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Feature Story: Answered Prayers 

A Goochland couple rescues two houses and creates holiday

The two-story former tavern with an English basement was hurting. The back brick wall bowed outward precariously, leaving the floor joists in one place floating in thin air. There was stench from a dead skunk.

"It was wretched," Dan says. Nevertheless, he was hooked.

When she realized that her husband was serious about acquiring the place, Mary said a little prayer: "Dear Lord, please don't let us take this on." She repeated the plea frequently over the next few weeks.

But the blocky house with a corbeled brick entablature and an evocatively sagging wooden barn out back had been praying longer: "Dear Lord, send someone who appreciates us and will take us on."

The Bootons decided to take the plunge. When they drove Dan's mother, Mary Daniel Foulkes (who lives in Lexington), out to take a look, she was shocked. "'You're kidding. You're kidding,' she kept saying," Mary recalls. "But then she started to see it. She's a visionary, too. And I knew Dan could do it. He had a track record."

Dan had revamped the couple's Cape Cod in western Henrico County's Beverly Hills subdivision so that it popped visually among nearby houses. "We were the envy of the neighborhood," Mary says. "So when they heard we were moving, they asked, 'What's wrong with this?'"

Dan, who had studied mechanical engineering in college and is a professional artist, sculptor and pewter-smith, knew his way around a drawing board. He went to work devising plans.



Gum Spring Tavern, built in 1790, had been expanded in the early 1800s and was occupied for almost 200 years by a succession of resident owners. Despite its condition when the Bootons bought the place, it possessed a number of grace notes. The basement was dry. The floors were solid (so what if they were suspended in midair in places?). The exterior brickwork was in good shape. And a previous owner, recognizing the inherent dignity of the place, had run the power lines underground.

But what about the seriously bowed rear wall?

Dan, working with a Chesterfield County-based carpenter, Ralph Adams, removed the outer layer of old bricks from the exterior and ran two cables through the wall to pull it back plumb. "We were both positive we were both going to die," Dan says. "But the wall came right back into place and stopped."

On the tavern's interior, because plaster originally had been applied directly onto the 1-foot-thick brick walls, Dan replastered some walls and left others exposed.

Meanwhile, something the Bootons hadn't foreseen was that their Beverly Hills home, which they'd put up for sale, would go so quickly. Homeless, they moved in temporarily with Mary's sister.

hile driving in Goochland County on a November afternoon in 1993, Mary and Daniel Booton spotted a dilapidated but enticing late-18th-century dwelling in Gum Spring on Route 250.

A few weeks later they investigated further. "It was cold," Mary recalls. "Everything was icily glazed; the front steps had collapsed. So we found an old doghouse, turned it over, crawled up onto the porch and got in that way."

The two-story former tavern with an English basement was hurting. The back brick wall bowed outward precariously, leaving the floor joists in one place floating in thin air. There was stench from a dead skunk.

"It was wretched," Dan says. Nevertheless, he was hooked.

When she realized that her husband was serious about acquiring the place, Mary said a little prayer: "Dear Lord, please don't let us take this on." She repeated the plea frequently over the next few weeks.

But the blocky house with a corbeled brick entablature and an evocatively sagging wooden barn out back had been praying longer: "Dear Lord, send someone who appreciates us and will take us on."

The Bootons decided to take the plunge. When they drove Dan's mother, Mary Daniel Foulkes (who lives in Lexington), out to take a look, she was shocked. "'You're kidding. You're kidding,' she kept saying," Mary recalls. "But then she started to see it. She's a visionary, too. And I knew Dan could do it. He had a track record."

Dan had revamped the couple's Cape Cod in western Henrico County's Beverly Hills subdivision so that it popped visually among nearby houses. "We were the envy of the neighborhood," Mary says. "So when they heard we were moving, they asked, 'What's wrong with this?'"

Dan, who had studied mechanical engineering in college and is a professional artist, sculptor and pewter-smith, knew his way around a drawing board. He went to work devising plans.



Gum Spring Tavern, built in 1790, had been expanded in the early 1800s and was occupied for almost 200 years by a succession of resident owners. Despite its condition when the Bootons bought the place, it possessed a number of grace notes. The basement was dry. The floors were solid (so what if they were suspended in midair in places?). The exterior brickwork was in good shape. And a previous owner, recognizing the inherent dignity of the place, had run the power lines underground.

But what about the seriously bowed rear wall?

Dan, working with a Chesterfield County-based carpenter, Ralph Adams, removed the outer layer of old bricks from the exterior and ran two cables through the wall to pull it back plumb. "We were both positive we were both going to die," Dan says. "But the wall came right back into place and stopped."

On the tavern's interior, because plaster originally had been applied directly onto the 1-foot-thick brick walls, Dan replastered some walls and left others exposed.

Meanwhile, something the Bootons hadn't foreseen was that their Beverly Hills home, which they'd put up for sale, would go so quickly. Homeless, they moved in temporarily with Mary's sister.

Dan would have happily camped out on the restoration site, but his wife held the line. "Mary told me she wouldn't move in until she had four things: windows, hot and cold running water, toilets that flushed and a bed to sleep in."

He told her the house would be finished by July 1994. And it was. A picnic for his mother's 80th birthday celebrated the occasion.

Later, when Dan was giving a former resident of the old house a tour of the transformation, the old gentleman got teary-eyed: "I was born here and thought it was gone," he said.



Another thing the Bootons didn't foresee was that restoration of Gum Spring Tavern would set the stage for an even more ambitious reclamation project.

