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Garden & Gun – Homeplace: Country Retreat

Ben and Libby Page’s introduction to Giles County, Tennessee, came in the spring of 2004, when Libby’s mother decided it was time to educate the family about its roots and created a “Family History Day.” The Nashville-based clan piled onto a bus and headed south toward Pulaski, where they toured nearby farms and family homesteads, accompanied by a historian. By the end of the day, Libby, an event planner, and Ben, one of the South’s leading landscape architects, had become so smitten with the terrain—leafy rolling hills dotted with picturesque barns and nineteenth-century farmhouses—that they asked the fellow leading the tour to let them know if any property ever became available. Two weeks later, the call came. Two years later, the couple, along with their daughter, Florence, spent their first night at Brookside.

They named the house, a three-bedroom Greek Revival built around 1845, after an Italianate Revival manse a mile away, rebuilt after the Civil War by Libby’s great-grandmother. Libby describes the “new” Brookside as having been generally “buggered up” by various twentieth-century owners, the most glamorous of them a New York couple who held polo tournaments on the property during the fifties and sixties. During the Pages’ two-year renovation, the house was taken down to its studs, with the exception of the living room, the only space that retained the original plaster walls. Builders restored a back staircase, as well as a now-enclosed breezeway that joins the house to the spacious kitchen. A side porch that had been walled in was returned to its original state (albeit with a screen), and a utility area was added with an enormous soapstone sink, the first repository for vegetable and flower cuttings from the gorgeous garden. Below, the cellar was restored and converted to a game room with a custom banquette and an 1880s maple pool table the Pages found in Wiscasset, Maine.

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