The house located 611 Caroline St. can certainly be listed among Fredericksburg’s historic survivors. Built in 1852, it was in prime position 10 years later to take fire from the Union bombardment delivered from Chatham and elsewhere on the Stafford County side of the Rappahannock River.
But it nevertheless remained intact through the Battle of Fredericksburg. Any damage to the rear of the building, which there must have been, would have been repaired and then covered up when the rear addition was built in the 1940s.
Those familiar with Caroline Street will know that the building sits alongside of and is dwarfed by Executive Plaza, the office building that was built in 1974. A portion of the home’s backyard, which extended to Sophia Street, was sacrificed for construction of the Sophia Street parking garage in 2005.
“It is close to everything,” current owner Carolyn Barley said of the property this week. “The train station, restaurants, museum and antique shops, which I’m really into... . Fredericksburg has become a tourist destination and it’s a fun place to live.”
Barley has decided to sell the property after 13 years of ownership and has listed it with Jennifer Church of Holt for Homes, Inc. real estate. The asking price is $1.2 million.
Church is cross-listing the house, as it is zoned for either residential or commercial use. It is within the Fredericksburg Historic District, which means any exterior changes must have Architectural Review Board approval.
The house is listed with five bedrooms, one full bathroom and two half-baths on three levels. It has about 3,100 square feet of finished living space plus an unfinished basement.
The Federal-style brick house has large Doric columns supporting a portico. Inside, the original portion of the house retains the 19th-century charm and craftsmanship that a family of some wealth would have enjoyed, even though it started out as a simple two-over-two with a side foyer and staircase. Early maps show a long-gone detached kitchen in the backyard.
The main level has 11-foot ceilings and the living and dining rooms are separated by massive pocket doors. The house has five fireplaces, the two in the living and dining rooms converted to gas by previous owners. Lions’ heads and clusters of grapes project from the marble surrounds, and the mantels are beautifully carved.
Almost all the original rooms and hallways have carved crown molding and refinished random-width heart pine floors. Barley, who had the roof replaced five years ago, also had the remaining plaster walls repaired and the entire interior freshly painted. The impressive trim includes built-in shelving in various rooms and a corner cupboard in the dining room.
In the 1940s, a two-story addition provided a new kitchen, family room and a half-bath that is wheelchair accessible. The kitchen was updated in the early 2000s by previous owners Jerry and Loretta Evans and has relatively new appliances. The wall between the dining room and kitchen incorporates a former exterior window that was retained.
The family room was given a fireplace and a high level of trim that helps it blend with the original portion of the house.
Upstairs are four bedrooms that share an updated full bathroom with dual vanity and glass-enclosed tub and shower. One bedroom has a small attached room that may have been used as a nursery. The space could be a candidate for a new master bathroom.
One more flight up is an attic bedroom with a half-bathroom and a brick gable wall that was left exposed. The unfinished basement consists of two rooms that have been used as workshop areas. It has a stairwell exit to the yard.
An iron fence surrounds a small front yard garden, and a gravel path with landscaping leads to the backyard. The courtyard-style backyard is protected by privacy fencing and the property’s taller nearby neighbors. There is a mobility lift next to the rear porch that will need to be serviced.
Barley lived in the house for several years, but also leased it to Colonial Cupcakes for five years and then to Lord & Lilly’s, a Christian book and merchandise shop.
During the Evanses’ ownership, a new central heating and air conditioning system was added. The radiators from the previous heating system were left in place for their nostalgic appearance, though they no longer function. The home’s electrical and plumbing systems have been updated.
The house is one of many historic structures in downtown Fredericksburg that is made interesting both by its own history and the people who lived there. Much of the historical information provided here is from a Historic Fredericksburg Foundation report compiled by Laura Farwell in 2002 for the Evanses.
It was built in 1852 for James and Sarah Timberlake after the former Sarah Walker inherited the property from her father, Alexander Walker. The house was rented out during much of the Timberlakes’ ownership.
One of the renters was apparently the Armat family. In 1866, Thomas Armat was born at the house. He was credited with being a co-inventor, along with Thomas Edison, of the Vitascope, a motion picture machine developed around the turn of the 20th century. Armat shared an Academy Award in 1947 for his work as a motion-picture pioneer.
In 1888, widow Sarah Timberlake sold the property to Elizabeth and Albert Botts, who in 1909 sold it to Nettie and William Owen.
The house has been called the Armat–Armstrong House, referencing the next subsequent owner, local butcher J. Casey Armstrong, who lived there from 1923 until his death in 1936.
In 1936, Karl and Wilhelmina Elkins bought the house, which was next door to a funeral home at 613 Caroline St. run by Karl’s mother, Flora Fox Elkins. She was said to be only the second licensed female embalmer in Virginia at the time.
Karl and Wilhelmina had apparently eloped in 1932. Historic documents include a letter Karl wrote to his mother asking for her blessing and to understand his decision to wed without telling her. She must have come around, because four years later, Karl and Wilhelmina bought the house next door to his mortician mom.