IMBODEN, Ark.—Even as a 13-year-old boy growing up in Jonesboro, Jim Bobbitt knew there was something special about the old Hatcher house in Imboden.
"Something about it says, 'I bore the test of time, and I'm still here,'" Bobbitt said. "It makes you like it when you look at it."
Bobbitt said he first noticed the house during family trips to the Spring River. Every year, he looked forward to seeing the house as the family car passed through Imboden. When he grew up and took his children by the house, they grew to love it as well.
As the house passed into the hands of different owners decade after decade, Bobbitt always hoped he'd be able to own the home he fell in love with as a boy.
Now, after more than 50 years of waiting, Bobbitt owns it and is hoping to move his family in after remodeling the 114-year-old home.
"It was an emotional experience," Bobbitt told The Jonesboro Sun. "I tracked down the owner and was able to get it."
The house was originally built in 1902 by Dr. J.W. Dalton, an area doctor, as a wedding gift for his daughter Nellie, who married J.O. Hatcher. The Hinshaw family bought the home in 1945, and after raising nine children, sold it in 1986 after the matriarch of the family passed away. The next owner was the Rowsey family, who tried to turn it into a steakhouse, before selling it to Bobbitt.
"There's a lot of good history in the house," Bobbitt said.
Bobbitt, who's worked in construction all his life, has owned the home for three years and has been fixing foundation issues and the exterior. He said previous remodels helped short term, but he wants to ensure the home's survival for future generations.
"It's had a lot of Band-Aids," Bobbitt said. "Band-Aids are good; they save lives, and they've helped it stand so long. I want to help it stand for another 100 years."
Bobbitt is putting in new siding and leveling some floors. The home is technically three stories, but the third story is not finished. Bobbitt said he may finish it at a later date.
Even with all the work the home requires, Bobbitt said he has yet to feel he's made a mistake.
"It's not been too bad," Bobbitt said. "It's a labor of love."
The home is about 2,600 square feet, Bobbitt said, after he took out the back porch. The front porch is particularly noticeable, measuring about 80 feet and wrapping around the side of the house.
Bobbitt's childhood was spent in both Fort Meade, Fla., and Jonesboro. His father was a pastor, and Bobbitt grew up singing in church, like many other kids in the South back then. That experience led to his career as a country gospel singer.
"I spent years in country, and then realized my first love is gospel (music)," Bobbitt said. "But because I'm country, my gospel comes out country."
Bobbitt traveled across the United States between 1987 and 2005, going toward the Canadian border and all the way down to Florida. He estimates he traveled about two-thirds of the continental United States before settling down in Jonesboro with his wife Cheryl and children Paul and Lisa.
Bobbitt's wife and son are the only other help he receives with construction.
"It's a family deal," Bobbitt said.
He hopes to have most of the work finished by the end of the year. Despite almost single-handedly remodeling a historic landmark, Bobbitt said he doesn't think too highly of himself.
"I'm just an average guy trying to fix an old house he's fond of," Bobbitt said.