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White Plains Farm: Ashley and Chris Peace’s Hanover County home was built in the 1840s. In 2013, the couple won Preservation Virginia’s Historic House Rehabilitation Award for their efforts to restore the Federal-style, one-and-a-half story home. (Photo by Kip Dawkins)
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Living Room: Patti Ryan of Williams & Sherrill designed the home’s formal living room. “It’s a juxtaposition of more contemporary elements with a nod to history,” Ashley says of the traditional, but not staid, design. (Photo by Kip Dawkins)
Chris and Ashley Peace were living in a Mechanicsville suburb when they first laid eyes on White Plains Farm.
Located in rural Old Church in the southeastern part of Hanover County, the 1840s house on 127 acres of farmland was a wreck. It had been vacant for about six years and had not been updated since the 1950s. Termites and moisture had taken their toll, leaving mold and infested wood. The property was a solid 45-minute drive from the city, where they both worked. Plus, it was out of their budget. Even so, they couldn’t forget it.
Flash forward three years. The Peaces still had their sights set on the property, which had not yet been sold. Thanks to the post-recession real-estate market — and a resulting price reduction — owning it became a possibility. “We decided to put our money where our mouth was,” says Chris, a Hanover County native who represents the 97th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. “For years, we had been working, telling people why they should save these properties. We decided to roll up our sleeves and lead by example.”
Chris, a lawyer, had worked as executive director of the Historic Polegreen Church Foundation after he was elected to the House of Delegates in 2006. He was instrumental in helping to establish the historic site and in the creation of the Road to Revolution State Heritage Trail, which honors the life and influence of Virginia’s first governor, Patrick Henry. “[At Polegreen Church Foundation] I really started to learn the nuts and bolts of historic preservation,” he says. “I met a lot of wonderful people in the historic preservation community.”
Ashley, director of real estate at Lidl US, is a former member of the Hanover County Planning Commission. She holds a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from Virginia Commonwealth University and worked during graduate school for the Department of Historic Resources, where she caught the bug for historic preservation. “I had the dream of doing a historic tax credit project,” she says.
After a thorough professional building inspection, the couple purchased White Plains Farm in February 2011 and embarked on a historically sensitive renovation project to return the home to its previous glory — while also bringing it up to the modern standards of a young family of four.
AN AWARD-WINNING PROJECT
For a house built in the 1840s, it is surprisingly suited to today’s lifestyle. “It has the functionality of a modern house: four bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, a rec room for the kids,” Ashley says. “A lot of historic homes don’t have the same functionality … we didn’t have to do a lot of structural changes.”
The couple worked with contractor David Cooley of Restoration Builders of Virginia on the project. “He really cared about the place and took great pains to make sure we preserved the floors,” Chris says. “It was a very authentic restoration and rehabilitation effort.”
A new drainage system, new chimney caps and a new HVAC system took care of the moisture problem. New plumbing and electrical systems were installed to bring it up to modern building codes. They gutted and replaced all of the bathrooms and the kitchen, where the pine cabinets were infested with termites. So was the staircase — they replaced that, too. The front porch was rebuilt, and they replaced 37 windows and added new storm windows. They relined the chimneys and converted the fireplaces to gas. The Peaces enclosed a two-car garage that had been constructed in the 1950s and converted it into a rec room for the kids, Camden, 7, and Henry, 5.
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Kitchen: Though the kitchen was gutted, its remodel is appropriate to the period of the house. The brick floor and fireplace mantel are original. Fresh, orangey-red accents add modern flair to the classic design. (Photo by Kip Dawkins)
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Dining Room: The Peaces love to entertain in their formal dining room. The table was custom-made by Owen Suter to seat 12. “This is my favorite room,” Ashley says. (Photo by Kip Dawkins)
Interior designer Patti Ryan with Williams & Sherrill helped furnish and decorate the dining room, living room, kitchen and den, adding a colorful, modern touch to the couple’s traditional aesthetic and collection of antiques. “Patti really got us and our sensibility, but she pushed us into a more modern look with the paint colors,” Ashley says. “It’s a juxtaposition of more contemporary elements with a nod to history.”
The Peaces took advantage of the state’s historic tax credit program (See Page 45) to finance the extensive renovation. “Ashley was the budget hawk, and I was the liaison to all of the people who were helping us,” Chris says. “We were living in Mechanicsville, so we could do the whole project without living here.”
With most of the construction completed in August 2012, the project won the 2013 Preservation Virginia Historic House Rehabilitation Award. The home also was on Historic Garden Week’s 2015 tour of Hanover County. During the week of the tour, the Peaces invited James River Institute for Archaeology to conduct a property survey, during which the archaeologists found evidence of an original chimney and slave quarters. With the property now registered with the Department of Historic Resources for both architecture and archaeology, future plans call for an application to have it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. “This is our forever home,” Chris says. “We will tackle a new project every year.”
WHITE PLAINS WINES
The couple’s current project is the cultivation of a vineyard on the property. In April 2015, the Peaces invited family, friends and neighbors to help them plant an acre and a half with more than 1,400 Tannat and Viognier vines. They have applied for an ABC farm winery license that will allow them to host tastings on the property in a small barn, and to sell their wine at festivals. It will take another year or two for the vines to start producing grapes, but the couple has already produced some wines working with Charlottesville winemaker Michael Shaps, whom Ashley met a few years ago when taking viniculture classes through Piedmont Community College.
Farm Winery: The Peaces planted 1 1/2 acres with 1,400 vines of Tannat and Viognier in 2015. They have applied for an ABC farm winery license that will allow them to host wine tastings on the property in a small barn. (Photo by Kip Dawkins)
“We will do craft barrels of wine,” she says. “We have already bottled a Viognier, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon with grapes from Carter’s Mountain.”
The couple, who have no previous experience in agriculture, are currently managing and caring for the vineyard themselves.
“Having rehabbed the home, we are making this entire farm alive again,” Chris says. “We have the best of both worlds, a city life with work and school and at the end of the day we come home to this. This is our retreat.”