Holy smokes, Vermont! We had no idea you laid claim to some of the prettiest old stone homes in the country. Check out these stunners — from old-fashioned farmhouses to Greek revival-style mansions. The dreamy grey stone is likely marble, mica schist or granite. These six beauties are all up for grabs. We couldn’t think of a better way to start a brand new life!
It’s that time of year, the season when nights turn chilly, leaves change hues and our thoughts turn to harvest, the ethereal glow of carved pumpkins and things that go bump in the night. We couldn’t let October slip by without announcing a list of our favorite real-life haunted houses in the United States. (All stone, of course!)
Most Haunted House in Pennsylvania: Jean Bonnet Tavern, Bedford
Most Haunted House in New York: Beardslee Castle, Little Falls
Constructed in 1860 by New York lawyer and legislator Augustus Beardslee, this stone castle, built atop the site of a circa-1700s fortified homestead, is heavily inspired by the design of ancient Irish castles. Now a wedding venue, the former family manse is said to be haunted by the ghosts of French and Indian War soldiers (and their victims), a woman named “Abigail”, who is dressed in white and awaiting a wedding she died the night before, and Pop Christensen, a former owner who, broken and weary from prolonged illness, hung himself in the building.
Most Haunted House in New Jersey: Olde Stone House, Washington Township
Most Haunted House in Maryland: Jonathan Hager House, Hagerstown
A young German immigrant eager for adventure, Jonathan Hager purchased 200 acres of land in what was then considered Maryland wilderness and built, in the 1740s, his German-style fieldstone home atop a freshwater spring. A noteworthy citizen for his efforts in settling the area (now known as Hagerstown), Hager was elected to the General Assembly at Annapolis in 1771 and 1773. His homestead, “Hager’s Fancy,” is now owned by the city of Hagerstown and open to the public. The home is believed to be haunted by former owners of the property, and visitors have reported seeing a man dressed in black who paces the porch as well as the sounds of footsteps and disembodied voices on the second floor.
Most Haunted House in Virginia: Belle Grove Plantation, Middletown
Construction of this elegant Classical Revival-style manor home began in 1794 and continued for three years. Built of locally quarried limestone, the manor was originally home to Revoluntionary War veteran Major Isaac Hite, Jr. (President James Madison’s brother-in-law), his wife and their children. In the early 1800s, the home was sold out of the family and, during the Civil War, was occupied several times. Today a National Trust Historic Site, Belle Grove serves as an educational center and remains a working farm. The plantation is said to be haunted by the ghost of Hetty Cooley, a former owner’s young wife who was murdered in the 1860s by a resentful servant. She is often spotted, dressed in white and moving silently as she relives the very last moments of her life at Belle Grove.
My sister and her husband are in the first phases of a new home search near their current digs in Laguna Niguel, California. A few weeks ago, she directed my attention to a certain Zillow listing. I assumed, at first, that I’d click the link to see another perfect-for-two townhome. But no. This was different. The property, surrounded by live oak and sage brush, was perfectly nestled in picturesque Trabuco Canyon. And right smack dab in the middle? A simply adorable circa-1907 cobblestone cottage.
“See! There are old stone homes in California,” she said. “You could move out West, be close to me and still live your dream!” I have to admit, the notion of old stone homes in California intrigued me: Was this home an anomaly or some sort of regional vernacular that to this point had escaped my notice.
I’ve always assumed that those who moved West in the mid to late 1800s constructed shelters of log, timber, sod brick or adobe. But a quick google images search surfaced pictures of stone ruins — a foundation here, walls there — mostly in the arid desert regions of California and Nevada. The story continued to unfold: Ranchers, gold and silver prospectors and then homesteaders staked their claims in the Southern California deserts and built their first homes with materials easily accessible to them. And that meant lots of rock. From what I could tell, homesteads were often destroyed by fire or slowly crumbled to dust, abandoned by prospectors who moved on to bigger and better things.
My sis was apparently on a roll. A few weeks later, she sent another Zillow listing, a plot of land in Modjeska Canyon. I couldn’t resist the note attached, “Would love to know the history … stone foundation, fireplace.” Game on!
I first reached out to the realtor, who knew only a legend shared by locals: Sometime during the 1960s, hippies living in the area started a fire that destroyed the homestead. Interesting, but who knows if it’s true. I next reached out to the Orange County Historical Society. History buff and Silverado Canyon resident Mike Boeck asserted that the remains sit on land that was once homesteaded by beekeeper Joseph Pleasants in the late 1800s. Could the stone walls and chimney be the remains of some early shelter? I love that theory! But archivist Chris Jepsen noted that Pleasants’ homestead was incorporated into the estate of famed actress Helen Modjeska in 1888. Clearly as curious as I, Jepsen took a closer look at deeds and tax records and found that in 1937 there was no home listed on the site. By 1939, one appeared. And it’s hard to say if the home was made entirely of stone or stone paired with timber, sourced in the Riparian forest that surrounds the site. Regardless, the remains could easily be incorporated into a new build. An exciting prospect!
Thanks to my sis, I am now keeping a close eye on California real estate listings, hoping that a property pops up with terribly old stone ruins — and a wickedly interesting story to tell.
Just this week, The Baltimore Sun published a story of one couple’s decades-long love affair with an old stone schoolhouse. The building, constructed in 1879 of locally quarried granite and originally coined Baltimore County Schoolhouse No. 3, was converted to a home in the 1940s and then used as an antiques store in the 1990s before the Brickner-Filipczaks took ownership. But now that the couple’s children are grown, they are ready to pass the home on to the next generation of “caretakers”.
Is the thought of living in an old stone schoolhouse your dream come true? Check out these other adorable properties on the market:
There’s something so romantic about an old stone castle — the winding staircases, turrets and secrete passageways. And, of course, a ghost or two. Believe it or not, old stone castles do exist in the US — we’ve found several on the market! Take a look at this bunch and tell us which historic home you’d love to call your own!
Sorry to burst the bubble, but the truth depends in some circumstances on a home’s location and a scientific principle called thermal mass (building material’s ability to store heat).
An old stone home with very thick walls works well in a region of the country where temps fluctuate significantly from day to night. Think sunny Southwest. Here’s how it works:
The sun rises in the morning and its rays reach the earth, heating the outer layer of a home’s stone walls, which, in the a.m., are cool to the touch thanks to chilly night air. Because of stone’s density, heat seeps through the wall VERY slowly, so that by the time the sun sets, heat is just starting to reach the home’s cool interior. Bravo! That bit of warmth inside feels great when the night air turns chilly. When morning arrives and the sun rises again, interior warmth has dissipated, exterior walls are cool again and the process starts all over.
Old stone homes may be bad news in areas of the country where, during the summer, nighttime temps don’t drop dramatically and a cooling effect never occurs. Your home takes on the temperature of the surrounding environment and holds it — yikes — like a big ol’ bake oven! The solution comes in the form of insulation, placed somewhere inside the stones walls, energy efficient windows and an effective HVAC system.
Own an old stone home? Struggle to keep interior temps comfortable in the summer? Tell us your story!
Now’s your chance to live the dream: buy an old stone home at a steal and renovate from inside out to suit your needs. These fixer-uppers require a few cans of paint and some elbow grease, for sure. But the return on investment? Priceless!
Audience participation requested: If you have a few moments, pick a home, click on the image to review the details and then tell us how you would bring your favorite stone treasure back to life.