Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Where We Live: Yorktown Village house that’s a perfect fit for history lovers

Sometimes a simple Google search can yield life-changing results.

Larry and Tenley Raithel lived in Northern Virginia with their four children, where they became accustomed to the hustle and bustle of the Washington beltway life, but knew one day they’d want a change of pace.

They just couldn’t decide on the “where.”

With a daughter at the University of Richmond and another at Christopher Newport University, Larry and Tenley passed through the Yorktown area frequently while visiting. Sometimes they would drive by and gaze at the enormous houses for sale on the water and laugh about being able to afford something like that one day.

But something about those homes rang true for the Raithels.

So, they began Googling “homes for sale by the water” — and that’s when they zeroed in on a house for sale in Yorktown Village.

Tenley, a fourth-grade teacher in Northern Virginia, was familiar with Yorktown. She had accompanied her students there on field trips.

While there, she would wonder, “who gets to live in this cute village?”

The couple went to look at the property and fell in love with the area — the water, the homes, the history, all of it.

“We were just enamored,” Larry said.

“I remember seeing a guy jogging through the battlefields, and I thought, who gets to run through the battlefields? I mean, that’s a part of history.”

The first home they set their eyes on didn’t work out; back to Google they went.

This time, a unique opportunity presented itself. The next home they looked at was a 3,000-square-foot home on Church Street, within short walking distance to the York River Beach, the Riverwalk Landing, and smack dab in the heart of the historic village.

It also needed a lot of work.

“It was dilapidated. But that meant we could afford it,” Larry laughed.

Described as a Victorian, the home was built by the Rogers — a prominent family who came to Jamestown in 1690 and then to Yorktown in the early 1700s. Known as entrepreneurs, the Rogers created businesses and established themselves in the area, building their home on Church Street. The current structure, built in 1898, is the third house built on the property.

The home’s location and rich story appealed immediately to the Raithels.

“We saw so much potential in the house, loved the history and wanted to preserve it,” Larry said.

The Raithels also loved the idea of restoring the home to some of its original splendor — at least, as much as they could.

The house was in bad shape when the Raithels bought it. Although it stayed within the Rogers family for years, it was maintained as a normal house and not as a historic one. It was rented out a few times, but it has also sat vacant.

Parts of the house were sagging due to its age, the building practices of the late 1800’s, and structural issues from previous renovations. At one point, builders discovered a main support beam had been severed to make room for plumbing.

A renovation in the 1980s brought Formica, vinyl siding, sliding glass doors and an above-ground pool.

“This house had been through a lot,” Larry said.

The Raithels got to work immediately and hired an architect and builder to lead the renovations. They worked diligently with the historical review board and did everything they could to preserve and re-introduce historical elements to the home, including removing sliding glass doors, putting windows back in their original locations, and reinstalling the original interior doors.

A lot of serious structural foundation and wall work was done as well.

“At one point you could walk through the door and stand on nothing but joists,” Larry said. “All the studs were open. But we were able to save 60 to 70 percent of the original structure and we were happy about that.”

The process, detailed and long, was worth it. The home now is a grand mix of the old and the new and it has a strong story to tell. Larry and Tenley adore their house and all of Yorktown Village. They are happy to share the story of the Rogers house whenever anyone stops by and asks.

And they do, quite often.

Descendants of the Rogers family have even stopped by to see how the property has changed since their ancestors owned it long ago.

“They were so happy that they were able to preserve and recreate some of the history,” said Larry. “And we are too.”

Related Articles