Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
Rockledge owners Nancy and Kevin Dye are eager to share their extensively renovated mountainside home, which is also a Roanoke Valley landmark.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
As the owners of Rockledge, the landmark stone house that sits prominently on Mill Mountain, Kevin and Nancy Dye feel a certain responsibility to their fellow Roanokers, even the ones who don’t quite realize the house is a private home.
“We want to be good stewards of the property,” Nancy Dye said. “We know how much it means to people.”
In that spirit, they’ve hosted many events for local civic groups, inviting hundreds of people at a time into their home.
So when the Dyes were asked to open Rockledge for Saturday’s 80th Historic Garden Week Tour, they readily agreed. Proceeds from the event go to the Garden Club of Virginia for the restoration of historic gardens around the state.
“I wanted to support the garden club,” Dye said. Although she’s not a member of a club, “I’m personally interested in their work.”
This will be the first time in 18 years since the house has been on the tour.
In 1995, then-owner and former Roanoke mayor Ralph Smith volunteered the home for the event. Since purchasing it from Smith in 2005, the Dyes have made extensive renovations and felt it was a good time to show it again.
The house of stone
Built in 1929 by Roanoke businessman W.P. Henritze, the house stayed in his family for 60 years. It has had only one other owner besides Smith and the Dyes.
Carved out of a rock ledge — hence the name “Rockledge” — and built from the stone that was dug up during construction, the home offers such stunning views of the valley that Nancy Dye said Roanoke City’s marketing department takes most of its publicity photos there.
The house sits on Prospect Road, which was built by Henritze and his brother, John, in 1923. It replaced a late 19th century dirt road, and the Henritzes charged drivers to use it. In 2010, Nancy Dye spearheaded a successful public-private effort to restore the old toll booth. Today, she said, the stone walls that line the roadway are in bad shape and need repair as well.
In the early 1990s, the unusual switchback bridge just above the house was closed to traffic.
“It was dangerous. It’s not wide enough for modern cars,” Dye said. It is now part of the city’s greenway system, and leads to the top of Mill Mountain and to the Mill Mountain Star. The road is used for bike and foot races, and attracts casual sightseers and picnickers, who can’t resist the house’s charm.
“We have met some of the nicest people,” Dye said. Visitors are always stopping by to give the couple historical items and mementos relating to the house.
A 3-year renovation
Kevin Dye, 55, is a gastroenterologist, and Nancy Dye, 56, is a retired surgeon. Originally from St. Louis, the family previously lived on Bent Mountain. They bought the house after Smith told them he was going to sell it, and then they spent three years renovating it while they rented a condo downtown.
It was a full-time job, Dye said. Smith had left the house in good shape, but it needed upgrading.
All-new lighting — in the form of recessed can lights and stunning mid-19th-century crystal pendant chandeliers — brightened up the Mississippi gum paneling that lines the walls of every room. The only original light fixtures that remain are rare banana-wood wall sconces, Dye said.
The Dyes refinished all the floors as well, highlighting the dramatic rosewood inlays. Instead of period furniture, they chose to decorate with comfortable, colorful modern pieces.
“This is a home, not a museum,” Dye said.
On the ground floor are a living room, an office space that Dye thinks may have been a conservatory, and a large alcove that holds a grand piano.
Across from the piano alcove is Henritze’s radio room. It features a period radio that works.
The dining room seats eight and overlooks a covered terrace for outdoor meals. On the 19th-century French limestone mantel sits a bust of Joan of Arc, which Dye rescued from the garden. Henritze, she said, traveled widely and brought many works of art and pieces of statuary back with him. Many of them are scattered around the property.
The Dyes restored the kitchen to its original condition by replacing modern updates with early 20th -century black-and-white tile. But they decided the kitchen was too small to suit their needs, so now it’s only used by the caterers who serve the functions they host.
To create a new kitchen, the Dyes removed a breakfast nook off the dining room and built a new stucco addition that features walls of windows and stone floors that mimic an extension of the dining terrace outside.
“We wanted to feel like we were outdoors,” Dye explained.
The room includes an inlaid wood island that features a prep sink and seating for five. This room — like the others in the back of house — overlooks the sheer wall of rock the site was carved from. The color of the granite countertops was chosen to blend with the mossy rocks visible through the windows outside, Dye said.
The upper floors
A winding staircase leads from the main hall to the second and third floors. To the left of the stairs on the second floor is the former master bedroom, which the Dyes use as a den. The fireplace is guarded by a pair of carved griffins.
“I could not sleep in this room with them,” Dye said, laughing. A raised platform — which allowed the occupant of the bed to enjoy the view — was removed, and a projection television system was installed. They’re not big TV watchers, Dye explained, so the screen usually stays hidden in the ceiling. A connecting maids’ workroom now serves as a laundry.
There are four bedrooms in the wing opposite the den. Three are set up for their grown children who visit often, and the fourth is an exercise room.
A large balcony opens off of the exercise room, and Dye said she and her husband spend a good deal of time there.
At the end of the hall is the new addition, which has an arched entryway patterned after the original doorways. Here, the master suite features views from both sides of the house.
The third floor will not be open for the tour, said chairwoman Cyndi Fletcher , because there aren’t enough volunteer hosts to staff all three floors. For the curious, the large, open room contains four comfy couches and pool, ping-pong and foosball tables, not to mention the best views.
An enriching home
The house is decorated with antiques, artwork and statuary from all over the world — including works by local artists.
Outside, the house sits on a acre of land that is mostly vertical. The small front yard features what Dye calls “a big concrete flower box” that contains boxwoods, azaleas, flowering bulbs and periwinkle beds. Behind the house are terraced beds that tower over the roofline. Dye said she and her husband do most of the yard work themselves.
“We like to do projects together,” she said. Although maintaining Rockledge is more than a full-time job, “this house is the best thing that has ever happened to us,” Dye said. “It has enriched our lives.”
Weather JournalStorm track isn't very snowy for us