Sunday, August 14, 2022

Amblers House exterior renovations estimated for completion this fall

The Amblers House in a July 2019 photo. (WYDaily/Courtesy of JCC)
The Amblers House in a July 2019 photo. (WYDaily/Courtesy of JCC)

In a few short months, a historic James City County house will once again stand tall near the banks of the James River, newly refreshed with a coat of paint, a repaired slate roof, new handrails and more.

The Amblers House is still under construction at 2205 Jamestown Road, but the exterior renovations are expected to be completed this fall, said Christopher Johnson, interim director for James City County Economic Development.

July 2019 photos show the Amblers House under construction, including a picture of cherry picker stretched up to the roof of the house.

Restoring the 1852 structure, which was placed on the Virginia Landmarks Register in 2014 and the National Register of Historic Places in 2015, has required crews to take careful steps to make sure history is preserved instead of erased.

According to information provided by James City County Economic Development and given to WYDaily by Chief Civil Engineer for capital projects Shawn Gordon in an email, the Amblers House was bought by the county in 2006.

The home has been unoccupied since the county bought it, but became the subject of renovations after a study in 2016 revealed the exterior had fallen into disrepair. 

The Amblers House in a July 2019 photo. (WYDaily/Courtesy of JCC)
The Amblers House in a July 2019 photo. (WYDaily/Courtesy of JCC)

The slate roof and flashing, brick masonry, windows and glazing, wood rot, gutters, and painting are exterior items in disrepair and identified for restoration,” Gordon added. 

Some other issues included asbestos and lead, according to the James City County website.

Gordon said the exterior renovation will help prevent further water infiltration into the house and ensure the inside does not get damaged or deteriorate.

According to the Amblers House project page, the estimated cost for improvements includes:

  • Stormwater Restoration Improvements- $500,000 estimated
  • Centennial Contractors Enterprises Inc. contract amount- $498,732
  • Additional Project Component expenses- $3,850

History

Gordon said the historic house has also presented some challenges when it comes to preserving history, such as matching the colors and materials to the original structure.

For example, repairing the damaged bricks on the house required finding brick of the same size, texture, and color to those originally laid in 1852 since there were no bricks on site that could be salvaged,” Gordon wrote in an email. “Utilizing a mortar type and color best suited for repointing and repairs led to testing several sand colors to find the closest match.”

All work and materials were approved prior to beginning restoration through a collaboration with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources architectural historian director.

Restoration crews have not only worked to preserve the original features of the house; They have also worked to protect the existing mature landscaping. 

The future

So, once exterior renovations are completed in the fall, what’s next?

The county is currently “exploring future opportunities” for the house, which could include a public-private partnership for an event venue or other facilities. James City County’s Shaping Our Shores Master Plan includes possibilities for the Amblers House, including housing exhibits that interpret history and archaeology being conducted at nearby Jamestown sites.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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