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House called home for six generations

When it was built in the mid- to late 1820s, 801 Hanover St. was all by itself. Though the three-story brick structure with the full-width, three-story porch remains a notable structure along that block, it was for many early years a solitary landmark, just outside Fredericksburg’s boundary in Spotsylvania County.

Today, approaching the end of its second century and undergoing a thorough restoration by Tidewater Preservation Inc., it may be the Fredericksburg home longest held by the same family that built it. So it’s not surprising that it’s known locally as “The Rowe House.”

It is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register. As a historic, owner-occupied building, the restoration work qualifies for Virginia state historic rehabilitation tax credits, which provide the owners with a dollar-for-dollar reduction in tax liability for up to 25 percent of the project cost.

Current owners Nick and Jeanette Rowe Cadwallender are living in the home’s garden-level basement while the restoration takes place. It is described in the registers as a brick Federal-style dwelling, situated on an English basement.

“This is the first place I ever lived. When I was born my parents were living in the [basement] apartment where we now live, and when I was brought home from the hospital, this was my first home,” said Jeanette. “I feel that I have come full circle to be here now.”

Jeanette Cadwallender is the daughter of former Free Lance–Star publisher Josiah Rowe III. Husband Nick Cadwallender is the newspaper’s current publisher.

THE HOME’S ORIGINS

The house was built by George Rowe as his family’s home and to serve his cattle butchering operation.

Rowe’s business was ideally situated at the time at the edge of town, allowing for the delivery of animals by hoof via the turnpike (the main east–west thoroughfare through the city). They could be slaughtered without offense to neighbors, then quickly transported to nearby markets in Fredericksburg.

Subsequent owners were Absalom Rowe, Josiah Rowe, Josiah Rowe Jr. and Josiah Rowe III. Jeanette Rowe Cadwallender represents the sixth successive generation to live there.

To the right of the main house is an addition that was built around 1850. Added on to that in about 1880 was another similarly sized addition. It’s not clear exactly when the bay window was added, but the Victorian trim suggests it was sometime around the turn of the 20th century.

Though the restoration would require a financial commitment on the Cadwallenders’ part, the fact that Jeanette’s family had lived there for nearly 200 years presented a unique situation.

“It is a huge privilege to be the stewards of this house,” she said. “This is not our dream house with all the bells and whistles. We’re just making it into the family home it always was.”

Added Nick Cadwallender, “It was just a farmhouse. We’re not adding anything to it. It was important to us to keep it as much as possible like it was.”

THE RESTORATION

The Cadwallenders contracted with Tidewater Preservation of Fredericksburg to handle the design, construction and Historic Preservation Tax Credit administration of the project.

Company president Fred Ecker said his challenge was in restoring a home that had been changed in many ways over the years, creating “a mishmash of styles.” As a result, its historic integrity was found not only in the original architecture but in the structure’s evolution as well.

“The [three-story] porch was not original to the house, but it is the most highly visible element,” said Ecker. That meant it needed to be retained—and rebuilt—even though it had covered up some of the home’s sophisticated brickwork when it was added, probably in the 1840s.

The front of the house is done in Flemish bond, while the sides and rear are a less-expensive American common bond. Above the main-level entries are transoms with decorative fretwork or tracery, as Ecker described it. The main roof is Buckingham (Va.) slate. A standing seam metal roof covers the addition.

In reproducing the porch, Ecker said he and his crew considered the trim style that was part of the house originally and extrapolated from that.

Prior to rebuilding the porch, Ecker said, the heavy concrete steps that dropped down from the main entrance to the sidewalk had to be removed. All agreed that the steps had left the house with an unbalanced appearance, and all agree now that putting the steps back under the porch, near where they were originally, was a necessary first step.

Ecker said the façade now has a uniform appearance with the rows of five columns, each precisely beneath the one above it, providing a bold and handsome appearance. They taper slightly, and were constructed slightly smaller for perspective on the successive upper levels. The upper porch level was used historically as a sleeping loft, and will eventually be screened in.

“When the porch was added it covered up the jack arches [the vertical bricks above the front windows]. But that’s what they did,” said Ecker.

Tidewater’s project manager David Stroud has been intimately involved with the project and noted that, as with the exterior, the challenge on the interior was merging the styles that were used in prior renovations.

“The trim is either original or was added during a renovation, probably in the 1940s,” said Stroud.

All of it is being retained to, again, reflect the evolution of the home. So there are classic original fireplace surrounds and shadow-box wainscoting to chair-rail level in the main-level living areas, along with non-period dentil crown molding added maybe 70 years ago to provide a luxurious upgrade.

He also pointed out the original imported English carpenter door locks, which had a patented mechanism that made them easier to use at the time.

Of the variety of structural improvements that have been made, an interesting one involved the prior addition of indoor plumbing. Without concern for the home’s structural integrity at the time, vertical cuts were made in the bricks in load-supporting walls to make space for pipes. Over time, the compromised bricks broke, letting the house sag from the roof to the foundation and allowing water infiltration.

Plaster cracking was widespread and often serious. Extensive termite remediation beneath the house was necessary as well.

Those issues all have been resolved.

Stroud noted that each of the windows is being restored. Authentic hand-blown glass from Germany will be used.

Radiant floor heat will be added in places, while hot-water radiator heat will be retained elsewhere using a new boiler.

Ecker explained that a challenge in this sort of project is reconciling the need for both historic correctness and code compliance. That can put the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, which qualifies work as eligible for tax credits, at odds with municipal inspectors who must enforce code requirements.

“There are provisions for discretion, and usually a compromise can be reached,” Ecker said.

The project is on schedule for completion this summer.

Richard Amrhine: 540/374-5406

ramrhine@freelancestar.com

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