In 2001, Valerie Lucas and her spouse, Ron, experienced just settled into the new property they’d created in a Botetourt County suburb when, on a whim, they bought a further a single — a 164-yr-previous Federal-type property on 70 acres of land, perched on a hill overlooking Fincastle.
The circa 1837 property formally regarded as “Prospect Hill” was named for the panoramic sights of the city and surrounding mountains one particular can see from every window. Informally, however, it is known as “Gray’s Folly.” Its builder, John Gray, who was the moment the county sheriff, apparently had to endure some twitting from his neighbors for putting his property in these an exposed, windy spot.
The wind can be an issue from time to time, Lucas claimed. A handful of especially solid gusts this spring tore down some guttering and carried off a ornamental lantern mounted inside the entrance portico. But the interesting summer time breezes much more than make up for the occasional problems, she said, and on clear times, the elevation lets for views of the Peaks of Otter and Purgatory Mountain.
“I really do not at any time have to use the AC,” she said.
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The Nationwide Register of Historic Destinations in 1979 included the property to its record. Lucas signed an historic preservation easement, which stipulates that the residence may not be subdivided, nor can the property be appreciably altered, within or out. As aspect of that arrangement, Lucas said, she is questioned to open the household to the general public at least the moment each five decades. So in 2020, when the Roanoke Valley Backyard Club and the Mill Mountain Back garden Club of Roanoke determined to keep their once-a-year Historic Backyard garden Week in Roanoke tour in Fincastle, she was pleased to volunteer, and then upset when the party was cancelled thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. This calendar year, she’ll lastly have her probability.
In September 2001, the two were being on the site when the residence was remaining auctioned off. The land was divided into two parcels, and Ron, who owned a building enterprise, had planned to bid just on the undeveloped one particular. They were being advised that they could possibly have a better prospect if they bid on both properties. Valerie agreed to the strategy, then excused herself for a handful of minutes. When she arrived back again, the dwelling was theirs.
“All we wished was 50 acres,” Lucas claimed, but she realized the task would be good for Ron, who experienced a restless mother nature and usually required to be carrying out a thing.
“I did it to relaxed him down,” she reported, laughing.
At very first, the system was to restore the composition and then sell it. Lucas was not particularly in enjoy with the area, anyway, and refused to go down into the basement, which was total of aged skins remaining powering by the snakes that lived down there.
Ron was extremely a lot in charge of the restoration, and chose most of the fixtures and decor himself. “He’d constantly preferred a home with a identify,” Lucas explained.
The home needed a whole lot of function, and she helped out with cleaning, sanding and other chores. The much more she labored on the home, Lucas explained, the additional she appreciated it. 8 months afterwards, the couple moved in.
Ron Lucas died in 2013, but Valerie has stayed on.
“It’s where we were being meant to be,” she explained. “It’s property. It’s like this dwelling took me in its arms and hugged me.”
Prospect Hill is sided with what is probable the initial tongue-and-groove clapboard, and is explained to be a person of only two I-Sort Federal-style homes in Virginia. I-Kind houses, which have a central hallway flanked by one home on each individual facet, both equally upstairs and down, are designed to offer normal cooling by making it possible for air to movement by the extensive entrance and again doors, which are aligned with each and every other. This sort of residence is rather prevalent on the east coastline, but most have much more subdued Georgian-design and style facades, alternatively than the a lot more dramatic Federal-design and style pediments.
A established of limestone methods that matches the foundation sales opportunities to Prospect Hill’s entrance. The gable-roofed pediment is two stories high, is supported by Tuscan columns, and has a balcony opening onto the higher flooring. Sidelights and a big, decorative fanlight surround the paneled doorway. Scaled-down versions body the upstairs balcony doorway, and the back doorway is as ornate as the entrance.
A prior proprietor included a a single-tale clapboard kitchen area wing on the most important structure’s left side — kitchens have been generally exterior the property in the era when the household was built — and a 1-tale brick bed room wing on the suitable. These days, the dwelling has 6 rooms, all with operating fireplaces. The three bedrooms each have bogs and closets.
