Jonelle St. John was living in London when her husband, Steve Zielenski, who had already moved back to the United States, went with a real estate agent to look at Stonyhurst, a 94-acre estate in Middleburg, Va.
“He fell in love with it,” St. John said.
Zielenski was smitten by the lush, rolling land and pastoral views. The real estate agent, who had filmed the visit on her video camera, sent the tape to St. John because she couldn’t tour the property in person.
“I looked at [Zielenski] and I said, ‘Is there a house on this property?’ There was no house on the tape,” St. John said. “He said: ‘It’s this old thing. We’ll just tear it down.’ ”
But when St. John saw the house, she was adamant.
“I said, ‘We’re not tearing this down. We are NOT tearing this down,’ ” she said. “We’re going to redo this.”
The 1890 stone farmhouse had seen better days. The floors were damaged by termites. The roof leaked. But with the help of Washington architect Donald Lococo and interior designer Rosemarie R. Howe, the decrepit house became a family home.
“Part of the beauty of a ruin is that it looks old,” Lococo told The Washington Post in 2007, when the house was featured in the Home section. “We wanted to keep all the age and wisdom this house brought along with it.”
Much of the house was gutted in the renovation, but its footprint was maintained. Many original features, such as the fireplaces and plaster walls, were kept. The raw cedar beams on the ceiling of the family room, believed to be a 1920s addition, were also preserved. The house’s original stairs were moved to the barn, and Lococo created new ones at the back of the house.
“I love old,” St. John said. “I’ve redone every house I’ve ever moved into. I don’t think I could buy a new house. I really like the feel of an old house, the history of it.”
The house was built for Edward Samuel Duffey, a watchmaker and Confederate soldier who is reported to have fired the last shot at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. The Duffey family remained in the house until the 1970s. The property was sold to another family in the 1970s before a developer scooped it up in 2000, intending to subdivide it. Before he could, St. John and Zielenski bought it and placed a conservation easement on it.
The house was not the only part of the property that needed work. The land was overgrown. After clearing it, Earth Design Associates designed the landscaping and planted more than 200 trees. Although the couple don’t own horses, there are paddocks, a run-in shed and a barn. St. John said the barn’s foundation may be older than the house.
“We are adjacent to the Middleburg hunt,” St. John said. “We let them graze their horses on our land. So we have horses out there. There are about 12 at a time. They also, which we love, train their hounds. They walk them across the property. It’s very festive.”
The three-bedroom, four-bathroom, 4,000-square-foot house, on 94 acres, is listed at $4.4 million.
Listing: 22941 Foxcroft Rd., Middleburg, Va.
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