Restoration reveals original features at Mountain Green

Alex and Ashleigh Sharp open Mountain Green, one of the county's oldest houses in the county, to participants in the Dried Flower Sale and House Tour Oct. 16-17.

This is the third of three features on the houses you can visit during the 54th annual Trinity Episcopal Church Dried Flower Sale and House Tour, this year on Oct. 16-17. The houses will be open for visitors 11 to 5 Saturday and 1 to 5 Sunday; you can browse and buy flower arrangements at the Parish Hall those same hours. Tea will be served both days, from 2 to 5, at Washington’s Middleton Inn.

Tickets ($30 to see all three houses on the tour, including tea; $10 for a single home) are available at the Parish Hall, 379 Gay St., and at each house. For information, call 540-937-4279.

Just outside Washington, up Harris Hollow, Alex and Ashleigh Cannon Sharp are proud to open Mountain Green for its third appearance on the house tour. Previous showings were in 1975 and 1993, when George and Sally Sharp, Alex’s parents, were the owners. Extensive repairs and upgrading are in process now, bringing the Revolutionary War back stone section, circa 1780, and the brick front section, 1860, in the Greek Revival style, up to 21st century standards, but making sure that the look and spirit of the home remains true to its history.

The main focus of the work is to preserve and expose the historical structure of the house, whether it be stone, brick, or plaster and lath. On the exterior, brick and stone are being repointed, the two front columns have been repaired, and Ashleigh has overseen the installation of new gardens. Inside, the plaster walls have been restored, stone exposed, and the rooms newly painted to showcase the pictures, furniture and mementos of the long history of the house and its occupants. Mountain Green is one of the oldest houses in the county, and yet only three families have owned it: the Millers, for 161 years, the Cheathams, and the Sharps, since the 1960s. “I’ve always felt,” says Alex Sharp, “that this farm has everything — mountains, hills, ponds, river, pasture — every aspect of a beautiful landscape, with the house as the center of it all.”

A reading nook — and plenty to read — beckons in the Sharp family library. Photo by Liz Oliver.

The foyer of the house is a glassed-in double porch set between two wings. The Cheatham family enclosed the porch, and now it serves as a gracious foyer of the home. The light flooding through the many windows shows off the many pictures, etchings and artwork, and reflects off the original wide plank wood floor. An Empire- style table in one corner is the showcase for family portraits of several generations. The formal staircase was the traditional wedding entrance of all the girls in the Miller families, who descended the long stairs to be married on the porch, winter or summer.

To the right is the formal parlor, and to the left is the library. Both have the original 1850s fireplaces, mantels, floors and mahogany doors. (All the fireplaces in the house are original.) In the parlor, old family pieces of china and silver are displayed in a pair of built-in china cabinets, which flank the fireplace. A writing desk belonging to Ashleigh’s grandmother, Ruby Cannon, joins countless other antiques. An old Japanese tansu, a storage chest, is a memento of the Sharp family’s time in Japan when Alex was growing up.
The library, with a naval theme, contains mementos of the long naval history of the Sharp family, such as swords, awards, and related books. Over the fireplace in this room is a portrait of Alex’s great-grandfather, Alexander Sharp V.

The window from the Sharp dining room into solarium gives a good idea of the original exterior wall thickness. Photo by Liz Oliver.

The kitchen was originally a porch, and its transformation is not yet complete. The original fieldstone walls, 22 inches thick, have just been exposed from under the plaster that covered them for many years. This exposure of the original stone has also just been completed in the family room. When one sees the stone walls and the new pointing, it is hard to think of their past, laying in neighboring fields some 230 years ago, just rocks ready to damage the plows and injure the horses.

Upstairs, the solarium and two bedrooms are open to visitors. The view from there is a typical Rappahannock view of rolling hills, pastures, and green lawns. The guest bedroom contains a bed given to the Sharp family by Mrs. U.S. Grant in the 1880s. Twin beds from the Alex’s father are covered with original old quilts made by family grandmothers and great-grandmothers.

Throughout its long history, Mountain Green (circa 1784) has been a self-contained working farm, as the many outbuildings will attest. There is a stone meat house, a brick school house, a tool barn and a brick cottage by the pond. Once, the chestnut trees were used for tanbark, and then mules for the cavalry were raised on the property. Today, cattle graze in the fields, and apple trees abound.

Mountain Green is a county treasure, cherished by all those who recognize the strengths of our past, as well as those who dedicate their futures to preserving it.

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