6 minute read

Family Heirloom

Words by Natalie Caudle | Photos by Dakota Jacobi

Peekingfrom behind rows of ripe tangelos sits an old farmhouse with stories to tell. Located just outside the southeast corner of town, Leslie and Than Neese put down roots in a piece of the Visalia countryside that holds a lifetime of memories.

Built in 1880, the two-bedroom farmhouse was located on the corner of Demaree and Caldwell at Griffin Farms. Than’s parents, Dave and Linda Neese, bought the house for $5,000 in the late 1970s and paid to have the home moved to the to a quiet three acres. Dave and Linda poured their sweat and tears into the house, adding a primary bedroom and a Victorian style to the façade. Additionally, Dave hand-milled each corbel as a skilled woodworker, giving a personal touch to the home where he and Linda raised their three boys.

In 2019, Dave and Linda decided to downsize, and Leslie and Than took the opportunity to purchase the home and return to Than’s roots.

Moving into an older home gave Leslie some reservations. “In the back of Than’s mind, he always wanted to buy this property from his parents. It took me some time to come around—it felt like a lot of work. We knew we were going to have to add on, and old homes come with a lack of storage. I saw that this was going to be a big project.” Despite the original hesitancy, Leslie is overjoyed with their home and thankful for the opportunities the house provides.

Leslie came with a vision and a desire to make the space her own, preserving the history while giving the home an update. Working alongside Raudel Macias, a contractor from Lindsay, the addition mimics the style and character of the 1880 farmhouse. The woodwork was milled to match the original moldings and trim. Raudel built a new laundry room,

Original owners, the Griffin family, sometime between 1900-1920

Original owners, the Griffin family, sometime between 1900-1920

"Built in 1880, the two-bedroom farmhouse was located on the corner of Demaree and Caldwell at Griffin Farms."

two bedrooms with a jack and jill bathroom, a primary suite with exposed beams, and he converted a former bedroom into a new family room space while opening the wall between the living room and kitchen. The construction added 1,400 square feet to the house and gave the active family more elbow room.

The second generation of Neeses moved into the home while renovations were underway, living in the front of the house while building the expansion. “There were a lot of amazing details already here,” remembers Leslie. “We wanted to build on and refresh the hard work and charm that Dave and Linda had already established.”

The 3,400-square-foot home is perfect for entertaining, with a floor plan design that puts the kitchen at the hub. Leslie envisioned a gathering space where friends and family could

visit as she prepped and cooked. Honed granite countertops contrast the creamy white cabinets and classic subway tile. Nestled near a cozy window seat are an open-shelf coffee bar and a well-organized pantry. Each corner of the kitchen is both charming and functional.

Red oak flooring extends throughout the house, while the front bedroom boasts the original pine floor, lending to the timeless look of the home. Leslie incorporated classic lines and colors honoring the 1880s construction. With a uniquely long shape, the living room is draped in light as sunbeams flood through 19th-century windows framing the antique fireplace. Down the hall, a hexagon penny tile floor transforms the front bathroom into a room from yesteryear.

“Hospitality is my love language.”

Leslie Neese

"Packed within the walls of the old farmhouse is more than a century of history."

Leslie finds design inspiration in the moodiness of Amber Interiors and the modern twist on traditional style that only Joanna Gaines can create. But Leslie, too, has a natural eye for design and understands the functionality and aesthetics of a particular space. “I have always loved home decorating, which led me into real estate and helping people create a vision for their homes; it goes hand in hand.”

Threaded throughout the four-bed, four-bath home is a clean and sophisticated style. Complementary textures of rugs, baskets, throw blankets, and warm leather chairs create a cozy feel within the 14-foot ceilings. “I wanted it to look original but add more function. I wanted the colors to be very tonal and for it all to flow.” Leslie chose classic black hardware and touches of brick flooring, perfectly suited for the historic home, which includes the original glass hardware. Known to her friends for her collection of decorative pillows, Leslie finds ways to accessorize her home through local vendors such as Olives & Home in Visalia and The Avenue in Fresno.

A plaque on the back door is a memento from Leslie’s grandmother and serves as a reminder. “My grandparents had a big heart for hospitality, and I loved that about them. I want this to be a place for others to have parties and host church and school events. Hospitality is my love language.”

Within the three acres of country living are multiple structures, including a large workshop and an office for Leslie’s real estate business. Two generations of Neeses live on the property. Linda lives across the driveway in the cottage, a 1,400-square-foot home with finishes that mimic the main house.

In January 2020, the family faced heartbreak. Leslie recalls, “When Dave passed away, it was made very clear that this is where the Lord wanted us to be. During Covid, we had bonfires every night; it was a huge blessing. The biggest benefit of this property is being able to enjoy it with others.” Than and Leslie appreciate the proximity of family and the opportunities the acreage gives to care for others.

The Neese family runs full speed, serving their community, traveling to soccer tournaments, and thriving at their occupations. But when the days grow longer, the family spends summer evenings grilling, swimming, and hosting friends on their covered patio, finding tranquility in the quiet of country life.

Packed within the walls of the old farmhouse is more than a century of history, and now the Neese family is weaving their own story into the legacy of the heirloom home.