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In 1889, new mansion was on the edge of town page 2
1601 Caroline St. looking for a new owner and significant restoration work.

 The rear of the house has a two-story porch attached to the original portion and addition.
SUZANNE CARR ROSSI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 9/21/2012

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The Assembly School, a subsidiary of the national Presbyterian Church bought it in 1906. A long, two-story rear extension was added soon after, consisting of a dining room, kitchen and bathroom on the main level and a row of four bedrooms upstairs, reflecting its use as a school and boarding house. A two-story covered porch was attached on the outside running the length of the addition. Finally, another two-story addition was tacked on the end, which included a larger lower-level kitchen, a larger upstairs gathering room for residents, and a back staircase.

The added kitchen's large fireplace has an encased flue separated from the house that extends through both levels of the porch.

The resulting structure has 5,440 square feet of living space and 23 rooms. There are eight bedrooms and two bathrooms.

"This would make the perfect bed-and-breakfast, and the city really needs them," Massey said.

In 1916, the house was bought by Robert Mullen as a residence for him and his wife, Carrie. It was Mullen who in 1919 added the massive, multi-columned two-story porch to the front of the house. The ostentatious facade was probably just the thing to welcome in the Roaring '20s.

The place is still known by some as "Mullen's Mansion."

The classic main entry with its ornate transom and sidelights was retained when the porch was added.

The interior of the original portion of the house is typical of late-19th-century design in Fredericksburg. A standard door is built into a wall that separates the living and dining rooms to the right of the foyer. It may have originally been a large pocket-door arrangement. Could those doors still be lurking between the walls?

The trim is also typical of the era, with tall baseboards and ornate fireplace mantels, though it's likely not all of the surrounds are original.

There is a curious old outbuilding that includes a garage, storage or work rooms, and what might have been chicken coops, given the use of screening. A dirt path leads to the garage, providing off-street parking.

CURRENT CONDITION; OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE


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The restoration of 1601 Caroline St. could be eligible for federal and state historic rehabilitation tax credits--a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the owner's tax liability for up to 45 percent of the project expenses. But because it is not within the city's Historic District, certain things would have to happen first.

To qualify for the federal program, a 20 percent break, it must be a certified historic structure. That means it must be listed in the National Register of Historic Places or be a contributing structure in a Historic District that is listed, according to Sean Maroney, executive director of Historic Fredericksburg Foundation.

The state credit, which by itself would cover 25 percent of expenses, hinges on the building being income-producing, such as a B&B. It would also need to be listed in the Virginia Landmarks Register, certified as eligible for it, or be a contributing structure in a Historic District that is listed.

Also, the city has included the property in the Historic District overlay in order to make it eligible for its real estate tax abatement, meaning that the increase to the assessed value of the restored structure is exempt from city real estate taxes for the year in which the improvements are made.

To operate as a B&B or an events venue, which sources suggest city officials would embrace, special exceptions would need to be granted.

Maroney said HFFI believes the building is worthy of restoration and preservation and would offer any assistance it could in advocating its tax credit eligibility.

For the tax credits, periodic inspections by state Department of Historic Resources officials are required as is detailed record-keeping of expenses incurred.

The tax breaks are considered pivotal in the affordability of expensive historic rehabilitation projects. However, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, deficit reduction measures being debated in Congress could reduce or even eliminate the federal historic tax credit.

--Richard Amrhine