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House restoration yields historical surprises page 2
Respecting 'what came before': Family preserves, lives in Colonial-era house

 The Mortimer house on Caroline Street in downtown Fredericksburg was built in 1764.
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Date published: 4/12/2007


Gary Stanton, director of the Center for Historic Preservation at the University of Mary Washington, pointed out to the family some of the home's unique features. He also invited experts up from Colonial Williamsburg.

"It cost [Taylor and McDermott] extra money for them to listen to us, but the two of them were willing to listen and think about it," Stanton said. "That house is really remarkable. You could count on one hand the gentry houses in this area that are of that period."

Richmond architect Charles Aquino, who is also working on the restoration of 18th-century Federal Hill, directed the preservation efforts at the Mortimer House and designed the home's two-story addition.

A 1920s-era addition, which was in disrepair, was removed. The new one features a kitchen in cherry wood and a sitting room ringed by windows with views of the Rappahannock River.

The result is a seamless marriage between the historic portion of the house and the newer section.

Out back, landscape architect Anna Aquino re-created a Georgian garden, which features rosebushes and herbs in season.

McDermott and Taylor have decorated the house with paintings by local artists and period pieces such as the 1760s-era secretary in the entryway, which was built in Fredericksburg and now displays some of the treasures yielded by the house during the restoration.

The couple stuck to a Colonial palette when painting the home: blue on the dining room's ceiling to complement the original paint still on the window shutters, red on the living-room walls and yellow in the entryway to welcome visitors.

"I wanted people to know a family lived here. I didn't want it to feel too serious," said Taylor. "We were marrying respect of this house to the fact that a young family lives here. We feel we did that well."

Added McDermott: "It's a great little house."

Edie Gross: 540/374-5428
Email: egross@freelancestar.com

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Year built: 1764

Number of rooms: 13

Area, including basement: 7,000 square feet

Claim to fame: Home of Fredericksburg's first mayor, Dr. Charles Mortimer, who hosted a party in 1784 attended by George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette and the Count de Rochambeau

Special features: Original heart-pine floors, window shutters and wood-paneled walls; Georgian rose and herb garden; original detached kitchen, now being restored as a guest cottage; spectacular view of the Rappahannock River