A single butterfly nonchalantly fluttered its way around a Chinese elm tree in Sarah and John Van Der Hyde’s manicured garden, eventually finding a resting spot on its smooth trunk. Nature’s creatures clearly know that for all of the stately features at the Van Der Hydes’ circa 1937 estate, perched on a hill overlooking a vista of rolling hills throughout the Manakin-Sabot area of Goochland County, the garden’s serenity-inducing vibes are special.
Its human visitors would agree.
Walls of English and American boxwoods line the pathways around the garden at 849 Sabot Hill Road, where a centuries-old gingko tree — reportedly the second oldest in America — dances with the breeze. Nearby, a tall redwood reaches for the sky, offering a shady canopy for colorful hydrangeas, Persian lilac, roses, hellebores, gurgling fountains and much more.
The Van Der Hydes’ Georgian-style home and all of its flora and fauna will be open and on full display during the 2019 Historic Garden Week, put on by the Garden Club of Virginia. The week runs Saturday, April 27, through Saturday, May 4, and includes hundreds of homes across Virginia as well as historic buildings, churches, plantations and more.
Proceeds from Historic Garden Week are used to restore and maintain historic public gardens and to fund projects all across the state. For example, at Stratford Hall, a period vegetable and flower garden is being created, while at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, archaeologists are uncovering plantings that offer clues as to the nature of plants and bushes during his time.
The Van Der Hydes have been living in their hilltop Manakin-Sabot home for 16 years. Sarah Van Der Hyde said hers is a home filled with rich stories, both historic as well as those they’ve created. (Fun fact: the Van Der Hydes’ garden has been host to two Ralph Lauren fashion shows over the years.)
The design of the current house was inspired by the 18th-century Chatham Manor in Fredericksburg, part of the Spotsylvania National Military Park. But it was built using bricks collected from the original home on the property, built in 1855 by James A. Seddon, a prominent lawyer and later Confederate war secretary. That home burned in the 1920s.
Enter the home’s front hall, where a grand staircase joins a Tibetan handmade rug that pays tribute to the gingko tree outside. The library features 18th-century heart-pine woodwork salvaged from Mount Pleasant, an estate built by one of New Kent County’s earliest settlers, which makes it the oldest part of the home.
The dining room’s hand-painted walls aren’t just aesthetically pleasing — look closely, as there are 13 hidden animals to be found there — and doors throughout the home feature salvaged locks and hardware. Virginia walnut and limestone are featured throughout the home, as is slate outside from Buckingham County.
Outbuildings spread across the 55-acre property include a carriage house, a restored log cabin and the yew house, aptly named for the gigantic yew bushes that grow all around it. And then there’s that garden. One of the newest additions is an area that used to be for vegetables, but now features rows of dahlias and tall lilies.
“This we love — it’s our pride and joy,” Van Der Hyde said as she walked through the area, and although her garden “is as pretty in the winter as it is in the summer,” this time of year is especially vibrant.
Van Der Hyde acknowledges that the home’s charm — including its unique design — has grown on its occupants the longer they’ve lived there. She also said she and her husband recognized immediately when they moved there that their historic home and its grounds should be shared.
“We agreed when we got the house that it does need to be used to raise money for lots and lots of really great organizations,” she said, explaining that they host fundraisers often for local schools, the arts and other organizations that they support.
“It just feels so welcoming, ... and it’s nestled in nature,” she said about the house. “When you live here, it’s like the kindest, gentlest, most loving house.”
A massive deodar cedar tree looms over Jeff and Anne Lamb’s Westhampton-area home, spreading its branches protectively overhead as if keeping watch over the busy household of five.
It’s that sort of charm — coupled with an inviting backyard space that affords lush privacy in the midst of a busy neighborhood — that persuaded them to buy the Tudor Revival home at 6317 Three Chopt Road three years ago, indefinitely extending their current record of eight years in one place.
The Lambs’ brick and stucco home, listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2012, has been updated to fit the needs of a family with three teens while still keeping the integrity of a structure that’s more than a century old.
Crisp lines and bright colorful artwork are featured throughout the home, while large windows on the backside of each room not only fill them with sunlight, but also offer views of the terraced Charles Gillette gardens out back.