In 1994, just as the Bootons were sealing the deal on their Goochland purchase, Dan became aware that his family's former farm near Chester, where he and his seven half-brothers and sisters had grown up, was slated for demolition to make way for a new residential development.

Dan's parents had bought the place in 1948, a late-17th-century house buried within a major 19th-century addition. They'd given it an overhaul the following year, … la "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House," the 1948 Cary Grant film classic. It had five bedrooms and five bathrooms.

Inexplicably, Dan says, the farm had been called "The Oaks," although there were two huge 300-year-old elm trees in the yard. His parents renamed the 400-acre place Long Meadow Farm in honor of other ancestral farms by the same name, including farms in Orange and Page counties.

Dan's father bred and raced horses, and had winners, including two grandsons of Secretariat. There were 200 head of cattle as well as pigs, goats and ducks. "The five boys, we were the workforce," Dan says. "I grew up playing in the woods by myself, completely free to do what I wanted. I learned to take care of myself."

In 1983, three years after John Booton's death, all the birds had flown the nest, and Dan's mother sold Long Meadow.

"It was so full of memories, all of us thought it was ludicrous that it was going to be lost for some plastic houses," Dan says. When he inquired about the house, the developer said that if he could move it, he could have it.

That's all Dan needed to hear.

On Jan. 1, 1994, during an ice storm, Dan began to dismantle the place, board by board, from the roof down. Mary and her two sons from a previous marriage, Bruce and Alex Schaub, joined in whenever possible.

With carpenter Ralph Adams working in Goochland on the Gum Spring renovation, Dan drove to Chester each day to dismantle Long Meadow. "I would start mornings at 7:30 in the dark and work until dark," he says. "I weighed 195 pounds when I started and 155 pounds when it was finished."

Dismantling the place "was like ripping your heart out," Dan says. "I would pull out a wall and old pieces of paper, letters, receipts would fall out."

It took three huge trucks to haul the dismantled building out to Gum Spring Tavern, where the planks, floorboards and bricks from the former family farmhouse were piled under tarpaulin.



With Long Meadow house now in Gum Spring, in August 1994 the Bootons broke ground for its reconstruction.

Dan decided to re-erect the frame T-shaped building as a south extension of the brick tavern. He was partially inspired by the H-shaped floor plan of one of Goochland's — and indeed Virginia's — most historic homes, Tuck-

ahoe. The exterior of the former childhood home of Thomas Jefferson also combines brick and clapboard walls.

Dan designated the hyphen, or connecting room (which had been the downstairs master bedroom at Long Meadow) as the new living room. He also put the dining room, den and open stair hall in the "new" wing.

The first floor of the Gum Spring Tavern side of the house includes a large, comfortable kitchen. In the adjacent music room, Mary can play the Baldwin grand piano. More curious is a 19th-century entry melodeon, a small keyboard organ. Scores of antiques, old books, photographs and prints give the room the feel of a casual history museum. There are five bedrooms and a library upstairs. In a bow to modernity, Dan placed a garage under the hyphen.

Where the marriage of the two buildings appears seamless, there are clues that help each maintain a distinctive identity. The main floor of Gum Springs Tavern is a step lower than the Long Meadow addition. And whereas the Gum Spring Tavern wing has brick and plaster walls, the Long Meadow rooms are paneled with broad, vertical planks — from wooden sheathing that had once supported the old roof. Dan and contractor Ralph Adams removed the nails, planed the boards and applied a subtle finish.

The walls exude tremendous warmth. And the rooms are made even warmer by numerous photographs of Mary's and Dan's families, and artwork from a number of generations. An impressive collection of Wedgwood china that belonged to Mary's mother fills various display spaces in the dining room. Its long table can be expanded to seat 14. From his perch above the mantel, a portrait of Ambrose Calhoun Booton overlooks the proceedings. "He was an old-school Baptist who took the family from Orange County to Page County," Dan says. "According to family legend the portrait was painted by a veteran of the War of 1812 who had lost his arms in the war. He painted it with his feet." Regardless, "He really did capture the main characteristics of the family," Dan says.



The grounds around the newly configured, H-shaped house were bleak when the Bootons completed their construction. Their landscape goal apparently was to make the place look casually rural and decidedly unfussy. They have planted some 100 trees and 100 shrubs. "But you wouldn't know it," Dan says. They erected a white rail fence along the road and established a new driveway.

One gesture to formality is a brick sidewalk that leads from the living room's front door to the driveway. Mary and Dan collaborated on laying the bricks, and despite all they had been through, "This is where the marriage almost ended," Dan says. "It was August, we were tired and each of us kept criticizing the other's work. We drove each other crazy." Still, they survived.

They lined the walkway with American boxwoods. Fourteen slower-growing English boxwoods that flourish along the house were a gift of Nancy White Thomas, a prominent Richmonder who probably doesn't mind giving her age. She will be 101 in February and has been a longtime mentor to Dan. Although the shrubs had been planted in Thomas' garden in Ginter Park and were replanted many years later when she moved to Windsor Farms, they've done well at Gum Spring. "The soil is so good up here," Dan says, "you stick something in the ground and it just grows."

Dan, who has his studio and workshop in a barn behind the house, says his next project will involve reworking the porches on the north and south sides of house.

In 1995, with Gum Spring Tavern restored and the family home rebuilt in the Goochland countryside, Dan got a call from his brother who was living in Marietta, Ga.

"Can I come home for Christmas?" he asked.

Could he ever! And so could the rest of the clan, as they've done for every Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season for a decade now.

When the extended Bootons have gathered in the new old Long Meadow house, certainly someone has said a little prayer (if only silently) giving thanks for the youngest child and his wife, who loved the family farm so much that they rescued its centerpiece.

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