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From ‘money pit’ to Main Street attraction: inside the renovation of historic Bowling Green home

by | Jun 15, 2024 | ALLFFP, Business, Caroline, History

As Aaron Rayford began to peel back the layers of his new purchase at 117 South Main Street in Bowling Green, the Fredericksburg resident and owner of Ironwood Homes recalled the 1986 comedyThe Money Pit.” 

In the movie, a young couple needing a new home buys a country estate at a shockingly low price. Eventually, it’s revealed why it was so cheap. Doors fell off hinges, staircases tumbled, and a bathtub even fell through the floor. 

“This had that written all over it,Rayford said.But it was a labor of love. With the passion we had for this project, we were not going to let anything deter us from finishing.

Rayford’s renovation of the 1700s farmhouse had its share of hiccups, including a water line that collapsed when the job was near completion. 

But after pouring in resources and calling on an area realtor to put on the finishing touches, the project known as The House on Main Street is open and available for rent on Airbnb. 

Several guests have already lodged there, and more than 150 people attended an open house celebration last month to commemorate the reopening of the second-oldest home in Bowling Green. With an original date of 1737, it is only younger than the historic Old Mansion.

Rayford said despite the challenges, renovating the home was a rewarding experience. 

“When I walked in, there were holes in the front foundation, holes in the wall, holes in the roof — not the kind of skylights you want to see — debris, trash,Rayford said.There were holes in the front and back porch. Only the brave would go in there. But it had so much character, I knew there was something special beneath it all.” 

Rayford was formerly the project manager at Ironwood, where his primary focus was renovations. This endeavor allowed him to return to his roots, he said.

While he was pondering whether to buy the home, engineers informed Rayford that despite the way it looked, it wasbuilt to last.Still, some inspectors believed the dwelling was so dilapidated that it should be torn down

“But we had a vision of the finish line,” said Rayford,and a laser focus.” 

The home was on its way to completion when the water line mishap occurred, but with assistance from county public works officials, the project moved forward. The final step was to create the ambiance. 

Rayford received word that Bowling Green native and recording artist Jason Manns and his wife, Krista, had renovated an old bank and turned it into The Heist, a popular music venue and restaurant, a short walk up Main Street. 

The ‘Blue Honeysuckle’ room, one of the bedrooms available to rent.

Rayford hired Krista Manns to decorate the home, which is 2,800 square feet, sits on 1.18 acres and has four bedrooms, 4 ½ bathrooms with eight fireplaces throughout. Each room has a theme and a gas fireplace. 

The home also features new plumbing, a new-to-the property HVAC system, a brand-new kitchen and hardwood flooring. 

“We wanted something modern with a nod to traditional and a little bit of whimsy,Krista Manns said.We wanted each room to be an experience in itself with a focus on comfort.”

Three of the rooms—The Ginger Jar Room, The Blue Honeysuckle Room and The Pink Honeysuckle Room—are $175 per night. The Warrior Room, with medieval decor, is $125 a night. The entire house, which includes a parlor, dining room, kitchen and game room, can be rented for $599 a night.

Manns does not have a design background, but said she just enjoys takingold, ugly buildings and making them beautiful.”

It’s a bonus if it has a leaking roof,she said with a laugh.A lot of [the design] was just throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks and finding an aesthetic that everyone likes at a comfortable price point.”

Manns traveled to estate sales to discover gems that would increase the attractiveness of the home. She often found herself sewing and completing other tasks on site to move the project along.

Her family owns other properties in town, and she said the home is a boon to local tourism. She said she now can refer visitors toThe House on Main Streetinstead of telling them to lodge in hotels 20 to 30 minutes north or south of town.

It’s been years since there has been any type of bed and breakfast on Main Street,she said.This is something where you can have that Main Street experience, just that small town where you can walk, shop and enjoy local food, kind of like that Mayberry feel.”

Rayford said part of his inspiration came from touring The Historic Cavalier Hotel in Virginia Beach. Initially, he planned to sell the home but became too attached to let go of it during the renovation process. He said his long-term vision is marketing the home as a place where guests can escapethe hustle and bustle of day-to-day lifeand relax.

“I want my guests to know that when they walk up Main Street, people are friendly,Rayford said.You can walk to The Heist, Gibson’s Ice Cream, The Mix House [for coffee], local restaurants and other family-owned businesses. They can relive what life was like when it wasn’t at such a fast pace.”

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