One day, Seilheimer, who is known as Charlie, stopped in Orange, about 90 miles southwest of Washington, to visit friends Rita and Sheldon Clark, who owned Mount Sharon. They were thinking of selling and wanted his advice.
When he returned home to Warrenton, Charlie mentioned to his wife, Mary Lou, that the Clarks were thinking about selling Mount Sharon.
“Mary Lou perked right up,” Charlie said. “She said, ‘You’ve always said they bought one of the most beautiful places in Virginia. What about that for us?’ ”
The next day they drove down to Mount Sharon so Mary Lou could see the property for the first time. After they went through the house, Charlie turned to his wife and asked her what she thought.
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“She said, ‘I think if you don’t buy this place before we leave, you are out of your mind,’ ” Charlie said.
Mount Sharon is on land that was granted in 1726 and 1727 to John and Frances Taliferro. It remained in the Taliferro family until 1935, when Ellsworth and Elizabeth Augustus bought it. A businessman from Cleveland, Ellsworth Augustus was also president of the Boy Scouts of America.
The Augustuses demolished the Second Empire residence on the property and hired a renowned New York architect, Louis Bancel LaFarge, to design the Georgian Revival mansion. It was the pleasing symmetry of the five-part brick house that originally drew the Seilheimers to the property.
“I’m a nut on Georgian architecture,” Charlie said.
The house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is as lovely as it is solidly built. Constructed of steel and masonry, the interior features intimate rooms, arches, ornate millwork, and pegged and quarter-sawn oak floors.
“We’ve been here a long time — it must be almost 25 years — and I don’t walk through this house without thinking what a wonderful house it is,” Mary Lou said.
But the gardens are what make this property stand out. Taking advantage of the second-highest point in Orange County and its panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the 10-acre gardens rival the most exquisite gardens, public or private, in the world.
The Seilheimers extensively researched Italian, French and English garden styles when planning their masterpiece. They hired landscape architect Charles Stick to bring their vision to life.
The terraced garden has a 450-foot “center hall,” formed by boxwoods, that stretches from east to west behind the house. On either side of the hall are “rooms” or separate gardens — the knot garden, the hydrangea garden, the spring garden, the summer garden and the rose garden. Each room is “painted” with a colorful mix of flowering plants.
The gardens also have pergolas, water features such as fountains and ponds, and sculptures from Virginia and