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King George County Historical Society members have picnic on the lawn-and nothing but praise for the owners of Cleydael.
The Parkers plan to move into the house in late June while the renovation continues.
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By CATHY DYSON
Members of the King George County Historical Society have nothing but gratitude for Charlie and Renee Parker, who are restoring Cleydael.
"It was hard to believe someone from within the county would step in and take over," said Jean Hudson, president of the society. "And I'm so glad they did, because this is our history."
Last Thursday, Hudson welcomed a crowd of more than 85 people to Cleydael, the 19th-century home near Dahlgren where John Wilkes Booth tried to find refuge after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
Cleydael had fallen into neglect in recent years when previous owner Kathryn Coombs became ill and died without a will. Goats and sheep that she brought into the house left their marks, and termites and weather also did damage.
The Parkers, who live in King George and are civilian workers at the Navy base, hope to get the house in shape again. Soon after they bought Cleydael, they agreed to let the historical society have its annual picnic on their lawn.
Last week historians were joined by bankers, builders and other members of the King George Chamber of Commerce, who all faced sweltering heat and temperatures in the 90s.
The group put up tents in the backyard, and Cleydael's mature trees gave welcome shade, but there were still as many paper plates used for fanning as for food.
Historian Walter Gallahan said he is glad that Cleydael is still standing. This time last year, its future seemed uncertain.
"We thought it would probably be torn down" by a developer who wanted to subdivide the 12-acre lot, Gallahan said. "Thank goodness, it was saved."
'FELL INTO OUR LAPS'
After Coombs died in January 2011, Bank of America scheduled three auctions on the courthouse steps last summer and fall, then canceled them at the last minute.
When the bank allowed an estate auction in October, developer Ed Veazey offered the highest bid. He had restored the home in the 1980s and developed the subdivisions around it.
He said he bought Cleydael a second time so it wouldn't fall into the wrong hands. He hoped he could transfer ownership to someone who wanted to live there.
Months went by before the bank announced it wouldn't accept Veazey's $141,000 offer.