When The Free Lance–Star last visited Wirtland almost three years ago, the 1850 classic Gothic Revival-style mansion in Westmoreland County was in need of some TLC. Cracks in the stucco and dangling shutters outside; crumbling plaster and peeling paint inside.
Thanks to its owners and a crew of dedicated artisan subcontractors, historic Wirtland has been transformed into the handsome antebellum estate it deserves to be. The property was added to the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register in the 1970s.
The house is owned by Ingleside Plantation, Inc., which is run by the Flemer family. When it was previously listed for sale in 2016, Fletch Flemer, who has taken over the property’s caretaking duties from his father, Carl, realized it would need some work in order to attract its next steward. Now, lovingly restored and looking better than it has in many years, it’s back on the market.
It is listed with Karin Andrews of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Towne Realty in Williamsburg. The asking price is $1.78 million. Andrews specializes in older, historic homes, and offered Flemer some advice on how he should direct his restoration efforts. She said some furnishings could convey in a separately negotiated sale.
There are no easements associated with the property. The register listings do not prohibit an owner from making changes to the property.
Located at 6073 Leedstown Road, with a Colonial Beach mailing address, Wirtland sits on 108 gently rolling wooded and open acres. It has four bedrooms, two full bathrooms and a half-bath with 7,740 square feet of finished and unfinished space on four levels.
The house sits on a slightly raised knoll, which appears more pronounced because of the two “bowls” in the earth that flank the house. It is believed that the thousands of bricks used in construction were made from clay soil taken from the bowls and then fired on the property.
The grounds surrounding the house have wide open spaces that are shared with English boxwoods, magnolias, sycamores, walnuts, willow oaks and other assorted hardwoods.
Wirtland has no architect associated with it, but its construction was overseen by its first owner, Dr. William Wirt Jr., who named the home after himself. Wirt was in Baltimore in 1845 when he met and married Elizabeth Payne, the daughter of Daniel Payne of Bleak Hall in Westmoreland County, who owned thousands of acres on the Northern Neck.
After their marriage, Wirt and his bride relocated to Westmoreland, where Wirt helped manage the Payne family’s extensive landholdings.
Wirt built Wirtland to have a family home to call his own. He eventually passed it to his son, who sold it to Burton Slocum, who in 1967 sold it to Carl Flemer, making the Flemers only the third owners.
The Flemer family had already owned adjacent Ingleside Plantation since 1890, and by the mid-20th century had developed Ingleside Nurseries there. In 1960, the family planted the first vineyard that would become Ingleside Winery.
When the decision was made to restore Wirtland, the family was able to turn to sibling Sherri Flemer for help. She runs a central Virginia interior decorating business, ReDefine Design.
“It was just sad,” she said of the house. “It was screaming that it needed help.”
The 10-month restoration included replastering the walls, re-stuccoing the exterior, refinishing the floors and repainting the entire house. She said the paint colors were selected to be conducive to both furnishings and art.
“We wanted it to be move-in ready,” she said. “New owners can make any changes they want while they’re already living there.”
Visitors arrive at a two-entrance, horseshoe-shaped drive paved with old cobblestones. As it comes into view, the home’s Gothic Revival architecture sets it apart from the region’s many Federal- and Georgian-style mansions. It is constructed entirely of stucco-covered brick, with a slate roof and with 18-inch-thick interior and exterior walls.
The home’s front and side gables have Gothic bracketing and the front-facing tower has a second story group of narrow, vertical windows topped with Tudor arches. Above the main entry is a Gothic-style balcony with acorn-tipped finials, which Andrews said symbolize long life and prosperity.
The main entry is protected by a covered front porch with checkerboard tile floor. Looking through the massive double front door, a series of four arches that decrease in size creates artificial perspective. First is the arched porch opening, then comes the arched main entrance, then the center hallway arch and, finally, an arched statue enclosure.
Inside, the scale of the living space becomes evident. Main-level ceilings are 13 feet tall and, perhaps coincidentally, the baseboards are 13 inches tall. The main staircase features a heavy walnut banister with thick, turned wood newels and balusters. Worn stair treads reflect their 170 years of use. The original heart pine floors have been beautifully refinished.
The floor plan is described in the National Register application as “cruciform,” with central and cross passages. In the main-level “ells,” respectively, are formal living and dining rooms, a parlor and the kitchen.
Some rooms have wide plaster crown molding and ornate plaster ceiling medallions, from which chandeliers can be hung. Radiators were given newly made covers to provide functional surface space. The radiators are fed hot water from an outdoor boiler and can be used to supplement the home’s retrofitted heat pump heating and cooling system.
What was an early indoor kitchen was expanded and remodeled years ago with maple cabinetry, white laminate counters, a stainless steel gas range and large center island. A new kitchen remodel has been left for the next owner to pursue.
The house has eight fireplaces, some of which have carved marble mantels and surrounds. They feed into three brick chimneys.
To the rear of the house is space described in the register application as a “demi-octagonal, two-story projection” that resembles a turret.
Upstairs there are four bedrooms and two full bathrooms. The large master bedroom has an adjacent bath that provides hallway access for the fourth bedroom. Two other secondary bedrooms at the rear of the second level share a bathroom, jack-and-jill style. Front-and-center office space features a Tudor-style window.
Another flight up is the fully floored attic. Andrews said the attic is heated and cooled, and could be finished off for additional living space.
The basement has exposed brick foundation walls, concrete floor and walkout access. In the main living area are a game room to one side and a bar and entertainment area to the other.
Those rooms flank a wine cellar with a former cistern for collecting rainwater at its center. Prior to indoor plumbing, rainwater was collected in the cistern and carried by bucket for use elsewhere in the house. Once 25 feet deep, the cistern well has been largely filled in for safety.
Other basement rooms include the original indoor kitchen with a cooking fireplace, and what were probably living and sleeping quarters for servants.