Originally created 02/23/98

Structure a fulfillment of a dream



It is a gloomy February day. A brisk, cold wind blows, but Traylor Tiller doesn't seem to notice.

Bent over a wooden beam balanced on a sawhorse, Mr. Tiller hammers home the last nail on a four-sided cedar post that will soon support the front porch of his antique shop, a project that has taken more than 12 years to complete.

He looks up and runs his hand along the smooth wood plank. His face is coated with a fine layer of sawdust. While many are relaxing in their retirement, at age 75, Mr. Tiller is just realizing his dreams of building and operating an antique store.

Located on Belair Road near Hereford Farm Road, the structure's cupola towers above the houses around it. The three-story building is an amalgam of architectural styles: modern at one end, Tudor on one side, the main building framed like a log cabin with 18th century-style hardware. It has modern, double-pane insulated windows and Victorian gingerbread trim.

Newcomers to Columbia County have one question on their minds: What in the world is it? Even longtime Columbia County natives are puzzled.

For more than a decade, people have watched the structure metamorphosing, growing wider and higher than anything else around it. How big is it? In terms of exact figures, it's anybody's guess. There are no plans. It's a work in progress.

"It's probably about 8,000 to 9,000 square feet. I just build as I go," said Mr. Tiller. I've made everything on it except for the windows."

His general concept is to make the building look like an old log cabin. Its exterior is sided with 6-, 8-, 10- and 12-inch cedar planks 2 1/4 inches thick. He used 2-by-6-inch cedar planks to make the interior 32-foot exposed cedar ceiling beams. The inside walls are 6-, 8-, 10- and 12-inch, hand-grooved cedar planks. The cedar doors with battens have hand-hammered metal, 18th century-style hardware.

"The only thing modern I had to use were the windows, which are double-insulated to keep the heat and air in," Mr. Tiller said.

After serving in the Navy in World War II, Mr. Tiller worked as a foreman with the Corps of Engineers, retiring in 1968. He then went to work as a maintenance superintendent with Columbia County and retired about 10 years ago.

While his building project occupies his weekdays, his weekends he devotes to his other hobby -- antique- and junk-collecting. The windows, the wood and the insulation are all salvage-building supplies Mr. Tiller has amassed over the years. His shed and his three-story building are stacked with boxes of stuff he has bought from flea markets, garage sales, auctions and store closeouts.

He is especially proud of his collection of old farm tools and implements. You may think it's part of his collection, but his 1967 Chevrolet truck is the main mode of transportation for all his finds.

Mr. Tiller moved to his Belair Road home in 1936. "Daddy bought 86 acres for $25 an acre, and this is part of that property. It was once a cornfield," he recalls.

Most of the field has now been sold. What remains is a lot that will soon be Mr. Tiller's field of dreams.

"I don't know how long the good Lord's going to let me live," Mr. Tiller said. "But I'm trying to build something like no one else's got. I don't know of anything else like it."