the old house at 1002 South Franklin Road, has seen a lot of changes in its 164 years. Rooms have been added, rooms have been taken away, it has its own ghost and features a rose window that a cathedral might envy.
The latest change came last summer when owners April and Ed Atkins decided to open up the house for tours and share its unique features with the public. It seemed like a good way for April Atkins to supplement the family’s income as she recovered from cancer. Her husband Ed Atkins, a stained glass artist for 60 years, has been installing stained glass windows throughout the house since the couple bought it 14 years ago. Their home has become a veritable museum of art glass.
From the rose window in the upstairs hall to the Pre-Raphaelite lady picking irises in the dining room to a seven foot Canterbury tales window that has a 3D effect, Ed Atkins artistry is on full display. Windows that are not full-color sport a mixture of clear, frosted and bevelled glass worked into intricate designs. Even the kitchen counter is a stained glass mosaic with vignettes portraying the house and a rooster. April Atkins insists the glass counter-top is no more fragile than other more common counter-top surfaces. She says she wouldn’t put a hot pot down without using a pad but that’s the same care any counter-top requires. And besides, if a piece of glass is damaged, her husband can replace it from the large glass studio out behind the house where he creates his art.
April Atkins does her part by curating the couple’s extensive collection of antiques and collectibles into collections and devising themes for rooms to display those collections. There is an Oriental Room, a Cowboy Room, a Doll Room, an African Room among others. April Atkins laughs and says, “Our taste is eclectic.” With a home that displays art work from several family members and everything from Shirley Temple paper dolls to opium pipes, African masks, John Wayne memorabilia and scads of chinoiserie, eclectic is an understatement. There is literally something for everyone here.
For a tour house that is not a museum but actually functions as a family home, the attention to detail in curating the collections is amazing. In the Cowboy Room, which might pass as a den in a less unusual home, the books on the library shelves lean heavily to Louis L’Amour. Shelf after shelf of them. Not noticeable at first until one leans in to get a closer look at an unusual 4-shot black powder pistol on the bookshelf, but then it becomes apparent that almost every book in this room devoted to cowboys and Indians is by America’s favorite Western novelist.
April Atkins begins her house tours with a bit of history. The house was built in 1852 by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Jones and stayed in their family until their son Clarence Jones sold it to Early Williamson in 1953. Mr. Williamson, widely known in the area as “Old Man Early” was 70 years old when he bought the house and only lived there about 10 years before he died in 1963.
Mrs. Williamson died in 1974 and the next year, Mr. Williamson’s grandson, Wayne Williamson and his family, bought the house. April Atkins grew up with his two children. In 1990, April Atkins parents, Lugene and Peggy Ashburn bought the house but never lived in it. They rented it out and encouraged their daughter and son-in-law to buy it and live there in order to be close to them as their health declined. April and Ed Atkins did buy the house 14 years ago and spent a year remodeling it before moving in.
The house had fallen into disrepair by the time the Atkins’ bought it and a long rehab was in order. During that time they discovered an old axe that April Atkins believes belonged to Mr. Early, as she calls Early Williamson. The axe sometimes moves about the house unaided by living humans but ultimately settled into a niche in the back hall that Mr. Early seems to favor. April Atkins thinks Mr. Early is their ghost but she doesn’t mind sharing the house with him since he didn’t get to live there long when he was alive. She assures visitors he is a benign ghost.
The Atkins’ renovation is not the first one at LuRosa Atkins Manor. Back in 1929, the house got a major facelift when a new layer of rooms was added to the front along with the veranda that runs the width of the house. The downstairs entrance hall, front parlor (Oriental Room) and sitting room were added as well as the upstairs center hall, the Doll Room and another bedroom upstairs. At the same time, the old log kitchen was sheared off the back and moved to a field down behind the house where Mr. Early’s granddaughter now lives.
