Yet, Selma somehow retained an elegance during its abandoned state that belied its diminished appearance.
One can only assume that the pride was evident in this historic home and that it must lie in the history it holds…a history that emanated from the crumbling walls and whispering ghosts said to haunt its formerly empty halls. That's the thing about a beautiful building, even in a deteriorating state, it's still stunning. Terrifying, possibly, but still stunning.
The original manor home at Selma Plantation was built in 1815 by Armistead Thomson Mason, a grand-nephew of the famous Virginia statesman, George Mason.
Originally, the land was part of a 10,000-acre plot purchased in 1741 by Mason’s great-grandmother, Ann Stevens Thomson Mason, making the Masons some of the earliest settlers to the Leesburg area. That's right, the history of this beautiful home dates all the way back to the early days of Virginia.
Mason was a prominent citizen in Leesburg, having served as a U.S. senator from 1816 until 1817 before settling permanently at Selma.
On May 1, 1817, he married Charlotte Eliza Taylor and in 1819, the couple had their only son. Unfortunately, he would also prove to be the first of a string of men connected to Selma who met a tragic end.
On February 6, 1819, Mason was killed after a political argument with his cousin, Colonel John Mason McCarty, ended in a duel. Mason died at the first shot while McCarty escaped with only a wound.
Tragedy would continue to follow the property despite its beautiful architecture and promising start.
The newly widowed Charlotte Mason remained at Selma with the couple’s infant son, Stevens Thomson Mason, Jr., who inherited the whole of his father’s property.
In the meantime, soon after the fatal duel, McCarty moved to a property near Selma called Strawberry Plain. Despite their close proximity, the families never resumed their relationship and McCarty eventually died in a hunting accident while chasing game along a fence line that separated the Mason and McCarty properties. It's understandable that the families would never reunite after such a terrible tragedy, and there's something poetic about the man passing right along the, you might say, dividing line, between the families.
Young Stevens Mason was known as a handsome man-about-town and was often seen driving a pair of horses tandem-style through the town of Leesburg.
It was his carefree manner, however, that resulted in a financial downturn, forcing him to sell his family home and enlist in the U.S. Army. In 1847, Mason was mortally wounded in the Mexican-American War and he followed his mother in death by only a year. Like we said, tragedy unfortunately followed the original owners of the Selma Mansion.
And yet further tragedy awaited the new residents of Selma.
In the 1890s, the original house was destroyed by fire. In 1896, Elijah B. White purchased the property, determined to restore it to grandeur. He enlisted the Richmond architectural firm of Noland and Baskerville to design a Colonial Revival mansion, and in 1902, the current Selma mansion was completed, including a kitchen wing built from a small portion of the original home that had been spared by the fire. As you'll see, repair and restoration turn out to be a theme with this stunning, though tortured, property.
In the 114 years that followed White’s vision of a new era for Selma, the property has passed through the hands of multiple owners and developers.
From the late 1980s until the early 2000s, Selma was an event and wedding site, noted for its stunning photographic opportunities, including a rope swing on which every bride was said to have taken a portrait. As you can see from this picture, it was positively idyllic.
And yet, sadly and for a long time, nothing seemed to come of efforts to bring the abandoned mansion in Virginia back to life and since 2009, it was been listed as one of Virginia's endangered historic sites by the organization Preservation Virginia.
Selma’s crumbling Roman Ionic columns and grand staircases provided an odd juxtaposition to the modern developments that have sprung up on adjoining plots.
For a number of years, it seemed that Selma was destined to stand proudly on the hillside, silently watching the warring forces of nature and development impose on the last vestiges of an era long past.
But then Scott Miller and Sharon Virts came along. This dynamic couple had built their fortune working hard in their respective industries, and they began to turn their attention to different ways they could give back to the community.
Finding the Selma Mansion in such a dilapidated state highlighted for Miller and Virts the importance of historical preservation.
They bought the property and began the important and difficult work of restoring the abandoned mansion to its original glory so that generations to come could learn the important and volatile history that occurred here.
Thanks to this investment of time, money, research, and love, the Selma Mansion is once again a beautiful property that the public can visit and learn about.
For Miller and Virts, the home represents rebirth and the possibility of redemption and a second chance. When the daffodils bloom around the home in the spring, they are filled with hope for the seasons to come, and they'd like that feeling to be passed on to visitors as well.
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