In the living room, a large image of the house from decades ago rests on a mantel, giving a glimpse of Three Chopt Road from another era. A small guest house on the right side of the home was removed by the Lambs to make way for their master suite, as well as a comfortable, updated seating area off the kitchen that Anne Lamb called the “heartbeat” of her family’s daily goings-on.
With that addition, Anne Lamb said, their goal was “to bring the outside in,” which they’ve done with large windows in all of the new areas, including the master bedroom, kitchen and seating area.
The renovated kitchen has leathered Carrara marble countertops and white cabinetry. The dining room combines old and new, with a French oak table, a modern light fixture and white lacquered walls.
Newly planted beds of boxwoods, hostas and peonies pop in the backyard, along with a Japanese bridge and a large crape myrtle. A fire pit was created off the bluestone patio as a place to relax with friends and family.
Lamb said she and her husband have moved 10 times in the past 22 years, but that they feel a connection to this home and the Richmond area. Although the home’s front facade is initially what drew them in, she said, it was the overall landscape that enticed them, particularly the backyard oasis.
“A young family has not lived here” for decades, Lamb said, and though they’ve made changes to increase the home’s functionality for their family, “it’s definitely preserved.”
She added, “We’ve built it for the next 100 years.”
Back in Goochland, just east of the Van Der Hydes’ home is the storied Manakin-Sabot residence of Bill Coogan and Theresa Riddle.
Once the sprawling 466-acre Ben Dover Farm, the current home at 115 Ben Dover Lane is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Purchased by Coogan and Riddle in 2015, a four-year renovation has transformed the former Colonial Revival home of more than 6,000 square feet into a 15,000-square-foot retreat that boasts 64 chandeliers, 17 fireplaces, including seven original to the home and made from Italian marble, and rich reclaimed wood paneling and wainscoting that have been salvaged from across the United States and abroad.
The original Italian palazzo-style home at Ben Dover was built in 1853. In the 166 years that followed, the home has had a variety owners who’ve put their own touches on the property.
Today, the original main house exists, though the roof, windows and exterior has been updated and the front door has been relocated to the home’s western side. Two wings have been added, one for bedrooms, the other for the kitchen. The former estate has been parceled out throughout the years, and Coogan and Riddle now own 44 acres.
The new entrance features a French stone archway through which visitors enter into the grand foyer where 14-foot ceilings are capped with elaborate molding. Of the home’s 28 rooms, one of the most unusual is a two-story library with eggplant-colored lacquered walls and a wrought-iron circular staircase that allows access from the main floor. (Fun tidbit: The original fireplace in that room was replaced by one that Coogan said was tied to a former husband of Liza Minnelli.)
The new kitchen boasts 27-foot ceilings, a custom French stove and French furnishes, including an antique baker’s table. Prominent throughout the home are hundreds of paintings — Coogan said he and his wife’s collection tops 800 pieces — as well as hand-painted wallpaper along the main staircase with Virginia landmarks, such as the University of Virginia’s Rotunda, Monticello and others.
Behind the home is a decades-old bowling alley that’s been restored, as well as a renovated carriage house and a barn. (Coogan said it’s rumored that famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, a friend of one of the home’s former owners, once landed on the property for a visit.)
Coogan said he and his wife were simply looking for a home in which they could display their love of art. With 14-foot ceilings through the first floor of the main home and even higher ceilings in the newer wings, there’s lots of wall space.
“It’s not for everybody,” Coogan said, “but it’s fabulous ... for all of the art because the ceilings are so high.”
After contemplating building a new home, Coogan said he learned of the property for sale in 2015 and recognized its potential. Since then, they’ve been meticulously putting the home together, from floor to ceiling and everything in between, he said. From the salvaged wrought-iron gates in the two-story library to the large wood doors that came from a New Jersey public school and now serve as wall panels in the hallway that leads to the kitchen, “this is all old stuff,” he said.
“Everything looks old because it is old,” he said, but individually, elements from furniture to wall panels have been expertly restored and specifically placed within the home to highlight their function and beauty.
“It’s like you buy a bunch of second-hand puzzles,” he said, “and you then hope you can put together one puzzle from four or five.”