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Breathing new life into a Colonial home

by Tom Chillemi

Opportunity sometimes knocks softly.

Bill and Cean Cauthorne were not looking for a home when historic “Providence” in Deltaville came on the market in 1984. They had just bought a home in Richmond, but it took just one look and they were in love with the wide sweeping views of the Piankatank River from the front porch of Providence.

It was an opportunity that was too good to pass up. So a month after moving into their city home, they bought Providence. “It just happened,” said Bill. “We weren’t looking . . . I would have never planned it that way, but we worked it out.”

Providence would be their summer home until 2007 when he closed his law books and retired. The Cauthornes became full-time residents of Deltaville.

Cedar trees line the driveway to Providence, framing the historic house in a vignette. Leaving the cedar canopy and entering the circular driveway, the past and present are revealed.

Well-planned landscaping anchors the old to the new.

The 45-by-18-foot original structure remains the center focal point as one enters the cedar tree lined driveway.

It’s been an extensive process breathing new life into the 1760 brick home. The Cauthornes retained the original building’s integrity, while adding wings to both ends that reflect the colonial style of laying bricks in a Flemish bond. The foot-wide walls of the original home are four bricks thick, while the foundation is five bricks wide. The cellar ceiling is a brick arch, a design that remains strong to this day.

Many of the original window sashes were saved. The hand-blown wavy glass with tiny bubbles is more like delicate crystal than imperfection.

All five original fireplaces were retained, while new fireplaces were built in each wing, with custom ornate mantels.

The stair treads have been dished where thousands of feet have climbed the stairs. The railing is as solid today as it was when craftsmen built it with mortise and tenon joints more than 250 years ago. “It’s like a rock,” said Bill.

History records that a cannon ball from a Yankee gun boat struck Providence, and that two Confederate soldiers found hiding there were executed and buried in the home’s small cemetery, which still stands.
Providence faces south so river sunrises and sunsets can be enjoyed from the front porch. Its southern orientation absorbs the winter sun, while shade trees shield it in summer.

A formal garden landscapes the guest house.

In olden days, houses were built only one room deep to allow cooling breezes to blow through the house. Houses were small, and people didn’t spend much time indoors. They worked from sunrise to sunset and went inside to eat and sleep. There were just two bedrooms in the original Providence.

Closets were rare. In colonial times, houses were taxed according to the number of rooms, and closets were considered rooms. Armoires were small. People didn’t have a lot of clothes.

In the basement, heating ducts are concealed by ornate crown moulding. “We designed some things on the fly,” said Bill.

The cathedral ceilings give a spacious feeling to the large rooms. Large functional beams span the width.

Greeting those who enter through the addition is a mural depicting the Cauthornes’ two daughters on the river bank with the original Providence in the distance.

An outside wall forms one side of the kitchen. The paint was removed from the original bricks, giving the wall a rich red texture.

A small powder room is warmed by a sunset mural.

Brick gutters around the foundation collect rain water.

Cedar shingles shed rain on the roof. A copper roof covers the breezeway to the guest house.

Avid gardners, the Cauthornes have landscaped the grounds extensively. There are even plants that bloom in cold weather.

“It’s a beautiful site,” said Cean, recalling her first impression of Providence nearly 30 years ago. “I envisioned our daughters getting married here.”

And that vision came true. One daughter was married there on August 21, 2010.

And so, added another chapter to a home with a history.

posted 03.20.2013

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