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Published: Sunday, 1/18/2009

His legacy farm is home: Jason Allomong renovated his 1864 Williams County homestead to make it his own


Sometimes the connection to home is so deep it assumes an almost sacred quality.

The tidy 1864 farmhouse Jason Allomong intends to reside in until the end of his days was also home to his mother, grandparents, and great-grandparents.

He had planned to build a beautiful log cabin with a wrap-around porch and a walk-out basement. It would be tucked into a hill on the five acres in western Williams County, Ohio, that his grandparents deeded to him in 1996, shortly after Kermit Kisseberth, his grandfather and best friend, was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Everybody wants a new house. But I couldn t turn the corner and see anybody else living here, says Mr. Allomong, 36. I m sentimental through and through.

Born on the 50-acre property in 1911, Kermit planted the fertile ground near the St. Joseph River with grain, milked cows, traded horses, and raised pigs and chickens. And when Jason, growing up in nearby Edgerton, was old enough, Kermit kept a few sheep so the boy could participate in 4-H.

Kermit s death in 1997 was a mighty blow for Jason, then 25.

After that, every day on his way home work at the Williams County Highway Department, and later for the Ohio Turnpike, Jason stopped to see his grandmother, Eileen Kisseberth, and to mow the lawn, change a light bulb, drive her to the store.

That s when I began to realize I wanted to own and operate the family farm, he said.

This farm meant everything to my grandpa. His blood, his sweat, his tears are in this farm. He didn t hunt.

He didn t fish. He didn t travel. My grandpa was faith, family, and his farm. He always wanted me to have this farm and I want to carry on his tradition and his legacy.

Mr. Allomong plays basketball in the new shop. Mr. Allomong plays basketball in the new shop.

He took that commitment further by ensuring the 50 acres 44 of which he rents to a farmer would be preserved forever as farmland in 2008, when his lengthy application was accepted by the Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program.

Long renovation

In July, 2003, Eileen Kisseberth declared she would not spend another winter in the farmhouse. She moved into Edgerton, 75 miles west of Toledo, and sold the place to Jason, who lived with his parents, Sherri and Daniel Allomong. Jason, who is 6-foot, 8-inches tall, wears two WWJD bracelets on his left wrist and works as a turnpike custodian, heading out to roadside problems in an emergency-response vehicle topped with flashing lights.

He launched an intense seven-month renovation of the house. He didn t write anything down, but knew what he wanted and listened to the ideas of the tradesmen he hired.

I m like Tim the tool man. I hire everything out but I do all the clean-up and grunt work, he said. I told everybody who worked for me, Do it like it s your own house.

Jason pitched in alongside the craftsmen as they stripped walls down to post and beam, bumped out a wall to expand the kitchen, and moved or filled in walls. The bricks of an interior chimney were pried off one by one. A second bath was built. Plaster was smoothed on walls and ceilings, with concentric circles molded around light fixtures. The uneven floors were laboriously leveled with plywood. In the kitchen, a half-dozen layers of linoleum were ripped up, replaced by crisp white tiles. A large kitchen island with a sink was built.

Dark cherry cabinets were installed at staggered heights. The new white-tile back splash was accented with maroon tiles. And where the old front porch had been, three large arched windows provide a bucolic view from the kitchen.

New plumbing and electricity were installed, with electric lines buried underground. In one day, Jason and two others spray-primed and painted every room in the house white. Another day, off-white plush carpet was installed.

He removed the solid fruitwood doors, made in four-panel style, repaired blemishes, gel-stained them dark cherry, and added white marble door handles. New baseboards were fashioned from one-by-sixes to match the simple originals, and all were stained dark cherry.

Faucets, hinges, and light fixtures have a brushed-nickel finish and appliances are a complementary stainless steel. The one-car garage was demolished and cement was poured for a three-car garage. (He s owned 27 cars and trucks since he was 16.)

Before the fire department came out to burn down the ancient hip-roof barn, Jason salvaged a beam (it now rests on the mantle above the propane fireplace), and milk cans, a sausage press, lanterns, and scythes that he painted and set around the home s exterior.

He built a 40-by-40-foot steel shop with structured walls, two automatic 14-foot doors, and a heated floor.

It s immaculate and mostly empty save for a portable basketball hoop, a couple of small John Deeres, a full bath, and a lounge area.

At the intersection of two county roads, he had a -acre swimming and fishing pond dug into an embankment; he spreads a fresh load of sand at its edge every year. A charming 10-by-12-foot gazebo was constructed overlooking the 19-foot-deep pond, as well as 27 steps leading to the water and a sturdy dock with railings.

He christened it Cedar Hill Farm for the sprinkling of cedar trees near the pond. He sought and received Centennial Farm status, proving that the property had been in the family since 1903. (It was previously owned by relatives from 1883-1895). When he discovered a metal box in the attic with the farm s deeds dating back 145 years, he framed and hung them in the living room.

In January, 2004, he began some serious shopping. He bought six new appliances one day, and the next month, armed with a long list, he purchased an entire house full of furniture from a Hicksville store, also in one day, ordering it from catalogs. The color scheme: burgundy and black furniture, dark cherry woodwork, off-white carpet, white tile, and white walls. The floor in the main bathroom has large black-and-white tiles, a big, black tub, sink, and toilet.

He moved in in April, 2004.

Filling it with love

Jason asks visitors to remove their shoes before entering. If the Williams County Fair gave awards for spotless, uncluttered houses (and garages and shops), Cedar Hill Farm would set the standard. The 2,100-square-foot house, with two bedrooms and a photo-filled office on the second floor, lacks the detritus of daily living.

Nobody can clean like I do, said Jason, an admitted neat freak. Having played high school basketball and softball, he s a sports fan, and has three large-screen televisions in various locations to prove it.

He is driven, motivated, fussy, a creature of habit, and has a hard time sitting still, he said. His faith provides him with foundation and optimism, and he s involved with his church family in Edgerton.

But Cedar Hill Farm is big place for one person to knock around. More than anything, Jason wants to fill the house with love, marriage, and a family, as all the Kisseberths who occupied these walls before him have done.

That s the next mountain to climb. It s all in God s good plan.

Contact Tahree Lane at: tlane@theblade.com

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