Looking Back, Looking Forward…

A Brief Timeline of the History & Wider Context of the Magnolia Renovation

1951: Architect designs and constructs a cinderblock house for his family that will eventually become Magnolia

2000-2001: Alexis Zeigler, after a few decades of experience with both conventional and alternative building methods, renovates a large home in Charlottesville, wrapping it in strawbales and setting up solar thermal systems that reduce energy consumption to just 9% of the national average.

November 2010: Living Energy Farm (LEF) is founded by Alexis and Debbie as “an intentional community, education center, and farm that demonstrates that a fulfilling life is possible without the use of fossil fuels” with a mission to “actively promote lifestyles and technologies that are truly sustainable, and to make these sustainable technologies accessible to all persons regardless of their income or social position.”

Spring 2014: Magnolia is acquired by LEF as an investment in the future expansion of the project. The house is the cheapest in Louisa and only a mile down the road from LEF, but in serious disrepair. The purchase sparks a vision of a satellite site that could serve as a “front door” for LEF, as a model of how alternative approaches to construction and energy systems could be applied to an existing house in town, and a space for workshops and educational events.

Summer-Fall 2014: Debbie and Alexis replace the roof and water-damaged ceiling at Magnolia, along with other essential repairs, and move into the house while building the structures at LEF.

2016: Construction of “EarthHeart” (the main living space) and the kitchen are completed at LEF. These strawbale buildings are heated and powered with innovative solar energy systems and design principles, referred to as a “DC microgrid.”

2016 – 2020: The DC Microgrid at LEF, on which the energy systems at Magnolia are based, continues to be refined and expanded. A mix of tenants, LEF members and interns, and local supporters help with repairing and renovating Magnolia.

Fall 2020: Chenchira and Xander, former LEF members, move to Magnolia, and together with Rachel (a fellow LEFer), commit to the vision of establishing a communal off-grid household, land-based project, and event space.

January-March 2021: Magnolia is wrapped in strawbales and stuccoed, along with interior work on windowsills and doorframes, painting, and establishing garden beds.

Summer 2021: Rachel moves to Magnolia and the Collective is legally established. Flurry of painting, tilework, organizing, and community events.

Fall-Winter 2021: Construction of the solar shed, which will shelter the biogas system while its roof holds the solar thermal and solar electric panels for the house.

January 2022: 18 inches of cellulose insulation blown into the attic.

April 2022: First solar electric (PV) panel mounted on solar shed, powering our “daylight-drive” fridge

And the renovation process continues…