Photo by Ash Daniel
How friends and neighbors — and a developer — saved the oldest house in the Byrd Park community.
William Lipps, accompanied by friend Troy Sponseller, first traveled along Rugby Road near the Carillon and saw Marburg House in 2012. Untamed boxwoods obscured the place, and the asking price of $1.5 million left him with little recourse but to dream. “We could just get peeks of it behind the trees,” says Lipps, assistant chief of pharmacy clinical and educational services at McGuire VA Medical Center. “And we wondered: What does it look like inside?”
Lipps, who’d previously lived on Church Hill and in the Fan, wanted to stay in the city but wanted some yard. “I actually like mowing and yardwork,” he says.
The odyssey in home ownership that Lipps and his supporters embarked upon ultimately embraced community involvement, petitions, newspaper headlines and a developer who made an unprecedented compromise to reconfigure a plan that originally called for the destruction of the wood-frame house built between 1889 and 1890. The two-story structure reflects the people who’ve lived there during the past 125 years, adding rooms and appointments and dependencies, mixing characters and styles from Free Classic Queen Anne to Folk Victorian to Colonial Revival.
Much activity has gone on inside Marburg’s rooms throughout the past century and a quarter, but in most recent years, what happened outside proved the most important.
Bolling Walker Haxall, a mid-19th-century textiles, manufacturing and railroad magnate rented some 90 acres called Beechwood Farm to tenant growers. On Haxall’s death, the property was purchased by Richmond Dairy owner Thomas L. Blanton (whose firm, after 1914, delivered from the Jackson Ward “Milk Bottle” building). Blanton deeded off 1.25 acres to Charles and Augusta Kracke Euker, who built the house and named the property “Marburg” after Euker’s hometown in the German state of Hessen.
Charles Euker served in the Confederate army as a courier, and he afterward operated a saloon and billiards parlor at 10th and Main streets. He also exported some 900 horses to Germany, and his international travels were reported in the newspaper comings-and-goings columns. A respected community member, Euker, however, found himself in some financial straits at Marburg when he defaulted on a loan from real-estate developer Frank D. Hill. Hill’s subsequent death didn’t stop trustee T.M. Wortham from seizing the house to sell at auction.
Karl Herrman Schuricht, a teacher and a historian of German immigrants to Virginia, bought Marburg for $3,200 in 1899, but died at age 37 in 1902. Schuricht’s second wife, Hedwig Bertha Charlotte Schuricht, transferred Marburg to stepson George for one dollar. He conveyed it to Charles and Virginia Wright, who maintained Marburg as a rental property until its 1913 purchase by Jacob Neff Brenaman.
After Brenaman’s 1923 death, Marburg was sold to tobacco executive Tazewell Morton Carrington Sr., who used it as a country home.
Marburg passed to Carrington’s son, who in 1936 sold it to Ann Enroughty Dennis, wife of Dominion Oil Co. president Benjamin Dennis Jr. The Dennises entertained often and also landscaped the property, adding the boxwoods.
When Ann Dennis died, her husband chose not to stay at Marburg, and it became the home of J. Watts and Elizabeth Hulcher Vermillion; Elizabeth was an artist specializing in miniature paintings who also was involved in renovating the Carillon. Son Lucian lived there until 2013, when the house was sold to the development firm of Castle Kanawha.
The developers, Ben Partridge and Mark Slack of Castle Kanawha, at first considered demolishing the house to make way for six upscale houses. The neighborhood association and Historic Richmond had other ideas. An intercessor was HR’s Mary Jane Hogue, who helped broker a compromise that saved the house and allowed for development. Lipps purchased the house and 0.355 acres for $600,000 with the serpentine brick sidewalk as his property line. He is now the Margrave of Marburg. Four houses, collectively called Carillon Place and designed by architects Christopher Edsall and David Johannas, will be built to complement Marburg on the remaining property.
“I am thrilled for the opportunity to be able to restore this house to its former glory,” Lipps says. “Marburg’s charm is in its untouched authenticity, and my intent is not to ‘renovate’ but rather to keep the historic quality and fabric intact as much as possible while still moving it forward into its next 125 years.”