Over the years, this early Georgian house on a crest of a hill in Fairfax has continually reinvented itself, changing its looks and changing its name, but retaining its essential character.
Around 1750, on what was known as the old Ravensworth tract, William Fitzhugh built a three-bedroom farmhouse called Aspen Grove because of the surrounding aspen and locust trees. The house was made of broken, untrimmed stone with brick quoined corners and brick chimneys.
William Sagar bought the home in 1855. Sagar was a prominent Fairfax resident who donated land for the first public school in Fairfax County. As a Northerner and a Quaker, he strongly opposed slavery. It is said that the house was used as a station on the Underground Railroad.
During the Civil War, the Sagars were forced to abandon the home, and soldiers from both sides occupied it. A research paper written by Wendy Nicholas on Aspen Grove described “great quaking aspen trees surrounding the house . . . were well carved with the initials and identification of military units of the Union and Confederate soldiers who were stationed in the area.”
One soldier apparently lingers. Like many old houses, Aspen Grove has its own ghost. According to legend, a Union soldier heard noises in the middle of the night and ran outside, leaving his boots behind. He was killed and now returns to search the home for his boots. HGTV was so intrigued by the story and the house that the cable television network featured both on its show “If Walls Could Talk.”
“We’ve heard funny noises from time to time, but nothing spooky or strange,” said Betsy Rutkowski, the owner and listing agent. “It makes a fun story, though.”
The Sagars returned to the home, which had been left in ruin. It was stripped of trim both inside and outside, the central chimney destroyed and bricks stolen. They rebuilt the home, stuccoing over the stone, and their heirs lived there until William S. Earle bought it in 1920 and renamed it Montague Farms.
Earle made substantial changes to the house and grounds. He expanded the home, rerouted the central stairway and made the fireplace openings smaller and added hand-carved mantels. He removed the cupola and replaced the wood-shingle roof with a copper one. He cut down the aspen trees and put in an English boxwood garden.
When Samuel and Gladys Stoneburner purchased the home in 1959, they changed the front entrance from the north to the east side and added four columns to hold up a stately portico.
Despite all the changes, some of the home’s noteworthy features remain — such as the honey-colored heart of pine floors, the 10-foot ceilings with dentil moldings and the elegantly carved fireplace mantels.
Because of all its modifications, the house is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but it is part of the Historic American Buildings Survey inventory.
The four-bedroom, four-bathroom, 3,038-square-foot home is listed at $1,075,000. An open house is scheduled for Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.
Listing: 10212 Aspen Willow Dr., Fairfax, Va.
Listing agent: Betsy Rutkowski, Long & Foster
Previous House of the Week