Photos By: Keith Beauchamp
The view: that’s the thing. When people visit Ken and Sue Bingham’s bluff-side home, they come away in awe of the vista stretching across the forested valley below. The tranquility of the natural setting is another big selling point for this lovely home. Set on 1 ¾ wooded acres high atop Mt. Alto, the home gives the impression of being isolated from the bustle of the world, though it is a short drive to downtown Rome, Georgia.
“We’re only five minutes from town,” Ken says, “but we feel like we’re way out in the country, like we’re in a lodge in the Smokies.” A soothing silence pervades this property. “The best thing about living here,” Ken says, “is it’s so amazingly quiet. We can open the windows and hear nothing but the birds and the swimming pool’s waterfall. It couldn’t be more peaceful.”
On the lookout for a lookout
More than two decades ago, when the Binghams planned to move to the Rome area for Ken’s new job, they shopped around for an existing home on Mt. Alto, hoping to share in the other mountain residents’ stunning view. Unfortunately, nothing to their liking was available. However, their Hardy Realty agent, Joyce Landrum, pointed out two undeveloped lots on the bluff. “The land was full of bushes and trees,” Ken says, “so you couldn’t tell anything about it.” The Binghams were disappointed to discover the twin lots were not for sale, but Landrum stepped in, did her realtor magic, and struck a deal with the owners. The lots now belonged to Ken and Sue.
Ken wanted to be integrally involved in the design of their new clifftop home. “I designed our home in San Diego, California,” Kens says, “and I learned a lot from that.” Then he adds in a self-deprecating way, “Especially from my mistakes.” (Sue counters with: “Ken is brilliant at designing homes!”) The Binghams hired an Atlanta-based architect and worked with him. Ken took those plans and modified them to suit his own vision. He had in mind something reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright: deep eaves, tall windows, and a harmony of wood, brick, and stone, a home that settled into its natural landscape rather than fought against it.
When the Binghams were finally satisfied with their plans, they hired William Burk Builders to do the job. During 1999/2000, the house went up. “William did such a good job,” Ken says. “He made great suggestions and was so easy to work with.”
A vision come to life, and then some
Without question, the Binghams wound up with what they originally wanted, and more. This two-story, 5,222 square feet home has five bedrooms and five and a half bathrooms (with an additional bathroom in the pool house). The living room is the central focus of the home’s design, with its 24’ ceiling, a beautiful brick wall with a fireplace, and a soaring bank of windows that frame the sky and valley beyond.
A mezzanine walkway above the living room features a large built-in bookshelf that adds character to the space. There is a spacious eat-in kitchen and stylish dining room. The leaded glass doors and windows throughout the house, handmade by an Alabama-based artist, have a Frank Lloyd Wright vibe.
The front porch feels like an outdoor room: deep, shady, with a floor made of Alabama bluestone and loads of room to lounge about in rocking chairs. “The front porch is the quietest getaway you could imagine,” Ken says, “a great place to sit during the rain.”
An in-law suite features a living room, bedroom, kitchen, a double-sided brick fireplace, high cedar ceiling, its own entrance, and is easily accessible from to the rest of the house through a connecting door. The suite has large windows, making it bright and homey.
As for the outdoor space, it gives the impression that nature was not disturbed when the home was built. “There’s not a blade of grass here,” Ken says. “We kept the landscaping as natural as possible.” Alabama bluestone pavers lead to a swimming pool, which has an infinity edge that gives the illusion of pouring off the bluff.
With considerable understatement, Ken says, “It’s a very comfortable home.”
Solid as a rock
With all the cedar and Alabama bluestone used in and around the Bingham’s home, it is a remarkably sturdy structure. To add to this strength, the home sits on an immovable bedrock of granite. During construction, some of this granite was used to create a fountain that sits just outside the home, paying homage to the material.
The brick wall in the living room has its own story to tell, a historical one. When the home was in its early stages of development, Ken drove by the demolition site of Rome’s Rooster Manufacturing Company, an old spinning mill that made blankets for the Confederacy. Ken stopped to look at the mountain of discarded bricks and was told they were all handmade, predating the Civil War. After further questioning, Ken was invited to take all the bricks he wanted. Free! He did, and that is where the impressive brick wall in the living room came from.
The unique services available at Murphy-Harpst do wonders for these kids. From small, meaningful steps in therapy to huge leaps into adult life, Fuller and Wood have seen many children make life-changing progress because of Murphy-Harpst.
One child, Joshua*, arrived at Murphy-Harpst at the age of 13. Full of anger and trauma from his past, his struggled to acclimate and was prone to outbursts. His second week, he was working with a group at the equine center, learning to saddle the horses. Joshua grew frustrated, threw his saddle down, and started walking away. Blaze, the horse he was working with, followed him and nudged him. Joshua saw Blaze but continued to walk. After Blaze nudged Joshua again, the equine instructor said, “Blaze wants you to put the saddle on him.
Blaze knows you can do this.” Joshua immediately broke down in tears. “It was a moment for this young man to really settle into our program,” Fuller says of the moment. “For the first time, somebody cared about him; somebody valued him, wanted him, and was pursuing him in a way that nobody ever had before. With a therapist there and in an environment like this, it’s one of those pieces that’s significant, life-changing.”
In 2017, Murphy-Harpst introduced the Transitional Living Program (TLP), yet another resource that allows at-risk youth and young adults to benefit from the organization’s services. Older teens who are on the verge of “aging out” of state care now have the option to stay on Murphy-Harpst’s campus as part of this program.
The TLP allows these young adults to join an educational or a vocational track. They might work toward a GED or a college degree, or they might get a job in the community, all the while learning valuable skills for independent living. Budgeting and bill pay, grocery shopping and meal preparation, job application tips and more are invaluable lessons that these young adults have the opportunity to learn while staying at Murphy-Harpst.
An eye on the future
Sue and Ken have a deep love for their home and the time spent within its walls. “For me, the things I like best here are the memories we’ve collected over the years,” says Sue. These memories will follow them in their next adventure to be nearer to a new grandbaby, while the home is ready for new owners to come, build their own lasting memories, and, of course, enjoy the view.
For additional information about the property or to schedule a showing, please contact Hardy Realty at 706-291-4321.