- Perhaps it is the mature plantings of magnolia, boxwood and heirloom perennials or great drifts of daffodils that have grown with them through the ages.
- Or could it be the proportion and scale of old windows or the wavy look of old glass that has endured the test of time, allowing us to see the outside world as our fore-bearers saw it through the same glass?
- Is it the look and feel of Flemish bond brick work, glazed headers or the attention to interior and exterior architectural details that we most admire?
I think perhaps it is a combination of all these things, whether we know it or not, that inspires us to take note of these special places among us. In a word it is the “character” of a place that causes us to take note of it and regard it as unforgettable.
Fortunately for all of us there are those rare individuals who through passionate conviction and the love of older properties, preserve and maintain them. This benefits us all by preserving our architectural and collective history. It is equally fortunate that there are companies that exist to assist the historic and fine homeowner in their quest for historically accurate renovation and restoration work.
Box and Company is a full service general contracting company specializing in all aspects of quality construction, particularly historic preservation and the historically compatible modernization of these special places. As a company, they are adept at handling and overcoming the challenges these unique homes sometimes face. They pro-actively partner with specialists, knowledgeable trades people, historic artisans and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, when necessary. Their over-arching goal is to come up with viable solutions that protect the historic integrity of a property and at the same time consider the needs of the homeowner.
Ironically, life changing events, personal experiences and the desire to help others has often resulted in career choices that either evolved or happened by chance. They are often the best choices in the long run, and so it is with the life experience of Walker Box of Brooke’s Bank and the professional construction and historic restoration expertise of Rick Gillespie.
The intriguing combination of these two individuals has produced a dynamic team that recognizes the intrinsic needs of the historic homeowner, yet knows what is required to practically get the job done well.
Today, after eight years, the business has evolved into a thriving partnership that includes four full time employees and an assemblage of resources and experts in their respective fields, to assist them whenever needed. Truly, Box and Company has been successful at marrying the classic techniques of old with innovative and practical solutions for today’s historic homeowner.
“We enjoy historical work because of the character of each unique home. It gives us a good feeling when we stand back after repairing stress fractures or restoring a home and the homeowner can’t tell the restoration from the original. It is so rewarding to us personally! We are busy as a result of referrals and repeat business, which is a sign that we are headed in the right direction.” – Rick Gillespie.
They do what they love and it shows through the quality of their workmanship and the quality of their referrals.
The Brooke’s Bank Connection
Having grown up in Coastal South Carolina and possessing an affinity for historic homes, George Walker Box was interested in finding and restoring a waterfront historic property in Tidewater Virginia. A good friend, Gordon Lohr, came across Brooke’s Bank and knew it was exactly what Mr. Box was looking for. “Gordon introduced me to Brooke’s Bank and the rest is history.”
Brooke’s Bank circa 1751, has been restored to her former glory in every detail and is the home base for Box and Company. She is an enduring testament to the legacy of her original builder, Sarah Taliaferro Brooke (who was a dynamic and exceptional woman), and the partnership formed between her current steward/owner and those who worked so diligently to restore her.
Business Partner, Rick Gillespie was instrumental in re-pointing the exquisite brick work at Brooke’s Bank, which is one of her most original and intriguing features. Her exquisite and intricate neo-classical architectural moldings, dating from the Federal Period, were also brought back to life and out of hiding! The delicate lattice work and Greek key motifs that had been hand carved so long ago, by the original artisans, were made visible again and restored to their original state. Layer by layer heavy paint that had been applied in years past was painstakingly removed, revealing architectural treasures that are a feast for the eyes! Today this and so much more can be seen, once again, at Brooke’s Bank.
Indeed Sarah Taliaferro Brooke’s vision has been brought back to life while updating this exceptional house with modern amenities. The addition of two historically correct wings, a gourmet kitchen recognized by House Beautiful Magazine and exquisite gardens surrounding the manor house are all befitting her.
