A stone’s throw from Tappahannock, on Virginia Route 17 in Dunnsville, sits the graceful, gracious Woodland Manor, a Federal-style estate elegantly situated on a leafy knoll surrounded by 200-year-old sycamores, magnolias and boxwoods. Although attributed to the mid-nineteenth century, this handsome five-bay brick home bears many a hallmark of structures built 100 years earlier, circa 1790.Linda Ludeke purchased the home in November 2014 as a venue for weddings, special events and private parties. Born and raised in Richmond, Ms. Ludeke has a passion for historical houses. Woodland Manor features a wide central hallway, a floor plan of two rooms over two rooms with an English basement, along with two chimneys and five fireplaces. Original heart pine wood floors and the original mantelpieces add to its historic significance and charm. With multiple unique ceremony and reception spaces, the estate provides a comfortable, yet refined location for weddings and events, from small and intimate to grander soirees with guest lists up to 200.
The historic provenance of the property is like a meandering country road. Sometime before 1840, the family of John Ferneyhough, Sr., lived at Woodland. Shortly thereafter, Ross A. Cauthorne bought the estate.
From 1847 to 1849, Peter Trible owned the property and conducted a girls’ school there. According to The Richmond Inquirer of August 17, 1847, the course of instruction “embraces those branches of an English education together with the French language and music on the piano. And, if required, instruction as well will be given in the Latin, Spanish and Italian languages…” Boarding, fuel and lights per nine-month session were listed at $70, and music at $35. There was an additional charge of $8 for washing. In 1857, Andrew Hundley bought the property and it was later owned by Robert S. Garnett, and then Charles Bray, before eventually passing to Fred P. Bray. A Bray family cemetery is located on the southern side of the home.
Following her purchase of Woodland Manor, Ms. Ludeke made repairs, improvements and renovations to transform the estate into her dream event setting and to highlight its Southern appeal. She gathered a collection of some of her favorite antiques to decorate the spacious interior. “Woodland certainly met my dream, and at first sight, I knew it was the perfect venue for weddings and parties,” she said. With her daughter Erica Hutchison’s knowledge of the wedding industry and son Brett Ludeke’s photography expertise and marketing background, it was a natural business endeavor for the three, who call themselves the “dream team.” Ms. Hutchison owns Black Creek Flowers & Sweets, a full-service florist in Mechanicsville specializing in weddings. Brett Ludeke is a photographer specializing in engagement and wedding photography with a new studio in Reston.
“My brother and I partner with our mother to offer special package deals,” Ms. Hutchison said. “That’s the selling point. We know the property, and we also know what vendors expect because we have been in the business. We enjoy meeting new vendors and forming new relationships with them. My mom always had a dream of finding an old brick Federal-style house, and when she saw Woodland she immediately called me to come see the house as she saw the potential for an event venue. I think the authenticity of the house is one of my favorite aspects. The house is gorgeous and decorated to a tee, not too stuffy, just perfect. It is very unique and feels like home, but at the same time it is elegant.”
Clients can bring in their own caterers or rental companies without any restrictions. “We love watching folks customize our venue to suit their own personality and vision. Every event is different.”
The house was lovingly restored by Mr. and Mrs. Carroll Barton, who lived there from 1970 to the 80s. In fact, some people refer to the house as “The Barton House.”
When Ms. Ludeke was going through the purchase process, the home inspector could not believe how square the corners of the house are for a house that’s 225 years old. “The major decision was choosing historical colors for the rooms to be painted,” she said. Ms. Ludeke added a built-in bar in the English basement, which has the appeal of an English pub. The English basement was named “Pub 17” because the property is located on VA Route 17, on 17 acres of property, and the house was built in the 1700s. Pub 17 is a perfect location for entertaining, with an adjoining sitting room and a wide-screen television. The Bartons had added an addition on the rear for another bedroom, which Ms. Ludeke has turned into a banquet room that will seat 25 for a sit-down meal.
The outside property has a new pergola near the turnaround driveway, which provides a wonderful opportunity for guests to be greeted. Ms. Ludeke feels the outside property will be a work in progress as she continues to add sites for ceremonies and receptions. She is currently installing a dome archway to the side yard and hopes to build a permanent pavilion for receptions in the near future.