Ed. — This story originally ran in print on Dec. 21, 2018.
BY VENI FIELDS
BACK BAY — In September, two men stood in the grassy back yard of 1173 Princess Anne Road, pondering something of an inadvertent local legend. They talked about dreams. One of the men had started building a dream house 30 years earlier but never competed it. The other, Bryan Hietpas, was about to take over where the work had been left off.
As they negotiated a selling price just under $200,000, the men viewed boarded windows, sealed doors, and a gaping hole in the back porch roof, where a cascade of bricks smashed through when vandals dislodged them from a second-floor wall. Inside, leaf-covered floors were too decayed to walk on. A spray-painted purple mushroom bloomed on the façade of an upstairs fireplace where intruders’ fires clearly burned.
“It was difficult,” said Hietpas, owner/operator of Virginia Coastal Homes and Remodeling, Inc., a custom homebuilder who purchased the property in October. “It is really sad. But I’m happy to be able to bring it back and make it something that a family will be able to enjoy.”
On an acre of land in front of a field, the house is storied. The early tales were about its size, its stature, its Williamsburg style, with matching paned wood windows front and back, wide exterior staircases, and five chimneys to accommodate fireplaces in almost every room.
Later tales, if you ask Carolyn Culpepper of Pungo Realty, the agency that sold the home, were about what was going on when construction stalled, then halted. For years.
“We called it the ‘brick-a-day’ house,” Culpepper said, “because it was taking so long to get finished.”
Current stories contain as much speculation and rumor as they have all along, according to Julie Spivey, office manager at Virginia Coastal Homes, who heard some as she was standing in a city office to submit architectural plans for approval earlier this month.
“It has really blown up” locally and on social media since signs went up in the yard, Spivey said. “Everyone is talking about this.”
The former owners of the house, however, are not. While they appreciated the interest, they declined to comment for this story.
Those close to the family understand the difficulty in letting the property go, said Herb Culpepper, Jr., the agent who listed it in September. His father, Herbert A. Culpepper Sr. and a partner started Pungo Realty in 1973. The Culpeppers are friends with the couple that sold the property.
As the home’s newest chapters are put down by Hietpas, plans are to enlarge and rearrange rooms, take out a fireplace or two, add a bathroom to the two existing ones. He wants to build on what the seller had painstakingly mapped out so many years ago, he said.
“He poured that concrete himself,” Hietpas said, pointing to cement edge pieces that line the back porch.
Indicating a pattern in the bricks around windows and doors, he added, “He drew each one of those bricks by hand on the original design. It’s an incredible amount of work he put into this.”
Hietpas plans to increase the square footage from its original 3,980 to about 4,500. Other changes planned include expanding the kitchen, replacing the HVAC system and upgrading the wood windows.
A new roof has already been installed. He estimates the renovation will cost in the $350,000 range and said he hopes to complete it in May.
A midwestern transplant and former Navy aviation ordnanceman, Hietpas became involved construction after settling in Virginia Beach several years before the Princess Anne house went up. It always intrigued him, he said.
When his daughter alerted him that it was for sale, he knew he wanted to bid on it. He said he was excited when his offer was accepted.
“It is very special,” Hietpas said. “It has quite a story. We want to take what [the seller] started and make it really amazing.”
© 2018 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC