James City Supervisors approve funds for Amblers House renovation

Staff writer

County officials see Amblers House, a historic farmhouse in the county’s southwest, as a future economic booster for the area.

But right now, the house looks a little rough.

To remedy that, the Board of Supervisors approved a contract for almost half a million dollars in exterior renovations Tuesday.

The county’s contract with Centennial Contractors Enterprises specifies repairs to the house’s slate roof, cleaning and repair to the brick chimneys and veneer, repairs to windows, the addition of handrails to entry ways and removal of asbestos from the basement and painting, among other renovations, said Shawn Gordon, James City chief civil engineer.

The renovations are expected to take two to four months to complete. The contract doesn’t include restoration of the property’s two outbuildings.

Supervisors unanimously approved the $498,732 contract with little discussion.

The project’s funds will be sourced from money already approved in the tourism investment fund for fiscal year 2018 and 2019 budgets, Gordon said.

County officials see the renovations as a critical first step in making Amblers House an economic asset. As a rare example of 19th-century colonial revival architecture and one of the last remaining large antebellum farmhouses in James City, Amblers House could make a desirable events venue and serve as a setting for weddings, conferences and other gatherings.

The Department of Historic Resources reviewed the proposed renovations to ensure the house maintains its listing on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.

Once the house is fixed up, the county intends to find a private business to operate the venue in a public-private partnership similar to its relationship with Billsburg Brewery at the nearby James City County Marina. The James City County Economic Development Authority rents property at the marina to the brewery.

Work in the house’s interior is expected to take place once its ultimate use is decided.

The project comes as part of a joint procurement agreement between the contractor and a handful of regional government entities for construction projects, including Newport News Public Schools, Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools, Hampton, York County and Newport News among others, according to a county memo.

Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, jojacobs@vagazette.com, @jajacobs_

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