Sarah Taliaferro Brooke, for whom Brooke’s Bank was built, must have been an amazing woman of strength and conviction in a time when it was not always popular to be so. Recently widowed, she was determined to pick up the pieces of her life after the death of her husband in 1735. As a result she also took charge of his affairs, following his death in a naval battle. The land upon which Brooke’s Bank now sits was granted to Sarah in 1751 by King George II, in recognition of her late husband’s service to the Crown. A very capable and “hands on kind of gal,” she personally supervised the construction of the manor house and made her home at Brookes Bank with her son and daughter.
I am convinced that her grief was so great, her industrious nature so limitless that she set about all of this in an effort to endure her loss and re-invent herself in the process. Look what beauty and enduring legacy rose from those ashes! In addition to building her beloved Brooke’s Bank, Sarah was a working mother, business woman, plantation owner and a ferry operator in antebellum Essex County! The remains of the old ferry road are still evident at Brooke’s Bank after all these years. Her ferry connected Essex County with Leedstown, which lies across the Rappahannock River, in Westmoreland County. She was clearly an innovator and a natural born leader.
Surely Sarah Taliaferro Brooke is a role model to us today and certainly must have been during her lifetime as well. Her attention to detail cannot possibly be missed! Sarah Taliaferro Brooke would undoubtedly have some great advice to share with us all about life and continuance. Surely, she still speaks to us today through her beloved home, which has been so well preserved and protected for future generations.
The Evolution of Box and Company
Ironically, it was during the restoration of Brooke’s Bank that Walker Box and Rick Gillespie developed a mutual respect for one another that, unbeknown to either one of them at the time, would result in a successful partnership years later.
Box and Company was initially formed by Mr. Box with the desire to assist other historic homeowners with their renovation, restoration and addition projects — utilizing what he learned, as a hands-on homeowner, during the entire process at Brooke’s Bank.
Rick Gillespie brings his vast expertise, a “can do” attitude and unique problem solving to the table through an accomplished career in historic masonry and all aspects of general construction. He is adept at dealing with the unusual challenges that historic renovations and restorations present.
Some of Box and Company’s projects to date include, but are not limited to, past and ongoing work at Elmwood, Sabine Hall, Enon Baptist Church, the old barn at Port Micou, Santee, Vauter’s Church, St. John’s Church and other types of construction throughout the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck areas.
Prior to his contributions at Brooke’s Bank, Gillespie was a contributor to work done at Eyre Hall (Eastern Shore), Edith Wharton’s The Mount, The Virginia Governor’s Mansion, Rising Sun Tavern, Stratford Hall Plantation and Kenmore.
Recent Box and Company Highlights
“Continually working with great professionals has been so helpful to what we do.” A case in point would be the ongoing work that Box and Company currently has going on at Elmwood, north of Loretto, in Essex County.
Elmwood is on the National Register of Historic Places and is still home to successive generations of the Garnett family of Essex County. Her design is attributed to the notable John Ariss who designed several other great houses of the period between 1750 and 1799.
Box and Company has undertaken an extensive restoration of the old window casings and the internal workings of the original windows. The storm windows have also been removed. Box and Company has developed a process and a partial replacement window that preserves and re-installs the original window casings, sash and the original mullions, while utilizing modern energy efficient glass technology.
The resulting hybrid window was approved by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and is currently being installed at Elmwood. Eventually all of the windows at Elmwood will be fully restored and replaced, with the installation of double pane energy efficient glass. New lead weights cast in Canada and ropes will also be installed and fully operational.
The Garnett’s already report a reduction in their electric bill which they attribute to the installation of the new windows. This is the type of cutting edge problem solving and pro-active historic restoration and renovation that Box and Company is known for.
In closing, Walker Box and Rick Gillespie of Box and Company “walk the walk.” They are passionate about historic preservation and practical living in today’s world. They are contractors with the understanding of what a historic homeowner’s needs are and how a successful project should look from start to finish.
They would be delighted to talk with you about how Box and Company might be of service to you on your upcoming historic renovation, restoration or home addition. Please feel free to contact them at 804-443-0800 (office) or 804-445-6211 (Rick's cell).
Thank you to Walker and Rick for their time and good company. It was a pleasure to write this article about Box and Company, whose work I have observed and marveled at through the years.