Getting the tour business off the ground has been a bit of a slow start. April Atkins anticipates that things will pick up later in the summer and in the fall when Mayberry Days and Autumn Leaves bring more tourists to town as it did last year. Her cousin, Dalton Collins, an eleventh grade student at Millennium Charter Academy, has been helping with online marketing and thought his cousin’s cooking and unique home deserved a nomination in the Mount Airy News. Dalton selected a few recipes from Atkins recipe book to share with readers and says, “Many of her recipes originated with her grandmother, Ida Watts, and her mother, Peggy Watts Ashburn, both of whom were lifelong residents of Mount Airy.”
Atkins added a few of her own favorites and it is not entirely impossible that while touring LuRosa Atkins Manor, one might be offered some punch and homemade cookies. It’s not part of the tour and it doesn’t always happen. But if it does, say yes. You won’t be sorry. April Atkins is as good a cook as she is a hostess and tour guide.
LuRosa Atkins Manor is open from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Allow yourself at least an hour and a half for a leisurely tour. Tickets are $8 per person and children six and under are free. There is a group rate of $5 for groups of six or more. The Manor would make an excellent outing for a senior or church group. Closed from Dec. 20 until the first Wednesday in April. Call 336-786-9122 or check out Facebook for more information.
From April Atkins’ niece:
Open a 16 ounce soda. Drink it. Pour in a pack of Hawaiian Punch (any flavor) and fill the bottle with water. Shake and pour into ice trays. After it’s frozen, pop ice into a pitcher and fill with a 2-liter Sprite. Keep in the fridge and serve as needed. The punch will color up as the ice melts.
4 cups Cheerios cereal
2 cups pretzel sticks
1 cup nuts
1/4 cup margarine or butter
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. Durkee ground paprika
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
Heat oven to 275°F. Mix cereal, pretzel sticks and nuts in greased 13x9x3 inch baking pan. heat margarine in saucepan until melted; remove from heat. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, paprika and garlic salt. pour over cereal mixture, tossing until well-coated. Bake, stirring occasionally30 minutes; cool. About 7 1/2 cups snack. Can be frozen for 2 weeks; thaw at room temperature. Heat in 275°F. oven for 5 minutes.
The Atkins family all love these. Ed Atkins says that it’s crucial to use Ball Park wienies. Other brands do not yield good results.
1 jar hickory BBQ sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1 can beer
1 package Ball Park wieners.
Cut wieners into three pieces. Add to crockpot with other ingredients. Cook for 2 to 3 hours.
1 box lemon jello
1 box orange jello
2 cups hot water
1/4 cup cold water
1 large can crushed pineapple, drained (Save juice.)
1 package mini marshmallows
large container of Cool Whip
18 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup nuts, optional
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup grated Cheddar Cheese
Dissolve both jellos in 2 cups hot water. Add 1/4 cup cold water. Pour in a 9 inch baking dish. Add to jello mixture: pineapple, nuts, marshmallows. Refrigerate until gelled.
Cook until thick: 1 egg, 3 tablespoons flour, 1/2 cup sugar. Mix enough water to leftover pineapple juice to equal 1 cup. Add to cooked mixture. Refrigerate until cool. Spread on jello mixture.
Mix until smooth: cream cheese and Cool Whip. Spread over 2nd Layer.
Top with 1/2 cup grated Cheddar Cheese.
Lady’s Day Out Casserole
2 cups macaroni
1 pound ground beef
2 medium onions, chopped
1-15 ounce jar Ragu Spaghetti Sauce
1 pound can tomatoes
1/2 pound cheddar cheese, grated
1 1/2tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Cook macaroni 8 minutes in boiling water. (After sauce is ready). Brown meat and onions. Add salt, pepper, spaghetti sauce and tomatoes. Simmer 20 minutes. Place half of macaroni in casserole dish. Top with sauce, then cheese. Repeat layers. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees about 40-45 minutes.
Bring to a boil:
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup vinegar
1 can green beans, drained
1 can green peas, drained
1 can lima beans, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
chopped green pepper
One 1-pound can of fruit cocktail, drained
1 can Eagle Brand milk
1 large container Cool Whip
1/4 cup lemon juice
Pour into 1 graham cracker crust. Chill for 1 hour.
Nominate your favorite cook to share their love of food with readers of The Mount Airy News.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699, on Twitter @BillColvard.