Photos courtesy of Todd Wright

Timing is everything.

The nearly two-year renovation and restoration of UVA’s Carr’s Hill, the Charlottesville home of the president of the University of Virginia, required careful planning and execution, from start to finish. First, there was finding the right time to begin, as few university presidents want to be aligned with expensive residence repairs. Once work got underway, those involved – including a painting team from H.J. Holtz & Son – had to fashion a careful choreography so they could complete interrelated tasks without stepping on each other’s toes.

“It was a monster job,” says Luis Alas, who served as the onsite Holtz team manager. “There were lots of inspections, from the architects to the university. It was really different from working in a regular home, with just a contractor and a client.”

The project began in earnest in late summer 2018, in the transition between outgoing President Teresa A. Sullivan and incoming President James E. Ryan. Carr’s Hill, whose upper floors are private and held for the use of the president and his or her family, hosts thousands of guests on the main level every year through a broad mix of events, including receptions and musical performances. The home was also open for student support in the wake of the Nov. 12 shootings on Grounds (UVa’s term for its campus).

Completed in 1909, the home had not had a significant renovation in roughly 60 years, and it showed, says Allan Pettit, partner with Alexander Nicholson, the Charlottesville building firm managing the project. “There were structural, mechanical, and electrical issues,” he says. “The front and back of the building were separating, the roof needed work … the house needed a lot of repair.”

Pettit says H.J. Holtz & Son painting services were recommended based on the company’s experience with working in older properties.

“A big and difficult undertaking was the stripping of the interior millwork,” Pettit says, noting that much of the original detail had been obscured over the years under layers of paint. “The stripping was one thing Rick and his guys were really talented with. They were delicate and careful; they knew what they were doing.”

Alas says that in many respects, working inside Carr’s Hill was similar to working on historic homes in Richmond. “It’s comparable to a house on Monument Avenue, with tall ceilings and big mouldings,” he says. “We found plenty of damage to the plaster once we sanded and prepped; then their in-house plasterers and mud guys came in to make repairs before we painted.”

With so many trades working simultaneously in one space, to meet the project deadline, the Holtz team got creative. “Luis was instrumental in getting the job done,” Pettit says. “The team came in on weekends and worked off-hours to facilitate the schedule. They were active and willing participants in the project.”

President Ryan and his family moved into the renovated home in early January 2020. On his Instagram, the president posted that he hopes Carr’s Hill will continue to be “a home for the community to enjoy.”

Carr’s Hill will be open Monday, April 17, as part of the Garden Club of Virginia’s 2023 Historic Garden Week. For more information, visit vagardenweek.org.

Special thanks to photographer Todd Wright for sharing his images of Carr’s Hill



Laura Strickler admits that she enjoys being a do-it-yourselfer.

“I’m confident in my own decorating skills, and I like to paint,” she says. “But I knew I couldn’t do all this.”

“All this” refers to the improvements Strickler wanted to complete before April 26, 2022, when her house will be open to the public during Garden Club of Virginia’s Historic Garden Week. The Rothesay Circle tour is on Tuesday, April 26th.

Strickler says her needs were varied: a refresh on interior walls, repainted kitchen cabinets, and a full exterior paint job – plus accumulated carpentry fixes. Because she had worked with H.J. Holtz & Son on a smaller job years ago, she felt comfortable calling the company again.

“I knew they would do an awesome job,” she says. “I have used a lot of people in the past to do a lot of different things, but I knew Rick [Holtz, company president] could handle something of this magnitude in the timeframe we had.”

A decade ago, Strickler and her husband were ready to leave Richmond’s Fan district but didn’t want to go too far afield. They found a brick Georgian home on Rothesay Circle, tucked behind Windsor Farms and City Stadium. “It’s a big old house in a great spot,” she says.

Over the years, she’s managed smaller tasks herself, though she did bring in the H.J. Holtz & Son team to repair and repaint some plaster. “They did a great job,” she says.”

