It is the custom, Georgian-style brick home that Lee Pelham Cooper Rowe had built, with no expense spared, in Fredericksburg’s Westmont subdivision. With nearly 12,000 total square feet of living space it is among the city’s largest private homes.
Lee Rowe was already a best-selling author by the 1970s and was married to E. Randolph Cooper, owner of the former Cooper Furniture Company on William Street. With his help she started what became Cooper–Leedy Realtors with her business partner, Fritz Leedy.
At the age of 76, she undertook the Westmont home construction project in 2001 as a dream house for her and Cooper, but he passed away that year at age 79, well before it was completed in 2005. It replaced a house that occupied the lot and was razed.
Once the house was completed she lived there with her second husband, Charles S. Rowe, who had retired after a career as editor and co-publisher of The Free Lance–Star, until his death in 2015. The couple divided their time between the Westmont house and a home in Vero Beach, Fla.
Lee Rowe died in 2016 and her estate is liquidating the property and much of its contents. Handling arrangements for the sale of the property is Marci Anderson, a great-niece of Lee Rowe’s. Anderson had commissioned Nicholls Auction Marketing Group to sell the home at auction on March 15, with preliminary open houses set for March 2 and 9. None of those events will now take place. (See the Breaking News box above.) Anderson had said a sale by auction was chosen based on a lack of comparables to help set a list price.
“Really, what does this compare to in the Fredericksburg area?,” she said. “There is nothing like it.”
Located at 1711 Highland Road in Westmont, the house sits on eight-tenths of an acre and had a total assessed value in 2016 of nearly $1.28 million.
The house was built by veteran local contractor Dick Coleman from custom plans drawn by Fredericksburg architect James McGhee. It took nearly four years to complete.
The house is listed with five bedrooms, six full bathrooms and two half baths. The count includes a separate, privately accessible apartment over the large garage with one bedroom, one full bathroom, a kitchen and living area.
Working with auctioneer John Nicholls on the sale and organizing a separate auction of the home’s contents is Jonathan Burke of Century 21 Redwood Real Estate in Stafford County. The furniture was recently removed from the house and was to be auctioned separately by Pete’s Auction Service in Madison.
TOURING THE PROPERTY
The footprint of the house takes up a significant portion of the lot, and the walls and hedges that surround and define the property give it the feel of a compound. Bricks laid in a herringbone pattern form a driveway, walkway and parking area that wrap around to a brick patio at the rear. Remaining space is covered in landscaping, so there is no grass to mow.
Approaching the main entry, the house has a somewhat modest appearance given the overall scale of the structure. The façade is symmetrical, with the columned portico flanked by two windows on each side. The three dormers projecting from the hip roof are flanked by a pair of interior brick chimneys. Gutters are hidden in the roof overhangs.
The main entry has sidelights and an arched transom, and opens to a wide foyer and central hallway that provides an uninterrupted sight line to rear doors that open to the patio. The spaciousness of the home is immediately evident, thanks also to the tall ceilings that add volume.
Also evident in the foyer is the high level of finish that continues throughout. Flooring in many areas is tumbled Italian marble tile. The central hall is subdivided with substantial pediment arches that enhance the grandeur.
To the right of the main entry is a parlor or living room with fireplace. Notable here are the white-painted wood panel walls with shadowbox wainscoting. Recessed areas in the walls to each side of the doorway hold pieces of furniture.
Directly behind the living room, and separated by a pair of large pocket doors, is the dining room—also with wainscoting and pediment-ached shelves that are built into the walls. Both rooms have what appear to be plaster ceiling medallions, with a classic-looking chandelier hanging from the one in the dining room.
Throughout the house oil rather than latex paint was used because of its superior finish and luster. In many areas faux styles were used to mimic stone and marble. The cost of painting the home’s interior alone is said to have been about $800,000.
The floors in these main rooms are hand-laid, reclaimed thin-plank pine. Floors throughout the house are served by a hot-water radiant heating system built into the concrete sub-floors between levels.
To the left of the main entry is another living room with knotty pine walls, fireplace and hidden guest coat closet built into the room’s entry wall. The room was initially designed as a conveniently located space for Randolph Cooper to occupy as he dealt with his declining health, though he didn’t live to see it completed. This room and the main-level master bedroom behind it are separated by his-and-hers bathrooms, hers with a bidet added.
The large and handsomely designed eat-in island kitchen is directly behind the dining room. Top-of-the-line features here are the dark granite counters and stainless-steel appliances, including a Wolf range and dual wall ovens, plus a Sub-Zero refrigerator. The tumbled tile here is used both for the floor and backsplashes.
Extending back from the kitchen is the butler’s office, which is also ideal for additional kitchen equipment storage.
At the rear of the main level is what may be the home’s most attractive and inviting room, a large conservatory patterned after Monticello, with a series of french doors that open to the patio and are topped by arched transoms, Palladian-style. The soaring, two-story conservatory gains added natural light from skylights and windows high on the walls.
There are two stairways to the upper level, one in the center hall and the other alongside the kitchen. A spacious upstairs landing is surrounded by three bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, and the laundry room.
The dormer arrangement on the upper level provides access to unfinished storage space. In these well-insulated areas one can see the home’s roof support system, which uses massive, 24-inch-by-6 inch laminated veneer lumber beams designed to eliminate twisting, shrinking and splitting over time.
Downstairs is described as its own self-contained living area. It has a center hall with a full kitchen and large recreation room with a fireplace to one side. The rec room has plenty of space for game tables and a home theater system.
On the other side is a large office with outdoor walkout access, pine paneled walls and coffered ceiling that Charles Rowe used as his office. Book-filled shelves cover the walls to the ceiling and hold a vast array of volumes related to Rowe’s interests.
There is also an exercise room down here that could be a spare bedroom, plus a full bathroom and two storage rooms.
The garage is a three-story affair with the apartment on top, an oversized two-car garage with workshop and storage space beneath that, and an equipment garage with two garage bay doors beneath that.
The brick patio out back provides plenty of space for entertaining and is surrounded by walls, iron fencing, hedges and other landscaping for privacy.