UPDATE: This house has been sold, and Winnie has moved on. “I’m tackling a renovation in NC right now,” she writes. “I would never trade the experience I got from doing a restoration. Believe me, it makes everything else seem easy.”
A hand-painted mural of Shenandoah County by Virginia McLaughlin wraps around the dining room
I LOVE IT WHEN READERS SEND E-MAILS and pictures of their old houses. First, it’s material I don’t have to think up. Second, we all get to ‘visit’ a part of the country (or world) outside my usual Hamptons-Brooklyn-Philadelphia-Hudson Valley circuit.
So I was delighted to hear from Winnie Boothe of Woodstock, Virginia, the county seat of Shenandoah County, whose lovingly restored 15+-room Colonial townhouse, above, is now on the market for 272K.
Period-appropriate chinoiserie in the front parlor
The house was built in 1796, or maybe 1794. “I’ll leave it to others to squabble about that,” Winnie wrote. When she first saw the place in 2000, she had been “hoping to find a tiny house in the woods” — not a Main Street mansion, zoned commercial/residential, with a separate “little house” on the same lot. “My husband walked out, thinking it was nuts. My best friend told me the house needed me. You can imagine which voice I heard.”
View from front parlor through hall to dining room
The old place has astonishing history. The original plat was laid out by a young surveyor named George Washington (the very same) of Winchester, VA, and Jacob Mullerberg, in 1752. “That gave me shivers,” Winnie recalled.
Very old Windsor chairs in dining room
The house’s most spectacular feature are the wraparound painted murals in the front parlor and dining room, done recently in authentic Colonial style by Virginia McLaughlin, now in her late 80’s. McLaughlin has also painted murals for The Inn at Mount Vernon (the restaurant at George Washington’s home) and several B&Bs.
Corner of dining room mural showing 7 bends of the Shenandoah River
The Shenandoah Room, aka the dining room, is a “conglomeration of all that is beautiful in the Valley. There is my house, the church next door, the seven bends of the Shenandoah, Robert E. Lee’s office, and the county courthouse. The natural bridges and caverns are woven throughout in such a delicate way that they seem seamless.”
Toile-papered bath with claw-foot tub
The black Windsor chairs in the dining room have been part of the house for a long time. While researching previous owners’ wills, Winnie found several bequeathing “my beloved black Windsor chairs.” She encourages anyone finding themselves in possession of a 200+-year-old house to go to the local courthouse and read the wills, obituaries, birth, and death announcements. “They came so alive for me.”
A restored bedroom
McLaughlin convinced Winnie that chinoiserie would be the right choice for a mural in a front parlor of that period, above. “I waffled, but she prevailed.”
The same bedroom, ‘before’
Besides the extraordinary murals, the ‘guts’ of the house were replaced and upgraded, the kitchen ceiling opened up to expose the rafters, and all the fireplaces restored.