When the original cabin was built near Mineral in Louisa County, Independence Day, as in 1776, was still 46 years away.
Over the centuries and the series of owners that have come and gone since, 1351 Spring Road has been fixed up and added onto, but the old cabin is still there under it all, making it what is thought to be the oldest occupied house in Louisa.
And not even an earthquake can threaten it.
Connie and Earl McMaugh have lived there since 2005, and undertook their own major renovation and addition of the next few years.
“We had our camping furniture and moved it from room to room,” Connie McMaugh said during a tour earlier this week. “We’d finish one room, move in there, and then work on the next.”
Among some papers with historical information that have been passed along was a sketch of the old cabin with the title “Tranquility.” A good name, the McMaughs figured, for a place as quiet and peaceful as this, a place so dark at night that even the faintest stars help fill the sky.
With just over 40 acres and outbuildings galore, some work is required to keep the place up—a bit more than they’d like to deal with these days.
“When we moved here we thought it would be our forever home,” Connie said, but time and circumstances have changed their outlook. “Now we’re looking for new stewards for all this history.”
An agent for Dockside Realty at Lake Anna, Connie McMaugh is listing the house for sale herself. The asking price is $739,000.
In its present configuration, the house has 3,600 square feet of living space with four bedrooms, three full bathrooms and a half bath on two levels. Starting with the 1730 cabin, renovations and additions have been made in every century since, including work done by the McMaughs in the 2000s.
Much of their work was done to create their own dream home, which included the single-story addition that provided a new family room and main-level master suite and was completed as part of their major 2007 renovation. They also added porches and cream-colored vinyl siding.
Then, on Aug. 23, 2011, came the central Virginia earthquake. With its epicenter near Mineral, structures throughout the area sustained a range of damage. At Tranquility, items fell from the walls and out of cabinets, but the house overall emerged in good shape.
What did get twisted up some was the big, old solid brick chimney with a double-sided fireplace that was original to the 1730 cabin. It would have to be completely dismantled and reassembled from the ground up.
The McMaughs called on Mike Salmon, a masonry contractor right nearby in Mineral, and James Price of Price Masonry in Madison Heights near Lynchburg. Salmon dealt deftly with the old brick, while Price, who has the website virginialimeworks.com, stirred up a mortar that would be compatible.
For the McMaughs, it was a fascinating lesson in the history of masonry during which they learned about “soft” interior brick, and discovered that the old chimney bricks shared a similar color to the clay they’d seen on the property. Given the construction practices at the time, the bricks were probably made and fired right there on the property.
Now that the dust and mess is a distant memory, the impressive chimney has resumed its place at the focal point in what was the original cabin, which has served as the dining room. Just to the left of the main entry, the room looks the part with exposed ceiling beams and a heart pine floor. Those features, unlike the chimney, are not thought to be original to the cabin.
The cabin was built on a root cellar that has been restored over time but bears the original stacked stone foundation that can move slightly without collapsing and may have helped the structure survive the quake.
In the 1800s, an addition was built above and behind the cabin, expanding the main level and adding two bedrooms upstairs. The other side of the two-sided fireplace, until that time on the exterior of the house, was then enclosed in a room that now includes the kitchen and a sitting area.
The kitchen has been thoroughly updated with granite counters and stainless steel appliances, including a commercial-style range with pot-filler faucet. A smaller, under-counter refrigerator holds frequently used items in the kitchen, while the larger fridge is in the adjoining butler’s pantry along with a wet bar sink and extra storage.
To conduct the tour chronologically, the next stop is the parlor at the front of the house, to the right of the main entry. That room, and the bedroom above it, were added in 1912, according to Connie McMaugh, as an earlier resident family grew and needed more space.
Behind the parlor and creating an open floor plan in combination with the kitchen is the family room, part of the large addition that the McMaughs completed in 2007. This large and comfortable area features a salvaged fireplace mantel and surround of carved wood. It was one of several pieces the McMaughs found at The Odd Chest, an antique shop in Gordonsville that has since closed.
The 2007 addition included a master suite with a luxurious Virginia slate tile bathroom that includes a bidet along with a jetted tub and separate shower. The large walk-in closet is nearby, as is direct outdoor access to the wraparound porch.
Another space updated by the McMaughs is the laundry and mud room. There’s a dog shower alongside the laundry machines that can also be used to rinse off kids who’ve been in the pool or playing outdoors.
And yes, there is a pool and surrounding concrete deck out back, one of the property’s many exterior features and outbuildings. Alongside the pool is the pool house for pool-related supplies and towels.
There’s also a cute playhouse for the kids, a greenhouse for the gardener and a workshop for the handyperson. An old smokehouse with electricity has been added onto and serves as a utility shed and potting shed.
The property is filled with mature trees and ornamentals. Black walnut trees abound, as do redbuds, dogwoods and assorted fruit trees. The sunflowers are growing like crazy in nine raised beds behind the house, along with the herbs and tomatoes.
A classic red horse barn built in the early 1990s has five stalls and a tack room. In just the past year, a two-vehicle carport has been added.
The addition of an outdoor wood stove or furnace turned out to be an economical source of heat. Filled with wood twice a day, the stove uses a forced air system to heat the entire house. A two-zone, conventional central heating and cooling system is also used.