Jon and Sarah Russell saw the old house on Sperryville Pike and fell in love.
The late 1920s house had obviously seen better days, but they could easily picture turning this former business place into a stately manor for their four children and for the community at large.
That’s how Libertas Manor, at 405 Sperryville Pike, came to be. The home, located along Gardner Street and just steps away from Yowell Meadow Park, was purchased by the Russell family for $321,000 on May 23, 2017 and ever since they have been working to make it into an “urban plantation,” as Jon says.
“My wife and I really believe in being charitable and hospitable,” Russell said. “We really wanted a home we could turn into an event venue for ourselves and for the community and friends.”
As part of their 10-year vision for the home, they will be hosting Blues, Bacon and Bourbon at Libertas Manor June 23 from noon to 4 p.m. Tickets are $20 and will feature three of Jon’s favorite things.
It’s just part of their plan to turn their home into a community meeting place – a place where piano lessons and dance lessons take place and another venue for nonprofit organizations to be able to utilize.
Jon points to the massive 2 acres in town and talks about the future – livestock in the one field, the garden already planted in the front, and the orchard going to be planted in the rear.
They’ve already started to open their home to the public – last year hosting a fourth of July celebration and since then hosting ballet classes on Tuesdays and guitar, banjo and mandolin classes on Thursdays.
“What we’re trying to do is to give people who are into the arts – who are entrepreneurs, who want to have their own business – a place to do that,” Russell said. “We don’t charge them rent, we just allow them to use the space. Our children utilize their services as well.
Russell said they named the house Libertas Manor because “we want this to be a place where people feel free to start something new.”
Originally built in 1929, the house was a residence from then until 1949. That’s when the Russells believe there was a fire, because during renovations they found charred beams when they took the drop ceiling down. From about 1950 until 1989, it served as Geist Funeral Home. After the owner sold the business, the home was used as a rental car location, a church and as a cell phone business.
“What we’re trying to do with the house is restore it to a 1920s feel,” Russell said. “The furniture we’re collecting pays tribute to the age of the home.”
Inside, there is more than 5,000 square feet, with the downstairs opening into a large great room that is used for the dance hall. In the corner sits a piano from 1843 that was gifted to them.
The furniture inside is gently used and from that era of the 20s.
“Everything we’re trying to do sustainably and we’re trying to reuse things that are on the property that we find for free,” Russell said. “We’re just trying to do things cost effectively as well as not being wasteful.”
In the corner sits a speakeasy, a nod to the prohibition period when the home was built.
The Russells’ four children scoot from room to room on a hoverboard, one carrying one of the German Shepherd puppies they recently had.
“The kids love it,” Russell said.
The house took a lot of work after purchasing. The Russell family did the demolition themselves and then contractors came in and had to replace the roof and almost all of the drywall. Jon said they used 200 sheets of drywall in the project.
He said the family got a 1-2-3 step loan for rehabbing a house that was just shy of $100,000.
“It still wasn’t enough for everything, so we had to pick up the slack on the backend,” Russell said. “It was well worth it.”
Russell, a big fan and student of the 20s, has done extensive research to return the home to its original glory.
“It was an era that saw huge economic growth for the country and it was the roaring 20s,” he said. “It was a breather in the era of progressivism. It was a coming of age, America’s renaissance if you will. I just tend to look through books, read things, watch movies and how they decorate from the 20s.”
Blues, Bacon and Bourbon
Russell, a Culpeper Town Councilman, said that when he purchased the home he immediately viewed it as a concert venue. For the Blues, Bacon and Bourbon event, bands will be set up on the back porch. He’s hoping it becomes an annual concert.
“Since I’m a big blues fan, we want to be able to start something here,” Russell said.
Bands slated to perform include Remington Steel from Remington, playing blues from the 1920s and 1930s, the Kevin Ball Band performing contemporary blues and just recently announced – The White House Band playing instrumental blues.
The concert is from noon to 4 p.m. and tickets cost $20. They include pulled pork, bacon, coleslaw, baked beans, three different mixed drinks, bourbon and lemonade, bourbon and cola and mint juleps.
Tickets are available at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/blues-bacon-bourbon-libertas-manor-tickets-42037664787?aff=efbeventtix
Jon said they enjoy hearing from the community and the memories they have of the home.
“The most fun thing is when people come here and they used to work here or they had some kind of connection to the building,” Russell said. “We’ve had undertakers come in and say ‘I worked for the guy that owned this place.’”
On the back porch, the family grows its own lettuce and herbs, in pots that Sarah sells.
The whole house is a conversation piece, and one the Russells hope Culpeper will continue to enjoy.
“We’re a real community and one of the things we want to try to do, is that no matter how much we grow we don’t want to lose that identity,” Russell said. “That’s who we are. We’re rural, but we are still able to enjoy some of things of metropolitan living. It’s unique. I really believe in eclectic neighborhoods.”