A bid on Brandon Plantation is like ‘bidding on a Monet’


What do agriculture, 18th-century architecture, a Titanic survivor, and a relative of four U.S. presidents and a British prime minister have in common? They all are connected to the storied 4,500-acre Brandon Plantation in southern Virginia’s Spring Grove.

The property — which includes a seven-bedroom plantation house, 11 other residences, 14 farm structures and nearly 2,200 acres of managed timberland — is scheduled to be sold at auction June 26.

“This is a rare opportunity to purchase a spectacular property, one of the most historically significant properties in the United States,” says Todd Wohl, a senior partner of Premiere Estates Auction Co. in Los Angeles. “This is comparable to bidding on a Monet painting, so we have no idea what the market will determine is the value of the Brandon Plantation.”

Linda Daniel, widow of Rep. Robert W. Daniel Jr. (R-Va.), a co-trustee of the estate, says selling the property, which is a National Historic Landmark, is bittersweet.

“This estate has been in my husband’s family since 1926, and we raised our children here. So while I’m happy not to be here alone anymore, I’m still sorry to leave it,” says Daniel, whose husband died in February 2012. “I’ll especially miss the 30-acre formal garden.”

The plantation house was built circa 1765 by Nathaniel Harrison, whose family owned the property until Robert W. Daniel Sr., a Titanic survivor, purchased the estate. The extended Harrison family produced numerous Virginia governors and is related to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant and Winston Churchill.

Bidders are required to make a fully refundable $250,000 registration deposit when they submit a bid.

Wohl says the value of Brandon Plantation is impossible to assess because there are no comparable properties. Tax records from Virginia’s Prince George County valued the property at $10.4 million in 2011.

For more information on the auction or Brandon Plantation, go to www.premiereestates.com .

A tour for history buffs with an eye for elegance

Interested in experiencing history and touring elegant old properties next weekend?

The Maryland House & Garden Pilgrimage, a statewide house and garden tour in its 76th year, will take visitors through eight properties in Charles County on May 18 to give them a peek at life in 1812.

A highlight of the tour will be the Manor of Truman’s Place in Waldorf, a late-Federal-style home built between 1759 and 1782. It has a sunken garden with a koi pond and gazebo.

“During the War of 1812, the British troops marched from Benedict to Washington, D.C., and burned the cookhouse that was adjacent to our home,” says Jeff Secor, who owns the manor with his wife, Cathy. “It was rebuilt and attached to the main house, and you can see that they etched 1814 into the brick.”

The tour also includes Maxwell Hall, one of the region’s best surviving examples of a typical late-18th-century, four-over-four-room home with a central stair passage, a gambrel roof and massive end exterior brick chimneys; and Evergreen Farm, a Victorian carpenter Gothic home on a hill overlooking the Bryantown National Historic District.

Proceeds from the tour support preservation projects in each host community. For information or to purchase tickets, go to www.mhgp.org .

A cottage kept at bay, until the price dropped

His knowledge of the market — and a little luck — helped real estate agent Jim Lisowski of D.C.-based Fulcrum Property Group of Keller Williams Capital Properties snag a “cool getaway place” near the Chesapeake Bay for him and his girlfriend.

“I had my eye on the place for months, but it was way overpriced in the beginning — somewhere in the $400,000s,” Lisowski says. But ultimately, Lisowski bought the two-bedroom, one-bathroom house for $260,000 — about a 40 percent discount.

It was one of multiple listing service MRIS’s best deals of April.

“There was another cash buyer I was competing with. The way we constructed our offer nudged the other buyer out,” he says, adding he was disappointed he didn’t get it for less.

Lisowski says he and his girlfriend intend to keep the place, a 35-minute drive from his Capitol Hill home, and not flip it.

He says he has big plans.

“The bedrooms are tiny, but the living room, dining room and kitchen are all one big open room with great views of the bay,” he says.

“I’m going to rip out the drop ceiling in that space and open up the vaulted ceiling, and add a sleeper sofa for extra guests. It’s got a great screened porch, too.”


AAverage sale to original list price ratio: Last month, it was the highest for any month since April 2006, according to RealEstate Business Intelligence.

Tip of the week

Searching online for houses within particular school boundaries can be frustrating. Although nearly every Web site claims it can narrow a search based on such boundaries, too often the route ends up being “Call school board.”

Edward Berenbaum, president of Century 21 Redwood Realty, has launched a tool (at www.c21redwood.com ) to search for home sales by school boundaries that utilizes the most up-to-date technology.

What sets the search apart from the others is its use of geocoded boundaries, converting addresses into geographic coordinates for the most accurate results. Most Web sites base their school searches on data entered by a real estate agent into the multiple listing service, which too often is fraught with human error.

Initially, the school-search function was limited to Arlington and Loudoun counties. It has been expanded throughout the Washington area.

— Michele Lerner

Lerner is a freelance writer. To pass on a tip or news item, contact us at realestate@washpost.com and put “Town Square” in the subject line.