Ron and Nancy Rosner have had the pleasure of calling Morland home since 2002. Over the years, they’ve enjoyed countless gatherings with family and friends at the grand King George retreat on the Potomac.
The 1920s estate covers 160 acres and includes the manor house, plus several dependencies, outbuildings, a swimming pool and many gardens. Every element is as well-maintained as it can possibly be.
Shortly after taking ownership, the Rosners embarked on a thorough and sensitive renovation that was completed in 2004. The result is an extraordinary property that combines the best of modern living with the feel of a bygone era—when radio was the new technology and jazz was playing on it.
“I love the beauty of the place,” Ron Rosner said during a tour of Morland last week. “The views are magnificent and it’s a very quiet, peaceful place. I’ve walked every bit of it.”
Now that Rosner has sold off his Fredericksburg area automobile dealerships, the couple is ready to consolidate life in Florida. They’ve listed Morland with Frank Hardy Sotheby’s International Realty in Charlottesville. The asking price is $3.95 million.
Nancy Rosner said in a phone interview that the tranquility, nature and history all contribute to her fondness for the place.
“Eventually everyone is going in different directions,” she said. “But we can take with us all the wonderful memories we’ve shared.”
Located at 5451 White Fox Lane, the property is off Caledon Road and found at the end of a gated, mile-long paved lane. It is indeed secluded, with wooded acreage surrounding about 20 cleared acres.
There is more than 1,000 feet of Potomac River frontage and a storm-proof dock extends 300 feet into the river. More about that later.
THE MANOR HOUSE AND DEPENDENCIES
The 1925 washed brick manor house is done in Flemish bond and has a slate roof with copper gutters and downspouts. Total square footage is 6,504. The formal living and dining rooms are beautiful spaces with fireplaces and distinctive décor. The L-shaped living room features hip-high wainscoting and the perfect space for a piano. In the dining room, painted vines and leaves grace the walls along with trim that makes the fireplace wall a focal point.
The combined space that is now the eat-in, island kitchen was a key part of the renovation. Granite countertops, stainless-steel commercial-style appliances, off-white cabinets and heart pine flooring contribute to the handsome look.
A wide, load-bearing arch that replaced a wall helps define and unite the kitchen and eating areas. French doors open to a patio, and views of the river are excellent from here.
A butler’s pantry is the perfect meal staging area, and nearby is an additional catering kitchen for entertaining larger groups such as charity events, though the extra appliances are no doubt helpful as well for family gatherings and celebrations.
Other main level rooms include two studies that serve as his-and-hers home offices, a sunroom, half-bathrooms and a mudroom with laundry machines.
The renovation included the installation of an elevator from the butler’s pantry to the master suite. The master is a luxurious space with a pair of walk-in closets and a sitting area that includes a fireplace and wet bar. The master bath features separate vanities, tile shower with glass door, jetted tub and a water closet with toilet and bidet.
Also up here are two secondary bedrooms, each with its own bathroom and one with a fireplace.
Also built in the 1920s was the four-car garage with what was designed to be a wine cellar underneath. It’s now a storage and equipment space. The Rosners added four new carriage-house style garage doors and HVAC to the structure.
Later in the 1920s, the brick River Cottage and Caretaker’s Cottage were built. River Cottage is the perfect guest house with a two-story living room and two bedrooms, one on the main level and one upstairs, each with its own bathroom.
The two-story Caretaker’s Cottage is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home with a living room, dining room and kitchen.
The Boys’ Cottage, built perhaps as late as 1940, is also a two-story brick affair with a huge fireplace in the living room, plus a kitchen/dining room area. A curved, almost spiral staircase leads upstairs where two bedrooms with fireplaces share a bathroom.
The Boys’ Cottage was so-named because it was built by a previous owner for his sons to live in. It still goes by the same name, but since Ron Rosner brought in a pool table and big-screen TV with comfortable seating in the main living area, it’s a “Boys’ Cottage” of a different kind.
There are various other structures that recall the history of Morland, such as the smokehouse and icehouse. A four-stall barn built in the 1940s and a vintage equipment shed are part of the mix.
There’s also a 1920s pool house to which the Rosners added a full bathroom during the renovation. Rosner said the pool house was built when people were more modest than they are today, so it was used specifically for changing clothes immediately before and after using the pool. The pool itself was also totally rebuilt and given a heating system during the renovation.
The list of upgrades undertaken by the Rosners is a long one. For starters, the manor house and cottages all have updated HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems. There are also new water treatment, irrigation and dehumidification systems.
The Rosners also added a 175-kilowatt emergency generator that powers everything during an outage. A whole-house sound system lets the music play inside and out.
The new dock was a major project. Rosner said that he quickly had enough of storms damaging the dock, so he wanted one that was storm-proof. First, all pilings were set in concrete. Then, hog slats were used for the decking. Hog slats, used for hog pen flooring, are 4-foot-by-10-foot slotted concrete slabs that weigh 1,100 pounds each. In other words, a dock that’s built with them stays put.
The dock begins with a large deck. Sandy beach extends along the shoreline, which includes an old but still functional fireplace made of river rock.
It’s not just buildings that make the property special, but also the flora and fauna. Wildlife abounds, with eagles, ospreys and other birds galore. There are critters, too, like foxes, wild turkey and deer.
“It’s nothing to come out here in the morning and see 40 deer,” Ron Rosner said.
A series of gardens, the Fountain, Shade and Pocket gardens, among others, are meticlously maintained. The hemlock hedge through which visitors enter the grounds is listed as the largest and most mature in Virginia, and the property also has the documented oldest sage orange and persimmon trees in Virginia.
The family of a previous owner, W. Brown Morton Jr., worked to establish a vineyard on the property, but eventually sold most of the vines to the Ingleside winery. Some grapes continue to be grown on the property, and the Rosners have made wine for their personal use. Part of the former vineyard space became a 300-yard driving range.
Who originally built Morland is unclear. It probably wasn’t Morton Jr. because he was only 10 years old in 1925. It’s interesting to note that Morton’s son, the Rev. W. Brown Morton III, became a leading authority on historic preservation, going on to lead then-Mary Washington College’s Center for Historic Preservation.
The last resident owner was the late Lincoln Foster, a former vice president of Tiffany & Co. in New York, who operated an antiques store in downtown Fredericksburg.