When we first bought the house the plan was to still live in the city, and use it as a retreat on weekends and holidays. We were so lucky to have wonderful parents that supported our decision and allowed two 30 something guys back into their house while work was being done on Cool Hollow. Naturally we had a bunch of stuff and now two dogs in tow, (big tip of the hat to my parents Rich and Cindy for their continued love and support). This post is going to focus on some of the things that we did for both security measures and for aesthetics to the exterior, and a few small stories of lore and legend that surround the house as we found it out. Sound fun?
I had mentioned before that the house had been robbed and vandalized before we had looked at it, so we realized that could be a possibility for us as well, (even though the area the house is in is very safe).
The first month a top rate security system was installed so we could rest easy at night when we were not there, knowing our home and treasures were safe.
Killing two birds with one stone, we decided on hiring someone to install exterior architectural up lighting on the house for more security and appeal, as well as restore the 130 plus year old massive gas lamp that sat adjacent to the front walk.
It is important to know that withstanding the last owners that the stewards of Cool Hollow had been extremely generous with it. And great care had been taken to plant gardens, put in their own exterior lighting and even irrigation systems. However time had compromised much of this, but the foundations were there. Over the course of about 2 days, the lighting went in, the lamp post was restored, and new electrical was run to accommodate it. We were floored with the result. The house lit up beautifully, and the lamp post glowed once again flooding the front walk with a welcoming glow.
Within a few days of the lights going in (this was the first summer) we started to get neighbors and local people stopping in at random to meet us. One gentleman brought us homemade apple pie moonshine, (that led to a fun night, and even better morning). Some brought homemade jams, others offered their welcome, words of encouragement, offers of help, and even stories of the historic past of the house. My mother Cindy was living at the house full time that first summer to escape the DC heat. She would have stories for us every weekend when we would make it up there about some new person that would stop in. I suppose this is the time when our deep interest in the real history of the house started. There were stories about a headless ghost, lavish parties given by former owners in the decades past. There were tales of the antique Rolls Royce one former owner had. One visitor told us about the Civil war skirmishes and campsites that had happened on the property and surrounding farms, and how the house was opened by the family at that time to the wounded from both the north and the south. This led us to a lot of research and the information that started to come to light was astounding. Cool Hollow was more than just an architectural treasure, it was a historical one as well, and we wouldn’t know the depth of this for more than a year in the future, more on that in another post.
The expansive yard was badly overgrown, ivy vines grew on many of the venerable oak, walnut, and sycamore trees and stone outbuildings. The water views were partially obstructed by overgrown bushes and weeds, the orchard was waist high in grass and debris. Fallen trees littered the lawn, piles of old grass clippings and branches were randomly placed around, taller than a person.
Sunsets across the south lawn, and a bonfire during winter 2016.
Worst of all the gorgeous plantings that were decades, if not nearly a century old had been hastily covered with mulch to appear tidier while the house was for sale. Bringing back the grounds would be a daunting task, but we were ready (manly growl). Our family came up countless weekends with chainsaws, pickup trucks, plenty of late nights, and bonfires. But after months and months, progress was made and one late fall evening as we sat on the knoll overlooking the creek, the sunset shone brightly across the newly cleared lawn, and we were happy.
One very large item which I will not address in this post as I feel it deserves its own partial if not whole post was the discovery of an enormous concrete lined pond, fully equipped with waterfall, and 50 foot stream that fed it, long forgotten and overgrown for decades. I will write about this in an upcoming post. I will also dive into more of the legends as this has been a source of real delight for us and for friends, and family. Owning a “haunted house” is something we never expected, but it’s a lot of fun.