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