A historic Virginia home in a quiet river setting

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Claude and Jane Martin fell in love at first sight with Exchange, an elegantly restored and updated circa 1720 home at the end of a country lane in Gloucester, Va.

Known as Exchange, the house was built about 1720 and overlooks the North River.

“It’s such a historic home, a beautiful property and location, with nice neighbors,” says Martin, who grew up on a tobacco farm in southern Virginia.

“Our dock is near the headwaters of the North River, where it’s quiet, with deep water, yet only six miles from Mobjack Bay.”

However, after living there for nine years, the couple want to return to Lancaster, Pa., where they lived for 30 years.

Their four-bedroom, four-bath Virginia home is on the market for $1,885,000. The 7.85-acre landscaped property includes 448 feet of frontage on the North River, a dock with a covered boat lift, a swimming pool, a guest cottage/pool house, a three-car garage, a three-car carport and several storage buildings and outbuildings.

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Although the circa 1720 Georgian-style manor house has been expanded and remodeled over the years, it retains its beaded clapboard exterior, bricked gable ends laid in Flemish bond, pegged construction and Welsh slate roof. Much of the flooring and interior woodwork — heavy crown molding, wainscoting, chair rails and unusual portrait window frames — are original. Modern materials, state-of-the-art appliances and high-efficiency utilities combine modern comforts with the traditional charm of eight working fireplaces.

Double elm front doors access the two-story foyer, which leads to the living and dining rooms, each with a wood-burning fireplace and access to the glass-walled river room. “In summer we shut off the air conditioner and open the river room’s windows to get the [daily] breeze off the river,” says Claude, a 67-year old retired CPA, now CEO and chairman of the Lancaster (Pa.) Leaf Tobacco Association. The river room, a favorite dining spot, has sliders opening to the brick riverfront patio.

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For Jane, a retired teacher, the library, with its built-in bookshelves and wood-burning fireplace, is her favorite spot to sit and read. The library was converted to a kitchen after the Civil War (when the outdoor kitchen that slaves used was removed), and converted back to a library in 1930. Nearby, a full bath and a mudroom with laundry adjoin the rear entrance.

A rear ell contains the modern kitchen, which has been renovated twice since 1930. Work in 2002 included a pantry, custom cabinetry with granite countertops, a six-burner gas stove, double ovens, two dishwashers and additional appliances — “perfect for preparing a dinner party,” Claude says. “Whenever people visit they always gather around the [antique country] kitchen table, especially in winter, when we have the [gas log] fireplace going. Jane and I usually eat in the kitchen, where we can see both the water and the driveway.”

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The adjacent breakfast room features water views and exterior access.

On the upstairs landing, a sitting area with built-in bookcases and a window seat forms the master suite entrance. The master bedroom has a walk-in cedar-lined closet, a working fireplace and a private bath. The second-floor guest bedroom also has a fireplace and a private bath.

Two guest bedrooms and a storage room with dormer windows occupy the third floor.

The finished above-ground basement contains two fireplaces, a game room, an office, a full bath and an exercise room with an exterior entrance.

A Georgian reproduction guest cottage/pool house adjoins the concrete patio surrounding the in-ground swimming pool. Downstairs is a screened porch overlooking the pool, living room, kitchenette and half bath. One bedroom and a full bath are upstairs. Two heating/cooling units and a separate well and septic system serve the cottage.

The screened porch of the guest cottage/pool house opens to a patio surrounding an in-ground pool.

Two 18th-century outbuildings — a smokehouse and a potting shed — flank the three-car carport. Also on the stone parking area is a three-car garage that contains a workshop with a wood stove and an office with electric heat.

Although Claude enjoys the river room and its water views, he prefers to be outdoors, working in the flower gardens, maintaining and enjoying the swimming pool. For five years Exchange has been on Virginia’s Historic Garden Week Tour, showcasing its 300-year-old willow oak, flowering perennials and mature trees and shrubs.

The couple often sit at the end of their 160-foot dock to watch the boats at sundown or to fish and crab. The dock has 6-foot depths at mean low water, and the covered boat lift can accommodate a 40-footer.

“Our neighbor uses his 24-foot Beechcraft for water skiing or cruises on Chesapeake Bay [some 12 miles downstream],” Claude says. “In our bass boat we’d cruise and fish in the river and Mobjack Bay.”

The home has a high-efficiency, oil-fired furnace with five zones, plus domestic hot water, 400-amp service, a 10,000-kW automatic generator, a well with a water softener and a purifier for domestic use. There is a second well for the sprinkler system, a septic system and an invisible electric dog fence around the property and dock. Annual taxes are about $7,000.

The couple frequently drive five minutes to the community of Gloucester Courthouse, where many downtown buildings dating from the 1700s are on the National Register of Historic Places.

The lawn slopes gradually up to the four-bedroom, four bath home.

“Everything we need — grocery store, hospital, bank, post office — is there,” Claude says. “We often go antiquing there or to dinner in one of several nice restaurants.”

Exchange is within an hour’s drive of Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown and Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport.

Frank Johnson, cell (804) 815-8722, of Frank Hardy Inc. Deltaville, Va., (804) 776-8100, (www.waterfrontandestate.com) lists the property.

December 2013 issue