What’s special about the houses on lower Caroline Street in Fredericksburg is not just in the history they’ve seen. It also in how their architectural styles have been maintained despite being updated and expanded to meet the expectations of today’s homeowners.
That’s the result of a largely cooperative effort among owners, contractors and the city’s Architectural Review Board, which must offer its blessing to any proposed changes that can be seen from the street.
There are few better examples than 303 Caroline St., whose large, one-third-acre lot extends back to the bluff that rises from Sophia Street and overlooks the Rappahannock River. What dominates the Caroline Street view is a modest Dutch Colonial-style cottage, with its gambrel cedar shake roof and symmetrical outboard brick chimneys. The house is said to date to 1801.
Only partially exposed and extending laterally from the back of the house is the major addition that was built 10 years ago to boost living space. It maintains the Dutch Colonial style with side and rear-facing gambrel gables. It’s front and rear porches have standing-seam metal roofs.
Current owners Kate Kelley and Bill Mizell have owned and lived at 303 Caroline since 2015 and have made their own major interior improvements over the past four years. But now, because of job transfers that will take them out of state, it’s time to pack up and move.
“Otherwise, we would never leave this house,” Kelley said during a recent tour of the property.
In its current configuration, the house has five bedrooms, two full bathrooms and a half-bath, with about 4,100 square feet of living space on three levels. The house is listed with Charlotte Rouse of Coldwell Banker Elite in Fredericksburg. The asking price is $1.095 million.
The house may have two distinct portions—the older part and the addition—but it is the way the two are seamlessly blended that has always impressed Kelley and Mizell.
“What you see is the tiny cottage at the front, but then there is the big addition that’s respectful of the original character of the house,” Kelley said. “We appreciate what Steve was able to achieve.”
“Steve” is veteran local contractor Steve Spratt, whose company, Steve Spratt Improvements, has handled its share of Fredericksburg home additions and remodeling projects over the years.
Back in December 2009, The Free Lance–Star featured Spratt as he worked on the 303 Caroline St. renovation and addition. When you’re working on a house in the city’s Historic District, he said at the time, the idea is not to make something “look like new,” but rather to make it “look like old.”
The three-level addition roughly doubled the home’s living area and provided its first basement space, which Mizell uses as his well-equipped woodworking shop. His extensive collection of power tools is powered by a dedicated 100-amp electrical system that he had installed. The basement has direct access to the backyard.
Its beaded siding and cedar shake roof make 303 Caroline recognizable and memorable. But most people don’t get to see the inside, where old and new meet.
In the old, maintaining the home’s classic look and feel has been a priority that’s paid off nicely. The old heart pine floors have the unmistakable patina that comes with aging gracefully. The trim—from the arches in the main hallway to door frames, pocket doors, crown molding and fireplace surrounds—looks like old when old was new.
A hallway leading from the original main entry provides one of the home’s several extended sight lines. On either side of the hallway are the formal living room and a parlor, and behind the parlor is the formal dining room.
The living room leads to a well-positioned butler’s pantry with wet bar and into the den or family room, a portion added during the first half of the 19th century. A large and comfortable gathering space, the den served as the home’s original kitchen and remained the kitchen until Kelley and Mizell decided it wouldn’t. The room’s focal point is a huge, brick, 19th-century cooking fireplace—one of the home’s four working, wood-burning fireplaces. An exposed beam ceiling enhances the room’s rustic look.
Kelley, who said she loves to cook, realized early on that the configuration of the room’s ceiling beams prevented a range hood from venting to the outdoors.
“I really wanted the range to vent to the outside, so the house won’t smell like what you just made,” Kelley said.
The solution was to trade spaces. A room that was part of the addition became the kitchen, and the kitchen became the den.
That gave Kelley the opportunity to design her own new kitchen. It’s an attractive and functional space with quartz counters, stainless steel-topped island, marble subway tile backsplash and beadboard cabinets that lend a timeless look. Stainless steel appliances include a Miele six-burner, dual-oven professional range and range hood that vents outdoors, along with a Sub-Zero refrigerator. All kitchen faucets, including the pot-filler at the range, are connected to a water filtration system.
Flooring in the kitchen and other spaces in the addition is old barn wood that Spratt salvaged and had milled and finished for its new purpose. Kelley notes that the flooring tells you whether you’re in the old part of the house, or the addition.
The addition extended the rear of the house to provide a casual eating area and french door access to the back porch and yard. The yard is remarkably deep for a city lot and includes a variety of shrubs, mature trees, a fountain and a well-populated goldfish pond. The couple saved a shed that was on the verge of collapse, covering it with beaded siding and a shake roof to match the house. A stamped concrete porch with seating area steps onto a matching pathway into the yard. They added privacy fencing.
Back inside and upstairs, the first stop is the commodious master suite. Made significantly bigger by the addition, the bedroom includes a sitting area with a fireplace. The master bath features dual vanities, a glass-enclosed shower and a ceramic tile floor.
Also upstairs are four secondary bedrooms that share a hall bath. The bedrooms have slanted, dormer-like upper walls that follow the contour of the gambrel roof.