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At Moss Neck, it's 1856 again page 3
Moss Neck was returned to its original splendor in a renovation that took less than a year; today it's for sale for $4.9 million

 Moss Neck Manor in Caroline County was built in 1856 for the Corbin family. It was recently restored and is for sale.
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Date published: 5/21/2004

By RICHARD AMRHINE

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Stahl, a trial lawyer, admitted that he can be impatient, and that he likes to get jobs done correctly but quickly.

"We literally took out every pipe, every piece of wiring, everything, every drain. No exceptions," said Stahl of the restoration. "We put in all new electric service, heating and air conditioning, new plumbing with all new copper piping."

An earlier remodeling effort at Moss Neck was undertaken by retired Gen. Theodore Houser, who bought it in 1938. It remained in his family for the next 60 years.

Houser was chief executive officer with Sears, Roebuck & Co. of Chicago. Stahl said he believes Houser's purpose was not to restore the mansion, but to make it comfortable for his family.

Houser also added a pool and pool house that remain in excellent condition today.

"The good part was that Houser was careful not to remove anything original," said Stahl. "If he built a fake column or cornice, what was original was left underneath."

So the paneling, flooring and other changes, including a five-car garage that was attached to the house, could be removed while keeping intact the original features, such as the plaster walls and heart pine flooring that's found throughout.

The house was one of few in Virginia at the time it was built to have indoor running water. While the home generally has 12-foot ceilings, those in the bathrooms were 17 feet high to allow space for elevated cisterns that held water and created water pressure. Water was available at the turn of a spigot.

Stahl said he eventually agreed to leave an oak-paneled office the way Houser had it. Making use of his Chicago connections, Houser brought the paneling here from Chicago's Simmons mansion, home of the mattress-company founder.

The floor plan is now back to the original, and aside from the all-new stainless-steel kitchen, the walk-in wine cooler, the remodeled bathrooms and new utility systems, the house looks as it first did.

Moss Neck qualified for historic rehabilitation tax credits, which helped limit the expense. Stahl nevertheless invested millions of his own money in the project.

Now, Stahl plans to move onto another challenging restoration project in his hometown of Charleston, S.C.

Quiet and secluded

"It would be hard to find any thing more bucolic than Moss Neck," Stahl said. It is hard to disagree.

Bounded on one side by the Rappahannock River and on another by Fort A.P. Hill, the property is as secluded as it is beautiful. There are open grassy areas that range from flat to gently rolling. There are densely forested areas as well.

Soldiers from the military base patrol nearby. A full-time caretaker resides with his family in a four-bedroom home that comes with the property.

Moss Neck is also protected by a federal historic easement that requires its exterior appearance be preserved but does not regulate interior changes or paint colors. It allows only three divisions of the grounds.

More information is available on the Web site mossneck.us.

To reach RICHARD AMRHINE: 540/374-5406 ramrhine@freelancestar.com


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