The entryway capabilities the first vast-plank flooring, which haven’t been handled with polyurethane. Lucas hand waxes and buffs them instead. The most important staircase is practical, rather than grand, but the outer stringers are adorned with hand-carved scrollwork, which the Lucases painted white. Ornamental curved chair rail mimics the bannister on the other facet. A significant curio cabinet that contains family members memorabilia stands on 1 side of the hall, and a marble-topped table on the other.
The place to the remaining is the eating area. An massive candelabra-style brass chandelier hangs more than the eating desk, and a scaled-down table is tucked into a corner. Further than the swinging doorway is the kitchen addition, which was at first accessed by means of a hallway that linked the kitchen to the butler’s pantry. The Lucases tore the partition walls down, creating 1 large, sunny room with accessibility to the back property. It features black granite counter tops, ceiling-height cherry cabinets, and burnt orange subway tiles.
The decreased proper-hand home is the living room/library, exactly where in depth designed-in shelves were added all through the 1930s. The reduced cabinet doors have been outlined with ornamental stenciling. The mantel in this home was salvaged from a downtown Fincastle drugstore that was staying renovated, Lucas stated. It is intricately carved and in great affliction.
“It’s incredible that it’s in no way been painted,” Lucas explained.
Off the eating room is the downstairs bedroom, which, like the kitchen, has immediate obtain to the patio out back. It options a burled maple dresser and garden views from the mattress.
The upstairs hall serves as Lucas’s den, where she hangs out with her a person-yr-outdated Australian sheepdog-poodle blend pups, Lexi and Stella. The watch from the balcony is previously mentioned the tree line and is even additional magnificent than from the very first flooring. The place is comfortably furnished with everyday parts and leopard-patterned floor coverings. Lucas claimed she has manufactured no effort and hard work to enhance the property like a museum.
“It’s eclectic,” she reported. “It’s property.”
The other two rooms are bedrooms. The south-going through area is embellished in heat yellows, and the guest area has bedding monogrammed with the initials “PH.”
When he first noticed the bedspread, Lucas said, her partner believed they stood for Patrick Henry Higher Faculty in Roanoke, and she experienced to describe to him that they have been for “Prospect Hill.”
As substantially as they loved the home, the Lucases beloved the garden just as considerably. As a youngster, Lucas stated, she assisted her mother with gardening, and she is an energetic member of Fincastle’s Big Spring Back garden Club.
From 1984 to 2008, she stated, she labored as a rural mail carrier, driving up and down 12 O’Clock Knob Highway in Roanoke County. Among the most effective areas of the task, she mentioned, was on the lookout out for wildflowers in the spring and talking about vegetation with the people today on her route.
“Ron and I loved to back garden,” she said. “He could visualize what he wished. Soon after that, it just evolved” as she experimented with various crops and layouts.
When they bought the place, Lucas reported, the only cleared place was the entrance garden, which the driveway handed by way of as it went straight to the front doorway. In back again, thickly wooded vegetation crowded near to the house.
The Lucases re-routed the driveway to the aspect and created an additional expansive garden in the back, leaving only the historic oaks, maples and catalpa trees standing. Just about every bay of the property has its have sitting down place, with cozy chairs and tables, and a swing on the back porch. Ron Lucas tore down the outdated nondescript porch roof and replaced it with a pedimented portico that mimics the a single in entrance, finish with the ornamental dentil molding, ensuing in a rear entrance that is nearly as spectacular as the principal one particular.
Beds of huge tulips, peonies and other perennials body the back again porch, while other plantings wrap all around the household and meander by the entrance yard, dotted with statuary, containers and inviting pathways. Down the hill, a deer-proof fence hides a vegetable yard.
The showpiece, though, is the formal garden in the back again lawn. It is delineated by concrete railings and embellished with concrete benches and tables that arrived from the home of Roy L. Webber, a previous Roanoke mayor and very well-regarded florist who utilized to show up at church with Lucas. An old millstone centers the garden.
When Ron died, the elements he meant to use for it were being stacked close by and the beds weren’t laid out, Lucas claimed, so she did the career herself.
“It was my legacy to him,” she explained. As for the relaxation of backyard: “It’s a ton of function, but I’ll hardly ever be completed.”
Lucas explained she hopes that during the tour, visitors will bring their lunches and wander the grounds at their leisure.