Jan Ammons renovated her family’s Chapel Hill home while still preserving its history
By Isabella Reilly
On June 1, family and friends of Jan Ammons, owner of 114 Kenan St., gathered to celebrate recent renovations made to her family’s 1926 home.
Home improvements began in January by contractors Cray Gunn and Kathy Gunn of Custom Carpentry Group, who Jan says were open to updating the home in a way that preserved its original history.
“It is a historic district, so we had some guidelines that dictated what we could do to the property,” Jan says. “Cray and Kathy were very amenable to saving the old, not just ditching it, and reusing what they could.”
Some updates included adding a bathroom to the second bedroom, which Jan says she hopes will make the property more desirable to future renters. Other improvements included opening up the floor plan, refurbishing the kitchen and original bathroom, adding a backyard deck and restoring the home’s original ceiling.
The summertime gathering also included a special treat – homemade banana ice cream. Jan prepared the dessert for friends and family by following the original recipes from her late grandmother, Lenna Fearrington.
“We had lots of birthday parties here with friends and family, eating ice cream on the front lawn,” Jan says, recalling some of her formative memories in the home. “They did things very communal back then.”
The 871-square-foot, two-bedroom, now two-bathroom residence was first owned by and built for Jan’s newlywed grandparents. Her grandfather, George Fearrington, worked in UNC’s Physical Plant Department, which was responsible for the operation and maintenance of campus facilities. George and Lenna shared one son: Jan’s father, Frank Fearrington.
In the 1950s, Frank – who was also a draftsman – drew plans for his father to construct a new brick home. The 1926 property was relocated to a back lot, so the new residence could be built in its original location. Jan says though her grandfather could have simply wanted a larger home for his wife and himself, she believes his true motivation was to provide for his future family.
“They were the type of people who would save for the next generation,” Jan says of her grandparents. “It wouldn’t surprise me that they were thinking of helping my parents start their family.”
Jan and her older brother, Steve Fearrington, alongside their father, Frank, and their mother, Hillsborough native Jeanette Fearrington, occupied the 1926 home, while her grandparents moved into the 1950s home. Frank later had a house built down the road on East Franklin Street, and the family of four relocated when Jan was 4 years old.
“We moved to a three-bedroom house to accommodate our growing family,” Jan says.
Following the family’s move, Jan’s grandmother began renting out the original property in the mid-1960s, not too long before the death of her husband, George, in 1966. The house was rented to both friends and family, including Jan’s nephew, Taylor Fearrington, and his wife, Caroline Carman, who lived there from 2010-2016. In 1990, the brick home also transitioned into a rental property after Lenna’s death, where Jan’s daughter, Jessie Ammons Rumbley, lived between 2014-2017. Renovations just began on the brick home.
Though Jan says she’s grateful she has been able to restore her once-childhood home for the next century, the experience has been emotional.
“I realized how much love, family and gatherings happened in the house over time, and it’s made me reflect on all the different families that have lived there,” she says. “For everybody, it seems there is always a special place in their heart for the time they spent on Kenan Street.”
Lenna Fearrington’s Full-Churn Homemade Banana Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
3⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄4 tsp. salt
3 cups ripe bananas (about 4 or 5 whole bananas), smushed
3 tsp. vanilla extract
6 cups whole milk Ice
In a medium saucepan over low heat, scald heavy cream but do not boil. Stir in sugar and salt until dissolved.
After it is dissolved, remove from heat and add smushed bananas. Stir and let cool until room temperature. Pour into a prechilled churn.
Cover churn and chill in the refrigerator overnight. Contents should appear like a pudding.
After chilling, add vanilla extract. Pour whole milk to fill line in your churn.
Place chilled contents in your outer churn bucket and follow your ice-cream churn’s instructions.
Assemble the churn in place, and pour ice about 1/3 of the way through. Pour rock salt liberally over ice, and repeat until the outer bucket is full but not over the lid of your churn.
Plug in and allow the machine to churn, continuing to add ice as it melts.
When the churn stops, unplug, fill ice to the lid again, and let sit for 30 minutes. In Lenna’s style, cover with a wet cloth.
When ready to enjoy, remove the lid from the churn. Scoop around the outsides for an easy serve.