The entrepreneur spirit and before-her-time vision of Janice Whisenhunt turned a plot of farmland on Royall Avenue into a magical place known as the Victorian Village.

Even she could not have envisioned the transformation that started out with the 1983 purchase.

"I had The Inside Shop for about five years, on Highway 70. I found myself in a position that I was going to have to relocate," she recalled. "I decided it would be in my best interest to purchase something.

"I looked for months trying to locate something to go to. I looked at 80 pieces of property and I went through about 40 Realtors trying to help me find a piece of property."

Frustrated and losing hope, happenstance led her to the perfect place for what would become her empire.

"I had never been down this street for some reason. I just didn't need to go down this street," she said of Royall Avenue. "But something told me to go down this street.

"I thought, I don't even know where it goes and I just made a turn and I saw this wonderful little house. It had a for sale sign on it."

She contacted a Realtor, who showed her the house. In her heart she just knew it was the one for her, she said.

The property boasted a rich history, she said -- it was the old Nathan Boyette family homeplace and farm, occupying a chunk of land then known for its orchards where residents came to pick and pay for peaches and other fresh produce.

There was no Wal-Mart, there was no Target, she chuckled. Just a sprawling house that had been built in 1880 -- three rooms, a porch and a kitchen that was detached. As the Boyette family grew, she said, they had 11 children so rooms were added on through the years.

The only surviving child, Joyce Grant, she pointed out, still lives in Goldsboro and has filled in a lot of details about the history.

"It was a big farm -- the farm went all the way to Berkeley Blvd. just beyond the overpass," Whisenhunt said. "I think it went almost to the Y. Little by little, it had been sold off. So by the time I got it, it was about an acre and a half.

"My heart skipped a beat when I saw this place. It just felt right but I had to investigate and see how much it was."

Turns out it was selling for twice as much as she had budgeted. But by then she was exhausted from searching and felt drawn to the place.

There was also something else tugging at her heart, she said.

"You never know what in your past will surface again and mean something to you as you go through life," she said. "When I was somewhere around 8 years old our teacher read a book to us about a little house that was in the country and it had a family that lived there and they all grew up and left. And while they were doing that, the town started moving in on the house and before you knew it, the house became neglected and it was in the middle of town.

"Somebody was riding past it one day and decided to save it and they took that house and moved it back out into the country."

That story had made an impression on her as a young child and the memory resurfaced and seemingly was sending her a message -- this house needed to be saved.

A turn of fortuitous events, including another bidder and having to "draw straws," along with some answered prayers, resulted in her getting the property.

For the first five months, she worked 20-hour days renovating it.

At the outset, the property consisted of what is now The Inside Shop and a garage, which several suggested needed to be torn down since it had a dirt floor.

Whisenhunt, an interior designer, could only see potential.

"This house is listed in the archives of history," she explained. "I didn't want to tear that down because it had walls and a roof.

"We decided to put a cement floor, install plumbing and electricity. It looked to me like it would be cheaper to do that, and I could get some tax credits."

Many questioned her logic, and her sanity, including her husband, Gerald Whisenhunt, still a popular coach after 57 years in the profession.

"My husband thought I'd lose everything we had," she said. "He was scared and a lot of men thought I was crazy. I had three men to come and try to buy it from me after I finished. I told them, do I look like the Little Red Hen (the popular children's story where the little red hen did all the work, then everyone wanted to reap the rewards)?"

She admits she was "terrified" as she everything on the line but forged ahead.

"To my knowledge this is the only country house that has been saved within what is now the city limits," she said. "There were a lot of houses downtown but that was in the city. This was a country house.

"I grew up in a house that my mother saved. The seeds were being planted. I have always been into history and restoration so it came natural."

Reflecting on the journey, the now-79-year-old just may have been ahead of her time.

"Women didn't do stuff like this," she said with a smile. "I had the right person guiding me -- God. He's helped me all the way.

"And I had a lot of good men that I worked with and a lot of friends that pitched in and helped me. It's been a wonderful journey, and I'm not through yet."

She owns the entire property and operates The Inside Shop and Janice Whisenhunt Interiors. The rest of the parcel, which she leases out, includes two restored houses moved from Cherry Hospital soon after she acquired the land. She converted them into little shops -- Lil D's consignment shop and Emily's Boutique. The former garage is now home to Majestic Cuts hair salon.

"It's a little spot of days gone by," she says of the swath just this side of Spence Avenue. "It's a little bit of the past that we don't want to let go it, just a little bit of the past still here.

"We just planted houses instead of trees."