For this year’s Historic Garden Week, Strickler brought the Holtz team in again for a broader array of tasks: repainting the kitchen and its cabinets, the dining room, the front hallway, and an imposing stairway, as well as exterior painting. “It’s a house with not as much walls as there are windows and moldings and casements,” she says. “There’s a lot of fine detail work.”

Strickler had also noticed the company’s expanding carpentry services division and was thrilled to hand over items that had been languishing on her “to-do” list. “While I didn’t have anything exciting and new, like paneling, I had a laundry list of stuff that had been building up over the years,” she says. Those tasks included replacing several doors dating to the 1930s and fixing plinths of two-story columns at the rear of the house. “[Carpentry division manager] Jeff Nonnemacker facilitated all those tiny projects that have added up to one big carpentry project,” she says. “They’ve done great work.”

While there have been many moving parts, Strickler says work has gone smoothly.

“It’s been nice and seamless,” she says. “They’ve been popping in and out. When they finish a door, I know guys will come to paint it. I don’t have to coordinate six people, and I know they will do a good job.”

Strickler admits the company’s reputation for being more expensive than some other painting companies gave her pause before that first job, years ago. But after she saw the quality of the work the team provided then, she realized the cost reflected the quality of the work and after-care that Holtz & Son offers.

“It’s great to know that down the road, when my shutters look grumpy and my cabinets are scuffed up, I can call H.J. Holtz & Son,” she says. “It’s really nice to have confidence in a solid, respected company that will stand behind the work they do.”

H.J. Holtz & Son also provided Garden Week prep services at 4801 Pocahontas Ave., painting both the exterior and interior spaces. Garden Week ticket holders will be able to visit this home during the Olde Locke Lane and Westmoreland Place tour on Thursday, April 28.



Nestled just steps away from Historic St. John’s Church on Church Hill lies a community garden that looks and feels historic … but isn’t. St. John’s Mews occupies what would have been a carriage path that bisects a residential block bordered by East Broad and Grace streets in one direction and 23rd and 24th streets in the other.

This year’s Historic Garden Week tours, presented by Garden Club of Virginia, was to have included homes in Church Hill – and the Mews. The week has been canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, but the painting that H.J. Holtz & Son did to freshen the space, which took place weeks ago, is still on display.

In 1956, the Historic Richmond Foundation (now Historic Richmond), launched a project to save historic Church Hill homes. During that effort, yardage was taken from the rear of the Broad Street properties on one block to allow for the creation of a community garden.

Seeking a formal and appropriate plan, Historic Richmond approached the Garden Club of Virginia for assistance in 1964, and landscape architect Ralph Griswold was hired. His design, inspired by Richmond’s Victorian ornamental cast-iron work and the conventions of 19th century gardens, included plantings as well as cast-iron used in a variety of ways: as railings, benches, planters, and a brick-and-iron pavilion, perfect for respite on a hot summer day.

“This was truly a reimagination of a garden that would have been appropriate to the location,” says Danielle Worthing Porter, HR’s director of preservation.

Maintenance of the Mews is managed by Historic Richmond, with regular pruning, trimming and occasional plant replacement, Porter says. A significant restoration was last undertaken in 2009. Some attention was needed in anticipation of this year’s garden week.

H.J. Holtz & Son had worked with Historic Richmond in the past, and won this job in a three-bid process.

“We were really impressed with the work [Holtz] did at Congregation Beth Ahabah,” Porter says, and says past experiences with the company have always been “professional and pleasant.”

“We definitely reach out for any project,” she adds.

This job included prepping and repainting four iron pots, the door and trim on a storage shed, and the soffit, trim, ceiling, and railings in the pavilion. The color, which may surprise visitors, is Black Forest Green, Porter says.

“Ironwork typically looks black over time, but it’s not really black,” she says. “This is slightly more green than people may remember.”

Porter says Historic Richmond trusts H.J. Holtz & Son to handle the myriad issues that come into play in the Mews.

“It’s about how you treat the building, how you prep the space, what type of paint is used, all of it,” Porter says. “There’s also a fine balance between how much you paint something. You want to protect it from rust, but you don’t want so much paint that you cover details.

“H.J. Holtz & Son really lives up to their reputation,” she adds.