Virginia’s Picturesque Countryside
There are few images in Virginia that immediately convey a feeling of peace to me like old stone walls crisscrossing rolling hills. A mile away from the little village of Aldie, historic Furr Farm is situated right behind one of those old walls, and when you see this farmhouse, I can almost guarantee you’ll feel that peace, too.
The original farmhouse dates back to 1789 with later additions of course being built at different points. I love the not-so-perfectly symmetrical windows. It shows the house’s age and adds so much character you would never find in a newly built home. A little unattached dairy house sits right next to the farmhouse on a beautiful stone foundation that connects to the old stone walls abutting the road in front.
Below, you can see the red barn on Furr Farm nestled among gorgeous mature trees, fields thriving with soybeans, classic black fences, and the Virginia foothills in the distance… and then there’s the unseen: the history that is so prevalent and yet so distant in this quiet area.
Civil War History: the Battle of Aldie
The Battle of Aldie took place on Furr Farm on June 17, 1863. The house was already built at that point, right off the road. Just a few hundred feet from the house is a bend in the road with a stone wall intersecting the fields at the point the road bends. Union troops approached Aldie from the east while Confederate troops came from the west, and skirmishes led the troops up along this road, which is called Snickersville Turnpike. At the bend in the road about one mile outside of Aldie, Confederate cavalrymen took positions behind a stone wall. The stone wall has been untouched:
As the Union cavalrymen passed out of Aldie toward this stone wall, they charged into the direct fire of the Virginians hiding behind it. Wave after wave of Union troops tried unsuccessfully to get around this bend in the Snickersville Turnpike. By the end of the day, the Union troops made five attacks at this turn and the results were horrifying, with the bodies of men and horses covering the fields. The Confederates headed toward the town of Aldie. At the last minute, a regiment from Maine came in to stop them, and began pushing back toward this bend in the road again. The Mainers outnumbered the Virginians, and despite losing their commanding officer, they were eventually successful in pushing forward and conquering the stone wall.
Approximately 400 Union and Confederate troops were either killed or wounded that day. Aldie’s homes became temporary hospitals while doctors and nurses loaded the ambulatory wounded into wagons and transported them to permanent hospitals.
28 years later, 16 survivors from the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry returned to this spot to informally hold a ceremony to dedicate a monument to their fallen friends and comrades. Major Charles Davis, the leader of the ceremony, called the men to the front yard of the Furr House, where they recalled taking one last look over the field toward the stone wall before charging. I truly can’t imagine the horror of such a battle.
Southern Front Porch
Today, the beautifully renovated house perfectly balances its place in history with its role as a functional home in the present time. It is truly the epitome of how a restored Virginia farmhouse should be: elegant, nodding to its surroundings and history, and inviting. The front porch is tastefully simple. I love the dark green painted wood porch floor and its connection to the shade of green in the surrounding boxwoods. Since this farmhouse has two front doors, a beautiful fern welcomes you to the porch in lieu of a front door in the center, which adds to the lush natural feeling.
The ceiling of the porch does not disappoint with a beautiful shade of “haint blue” (see where I’ve blogged about blue porch ceilings here and here). A welcoming porch swing hangs between two octagonal columns. I don’t recall seeing columns like those before in Virginia and I find them utterly charming.
The other side of the front porch offers another seating option. Can’t you just picture guests here enjoying lemonade hundreds of years ago, or even today?
Entering the house through the right exterior door, we come into the hallway. The door is absolutely not straight (see below!). It makes me respect everything this house has been through.
One of my favorite details in old houses is the woodwork around the staircase, and this was a fun example. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pattern like this by the stair risers. Can you imagine how long this kind of craftsmanship must have taken when it was originally built? I also love the beadboard pattern in the wall underneath the stairs.
Formal Living Room
To the right of the hallway is a large, formal living room. When the current owners bought the farmhouse, they had a lot of renovation projects to do. This room, however, didn’t need much; they installed heating and air conditioning, but that was about it.
An unusual detail is the shallow depth of the fireplace in this room. It must have been intentional to reflect heat right back into the room. Usually in fireplaces I get to see from the 1700/1800s, they go back much deeper. The simplicity of the stonework is beautiful, as is the mantlepiece.
Formal Dining Room
To the other side of the hallway is the formal dining room, which also has the other exterior front door going out on the front porch. You would never know it now, but the dining room actually required a lot of intense renovation work when the current owners purchased the house.
The foundation under the dining room wasn’t exactly supporting the floors, so the floors were sagging by over a foot in the middle of the room. New beams had to be installed that hoisted the floors back up to a level position, but that wasn’t easy as the whole house had settled over the years.
The work (and patience) that it must have taken to get the dining room level kind of boggles my mind. The end result, though? Amazing.
