By Carter Blackford Filer
John and Susan Mullenholz of Eagle Point Farm have the kind of house that hugs you when you walk in the front door.
Built on a striking point of land jutting into the Great Wicomico River, its exterior is farmhouse traditional with water views on three sides. The front door opens into architectural charm from its 1920s American Foursquare beginnings. Painted a neutral driftwood color with super white trim, the entry foyer oozes a happy union of restraint and joy with bright photo murals of a string of grandchildren leaping lacy waves and skipping hand-in-hand down sugar sand beaches. The sidewall struts its colorful, coastal stuff with a cherry red console table topped with two finial fish. Clearly, this is a home with its own relaxed style, but it is grounded in fresh sophistication that makes it a must-see when it opens to the public on April 24 for Historic Garden Week in the Northern Neck.
On the day I stopped in, Hooch, the Mullenholzes nine-year old chocolate Lab, trotted out to nuzzle my knee, as if to make sure I knew I was really welcome. He then greeted several members of The Garden Club of the Northern Neck who were also visiting, including sisters Ruth Keyser and Phyllis Gootee. Their father, waterman Clarence Edwards, built the original house, and the sisters grew up here. With radiant river views pouring into the foyer through three sets of French doors in the far room, we stood spellbound as they regaled us with cherished memories of the farm’s earlier days. Their grandmother lived next door, and Edwards ran his business from a dock on the property. On special Sundays, the family welcomed various church congregations for baptisms in their point’s shallow waters.
It was around the mid-1950s when the home changed hands and went out of the Edwards family. Subsequent owners expanded its original footprint with the addition of two wings, and in 1997, the Mullenholzes came into the picture.
Susan picked up the story there:
“Essentially, John and I were looking for a compromise,” she began. “We’d had a sailboat in Annapolis, but we didn’t sail much anymore. With children marrying and grandchildren arriving, I felt it was time to move on in our lives.”
Then, serendipitously, John saw an aerial shot of the farm depicted in a flyer that landed on their doorstep, and he took off to see the place. Next day, he was back for Susan, excited to show her what he had discovered. Soon they had not only bought the farm but also retained award-winning Georgetown architect Stephen Vanze to help create what from the start was a labor of love.
“We asked Steve to help us design a house for grandchildren and dogs,” Susan vividly recalls. As if to underscore her point, we moved into an expansive open dining area next to the foyer, where a custom walnut table—sleek, rectangular, and 14-feet long–encourages family meals. The table is made even more inviting by the addition of twelve dining chairs, each clad simply in button-back half slipcovers the clear blue of Tidewater mornings. Coffered ceilings overhead invite dancing shadows when candles flicker. In daylight, their craftsmanship adds polish, warmth and architectural interest.
As we moved towards what the Mullenholzes call “the river room,” I might have overlooked the hydraulic trap door leading to a tiny cellar in the far corner of the dining area, but to do so would have been to miss one example of meticulous attention to detail and selective use of latest building technologies that are both hallmarks of this special home.
We progressed, and I could see the whole house interior brims with clean lines, soft surfaces and sherbet colors. A cook’s kitchen promises savory repasts while books and binoculars invite simple pleasures. Outdoor porches and a patio create space for friends and family to sit a spell enjoying the fresh salt air. Beside the patio, there is a hot tub and a beautiful infinity pool, which blends seamlessly into shimmering views of the Great Wicomico.
Beyond the main house, undulating brick walkways and footpaths connect it with a garage, barn, and two-story guesthouse. The bunkroom above the guesthouse boasts built-in beds with trundles for floor-to-ceiling toy shelves, an art center, and side-by-side companion sinks in the en suite scaled for grandchildren. The side yard next to the guesthouse is tucked behind a tall green hedge creating a natural enclosure for free play and imaginative fun, where there is also an enchanting castle. An herb garden next to the castle attracts all ages alike and has its own lessons to share.
Later that morning, I ventured a parting glance in my rearview mirror as I reluctantly drove away from the farm. I could see green metal roofs and the castle’s yellow slide receding as I wound my way up the long, curving lane, tires singing through gravel. The way out traces the natural slope of the land, climbing away from the river and bounded by white farmyard fences on the left, understory thickets of bayberries and hollies on the right, and tall, sentinel pines overhead. In the cool, encompassing shadows, I felt as if I were transitioning from one world to another, which indeed I was. That led me to recall Susan’s words when I asked her earlier where she was from.
“I’ve lived everywhere,” she said, “but I like this best.”
Yes, I mused now, turning onto the county road. Exquisite Eagle Point Farm is surely the right place for Hooch and this family to flourish.
IF YOU GO:
On Wednesday, April 24, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., the Garden Club of Virginia and the Garden Club of the Northern Neck invite you to explore Eagle Point Farm, along with four other Northumberland County homes to be open for Historic Garden Week on that day. “Great Wicomico River Vistas” focuses on homes and gardens overlooking the Great Wicomico River.
Tickets for the one-day event may be purchased on Tour day at any of the homes or at the Information Center located at Wicomico Parish Church, 5191 Jessie Ball DuPont Memorial Hwy, Wicomico Church. Children 12 and older are full price; ages six through eleven, half price; and five and under, free. An adult must accompany any child under 17.