It’s not too surprising that a 180-year-old house has stories to tell. The surprise is that it can look so good telling them.
Walnut Grove is located on eight gently rolling acres at 7508 Belmont Road in southwestern Spotsylvania County. It’s less than a half-mile from the Orange County border, and on a clear day, the Blue Ridge Mountains can be seen in the distance. There are other examples of antebellum plantation houses in the area, but Walnut Grove is a rare gem in the way it has been meticulously maintained.
Credit for that goes to Dr. William M. Chadduck, who has owned the property since 1994, and his wife, the late Ginger Graves Chadduck. Together, the couple took on the challenging, labor-intensive and often tedious work of restoring Walnut Grove without sacrificing its historical integrity.
The Graves family, of which Ginger Chadduck was a member, owned Walnut Grove in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The family traces its Virginia roots to its arrival at Jamestown in 1609.
Walnut Grove was established in 1829 by Jonathan Johnson II, who was deeded a portion of an early 18th-century land grant that once totaled as much as 12,000 acres. The existing Greek Revival-style house was built in the early 1840s by William Jennings, a highly regarded master builder in the area at that time. The new home replaced the 18th-century Coleman house whose stone fireplace still stands nearby.
The Civil War visited Walnut Grove in July 1864 after the Battle of Trevilian Station in Louisa County. Union Gen. Philip Sheridan’s troops crossed the North Anna River and encamped on and near Walnut Grove. When they left, they took all the food, livestock and money they could find.
The property was added to the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.
“I was looking for a historic home that was in sufficient disrepair that I could afford it,” Chadduck said during a recent visit to the property. “Then I found Walnut Grove and I’ve been working on it ever since.”
The home, outbuildings and surrounding acreage reflect the Chadducks’ dedication to the property and their years of effort to restore and maintain it. Now in his 80s, Chadduck has decided that the time has come to seek a new owner for Walnut Grove.
He has listed the property with Justin Wiley and Vanessa Massaro of Wiley Real Estate in Orange. The asking price is $849,000.
Walnut Grove is listed with three bedrooms, one full bathroom and a half-bath, offering 3,654 square feet of finished living space on three levels.
Based on information compiled by William Chadduck for the National Register nomination, there have been no permanent additions to Walnut Grove, and certain changes that were made have been undone. The house was adapted over time for indoor kitchens, plumbing, central heating and cooling, and the advent of electric service.
A gravel drive leads from Belmont Road to a parking area near the house. The house is described as five bays wide with tall front porch that identifies it as Greek Revival. The exterior of white aluminum siding was deemed acceptable by the National Register given its similar appearance to the original wood lap siding and its ability to protect the wood siding that remains underneath. The house has red shutters and a red standing-seam metal roof with a pair of interior chimneys.
The simple, symmetrical façade with a raised porch lends a handsome appearance that is typical of the period. Among the key projects the Chadducks took on was the replication of two matching Tuscan columns on the front porch that returned the porch to its original four-column appearance.
“Although the exterior treatment of Walnut Grove is traditional for mid-19th-century dwellings,” Chadduck writes in the nomination, “its interior details and workmanship are exceptional.”
Inside, Walnut Grove’s main level has 12-foot ceilings, 11-inch baseboards, raised-panel doors with nickel-plated hardware and original heart pine floors. Such elements as the room-length floorboards and wide panels that make up wainscoting attest to the huge trees that were available to the home’s builder.
The main entry is impressive with a double door, and sidelights and transom with lead work designs. To replace a missing finial, Chadduck took an existing one, crafted a mold from it, and replicated a replacement. (Prior to his retirement, Chadduck used his hands as a pediatric neurosurgeon.)
Baseboards in the formal rooms and the fireplace mantel in the living room, which is to the right of the foyer, are faux-painted in the original marble design. Window frames have a unique dentil molding design.
In the living room and elsewhere, the window treatments are the handiwork of Ginger Chadduck. The dining room has a beautiful crystal chandelier that will convey. All paint colors are official Williamsburg shades from the 1840 period.
A former parlor that forms the ‘L’ at the rear of the house was converted into a kitchen, perhaps when the original indoor kitchen was moved upstairs from the basement. The kitchen retains its original wainscoting and other woodwork. Chadduck explained that the floor of that portion of the house was in such poor condition that a new subfloor was installed. On top of that, a tile floor was laid in a diagonal checkerboard pattern typical of the period. The kitchen has relatively new appliances and space for a breakfast table.
Upstairs, three bedrooms share an updated full bathroom. The master bedroom’s fireplace has been covered over, but the other two bedrooms still have theirs.
All of the home’s fireplaces have been relined and are safe to use. Chadduck has periodically had the brick chimneys repointed with mortar based on a historic formula using extra sand and lime.
The basement has both finished and unfinished rooms. Chadduck uses a finished space as his home office with built-in bookshelves and a fireplace. A workshop and root cellar once had a dirt floor that is now concrete. Open ceilings show the original hand-hewn beams upon which the house was built. Extensive work was done to forever eliminate the basement’s previous water problems.
Outbuildings and exterior features are key to Walnut Grove’s importance. Near the house is the stacked stone fireplace from what was the site’s original structure, known as the Robert S. Coleman house. Also nearby is an old smokehouse with board-and-batten siding that’s now used as a garden shed.
A short distance from the house is another restored building that has been used as a guest house and bed and breakfast. Known as the Bond house and dating to 1740, the structure was rescued from Louisa County prior to its being burned as a training drill for firefighters. Chadduck describes it as an early version of a kit home, built using parts and materials that were transported to a site and assembled there.
The Bond house is a 1.5-story affair with a living area and kitchen on the main level and two bedrooms upstairs. Like the property’s other structures, it has a red, standing-seam metal roof.
The Bond house restoration, for which Chadduck used features like fiber-cement siding and energy efficient windows, won an excellence award from the Spotsylvania Preservation Foundation.
The property also includes a relatively new detached garage, or carriage house, which was built to hold cars and equipment.
Walnut tops the list of trees at Walnut Grove. Others include magnolia, maple, ash, crepe myrtle, Leyland cypress, lilac, locust, cherry, peach and pear. There’s also a vineyard Chadduck has scaled back that has produced wine.
Chadduck said he hopes a buyer comes along who will appreciate the property as much as he has. “Ginger and I didn’t feel like owners. We felt more like stewards,” he said.