Screened In Back Porch
Another option for dining is this lovely screened in porch in the back of the house. The walls and ceiling are painted a simple white, but the floor has been stained green and it feels like an extension of the green yard behind coming in. It is a peaceful, calming spot that is probably my favorite room in the whole house!
I would be remiss if I didn’t share how pretty the downstairs bathroom is. It has a full clawfoot tub in it. The style feels so classic and welcoming.
The kitchen had to be totally redesigned out of what used to be an old back porch. The current owners did a fabulous job with this kitchen. It is humble as is fitting for a farmhouse kitchen, but it is so elegant. I love the countertops they chose combined with the warmth of the wood cabinets.
Of particular interest to me was a door leading from the kitchen to a small sitting room that connects to the dining room. The top half of the door seems like a normal paneled door, but look at the way the shadows bounce off of the bottom. Someone obviously replaned/ repaneled the door at some point. Why would that have happened? The current owners were told the door was used as an operating table following the battle. It’s a subtle reminder that this house is absolutely enmeshed in history, and it’s also not behind a glass case.
Main Upstairs Bedroom
A breathtaking bedroom spans the width of the entire upstairs with windows on both sides of the room.
A hallway at the back of the house connects the bedroom to the other rooms upstairs. I love the slightly different heights in the wood floors. Again– only an old house things– and again– so much character because of it!
I love the way this room is furnished. It feels so classically Virginia. Isn’t this fireplace screen beautiful?
The view from the windows upstairs looking out the front of the house is of a gorgeous pasture with rolling hills in the background. It is contemplative and serene.
A simple bathroom upstairs doesn’t try to compete with the farmhouse aesthetic. I admire the wide floorboards that carry through to this room too.
A sweet sitting area is tucked away upstairs too, complete with a collection of antique dolls and plenty of books to read.
There used to be a wood stove in the middle of the floor here, but the current owners removed it. Don’t you love the way the holes in the floorboards were filled?
Staircase to Third Story
A guest room on the far side of the house holds another bedroom and another bathroom, and also a staircase going up to the third floor attic. My favorite old farmhouse detail (seen on my blog here, here, here, here and here and probably other examples I can’t think of) is the “hidden” staircase going up behind a wall where you can see a step or two before the doorway closing it off. I don’t know why I love seeing these staircases so much. They remind me of my grandparents’ farmhouse I guess– but I just love it when I find these.
Back of House
The back of the house really shines with its classic white siding, black shutters and metal roof. (The current owner actually climbed up on the metal roof and restored it by hand, and wow am I impressed!) The beautiful landscaping surrounding the house heightens the elegance factor.
As with all good old Virginia houses, the boxwoods here are spectacular.
Because Furr Farm is registered with the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register, a lot of rules must be followed about what can and can’t be done in the renovation and restoration work. One of the more interesting outbuildings is this old smokehouse/ meat storage house. Previous owners obviously neglected this outbuilding for years. It is on the verge of falling down, but since it is a historic building, the current owners may not take it down themselves. So it stands today– sure, it’s probably unsafe to get too close to, but it’s interesting. It is not an eyesore by any means.
It may have bullet holes from the Battle of Aldie on the side. (No one knows for sure what caused those little holes in the wood. They are all facing the direction of the bend in the road/ that stone wall, though.)
When the current owners purchased Furr Farm in 2010, renovating the the three barns became one of the first projects they tackled. They followed strict guidance since the barns are historic buildings as well. I love how it all turned out. You can sense the history in these barns, and they seem solid as can be now.
The current owners are avid equestrians (and what farm in Aldie is complete without a few horses anyway?). These historic barns provide a beautiful stables used today.
The little dairy outbuilding right next to the house is a bit unusual in its proximity to the main house. I’m sure we’ll never know exactly why it was built right where it was. Perhaps being close to the road was the priority. In any case, it’s not really used for much today other than visual enjoyment. In the basement you can still see the workings of how it was used for milk storage.
Behind the old dairy outbuilding is a stone well with stone walls on the inside that go 60 feet down. I cannot wrap my head around how someone could have built this well. A stonemason must have had to be to be in that well in order to make those stone walls, and it is 60 feet deep! Did he go from the bottom up? This is also something I’ve never seen before.
Peaceful Country Retreat
This is definitely a farmhouse that makes you lament the fact walls can’t talk. There are so many interesting little puzzle pieces in the details of this property. The overall effect is a totally charming, character-filled retreat that makes you love the quirks even more.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to see this piece of Virginia history in person. To experience the field of the Battle of Aldie and see the stone wall at the curve in the road is a surreal and somber feeling, and I recommend visiting if you’re in this neck of the woods. The current owners of Furr Farm have stewarded this property so well so that it will be around for generations to come. Their attention to detail, compassion for history, and gratitude for the surroundings have truly made this farmhouse’s renovation a thing of beauty.