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Nestled in the open countryside is the quiet little town of Avon. There you will find one of the oldest homes in rural South Dakota.

Built in 1903, the Greenfield Home served as the social center point for many years.

For the last 24 years, Charles and JoAnn Bryan have called the Greenfield Home their home, and it all happened by chance.

The couple, originally from White River, had lived in Springfield for several years while Charles worked at the Springfield College. When the college closed they moved to Iowa.

Still owning the home in Springfield, it was during a visit in 1986 that the Bryan’s path in life changed.

One of their grown kids said they were going to an estate auction in Avon. Not having plans to attend, Charles and JoAnn headed towards Springfield. Charles says when they got to the Springfield turn they decided to go ahead and just check out the auction “with no plans to buy anything.”

As it turned out the auction was for the Greenfield Home and it’s contents.

“We wanted to see the house because we’d never seen it. But they had it closed — having had an open house earlier.”

They convinced the auctioneer to allow them to walk through the house. And to their surprise they knew the lady selling the home — in fact they had known her for years and never knew she owned this home.

Through the encouragement of their son, that day ended with the Bryans as the proud owners of an 83-year-old home.

“It was in tough shape when we bought it. The roof was leaking and it hadn’t had any maintenance repair in probably 30 years,” said Charles.

And so began a journey to restore the home that would take the Bryans two years and many miles driven. Just about every weekend was spent in Avon making repairs to the old home.

“It was a lot of work and a lot of fun. We did basically all the work ourselves except for the roof.”

There was no furniture at the house during those two years except for lawn chairs and two large tables that they could use as workbenches or to stand on.

“We had two Thanksgivings and two Christmases in the house before we even put furniture in. And really they were some of the best holidays,” says JoAnn.

Thankfully there wasn’t much work to be done inside the home. There was some water damage from the roof leaking. And of course, it needed fresh paint and wallpaper. Charles says they were happy they didn’t have to repair or replace the woodwork — which is believed to be original to the home.

“The woodwork in the home, we never touched because it wasn’t beat up like it normally would with children around.”

Not much was changed in the home the couple says.

They did try talking to descendants of the Greenfields but unfortunately those still around could not offer much help in the look and history of the home.

“When we got it done, JoAnn said ‘we have a house and it’s done. Let’s quit and retire.’ So we did.” says Charles.

During the restoration process the Bryans decided to put the home on the National Historic Registry. So JoAnn began the long, hard process of finding out as much as she could about the home.

“That was a lot of work, but was interesting,” she said.

History of the Greenfield Home Built in 1903, the Queen Anne-style home was one of the first six homes in Avon when the town was moved to its current location.

Charles says from what they could find out, the town was originally southeast of the current location. Originally located off the railroad, the railroad company had purchased a large section of land and was offering it cheaply to people to move the town there. The problem was that the land was swamp-like so even still today some people have water problems in their basements.

The home was built, it is believed, by the Campbell family as a wedding gift for Dr. John C. Greenfield and Estella Campbell.

The Campbells were considered land barrons and bankers here and in Illinois.

They owned a lot of land between Avon and Tabor.

Though not much is known about Estella, it is believed she came from Illinois to work in the bank and that is how she met Dr. Greenfield. The good doctor came west from Illinois to establish a practice.

"We think, and haven’t been able to verify it, that her family had the house built and given to them as a wedding gift. Everything points to that but there is no paperwork to prove it,” says Charles.

The architect that designed the home was N.E. Busher from Illinois and built by Joe Lewis.

When the Bryans found out who the architect was they took a chance and found the company. To their surprise the company still had the original blue prints of the home, and now they have a copy of those original blue prints.

Charles says in the plans the architect had a furnace with air ducts but they only went to the first floor. That apparently changed during the building process. They added a second hot water boiler that heats the upper levels of the home via pipes.

“Both furnaces — the original furnaces — are still there and work. They were coal burners.” But Charles says they are able to burn wood.

When the house was built there was no electricity, so they used carbide lights.

Eventually the gas light fixtures were thrown out and modern electrical light was installed — but the pipes that lead to the gas lights can still be found behind the walls.

“They were just tossed out. It would have been nice to have them,” says JoAnn.

The home was the social center of town, Charles says.

“Anything that went on usually went on here. They’d have ice cream socials and visiting all on the wrap-around porch,” he adds.

Estella was always there in times of need.

From what the Bryans have been able to figure out, any time there was a death or birth or some other significant event, Estella would bake a cake or a meal and give it to the family.

One room on the first floor was called the library. Charles says from what they have gathered it was full of books. It became the first lending library in Avon.

“It was a part of their dealing with the community,” said JoAnn.

Located outside is what has been a local landmark.

Sometime after the home was built, a water fountain was installed.

“We don’t know when it was built.

There are pictures of the house without the fountain in front of it, but early on it was put in,” said Charles.

It is believed that initially, since Avon had no city water, it was used as a fishing pond. When working properly the little boy on top, holding a fish in a net, gets squirted in the face by the fish.

“Without city water, I’m not sure how they rigged that up, or if they ever did,” adds Charles.

Charles also adds that many Avon youngsters worked in the Greenfield home to work off punishment for messing with the fountain and the fish.

By 1986 the fountain had seen better days. According to the Bryans the fountain was in desperate need of attention and was being used as a flower planter.

So Charles began the task of taking it apart to be sandblasted.

“The paint was so thick on it,” he said, “that you could barely tell what the design was on some of the pieces.”

Once it was cleaned and repaired the fountain was returned to its rightful place. The fountain still doesn’t work, but the Bryans have turned it into a beautiful display of flowers for the past several years.

Estella passed away in 1932. Dr. Greenfield eventually remarried — to a Janie Hagarty. He passed away in 1948 and the second Mrs. Greenfield lived in the home until her passing in 1965. A niece lived in the home for a number years after that. Upon her passing, her caregiver moved into the home.

The beauty of the home has remained basically unchanged for more than 100 years. And JoAnn has no plans to make any drastic changes to the home.

“With this house I don’t intend on doing what they do on TV.”

JoAnn said she prefers trying to decorate more in the style of the home.

Charles said the house is due for a paint job, but that’s about all they will change.

While the Bryans respect and honor the heritage of the Greenfield home, Charles has this to say: “This is our house, we live in it. It’s not a museum.”