In June of 2004, guests gather on the lawn of historic Mulberry Place one of Caroline’s oldest estates and home of Dr. and Mrs. Michael Trahos. The event was a fundraiser for the campaign bid of Senator Bill Bolling who was running for Lt Governor. Bolling represented Caroline in the 4th Virginia Senatorial District. The soon to be Lt. Governor is shown above in the center picture with, event organizer, Jeff Sili,Virginia Heartland Bank President Georgia Willis on his right and his wife Jean Ann Bolling on the left. Organized by Sili, the Caroline Friends of Bill Bolling sponsored the day including the Southern Barbecue Lunch, Apple Slaw and fresh strawberries served in the shade of the trees on the lawn of the estate. The day began with a private reception indoors where the ladies of the “Caroline Friends” were dressed in period attire to give guests tours of the historic home. Guests raised glasses of Virginia wine as Senator Bolling and his wife arrived in the dining room. During lunch, guests were entertained by the Ethiopian Serenaders who specialize in mid 19th century musical tunes of the Civil War era, In keeping with the day’s festivities, living historian “Hezikiah Witherspoon” played by local resident the late Chip Brezee also entertained by delivering 1860s era stump speeches. The day began to wind down with the ladies of Caroline Friends teaching guests to do the “Virginia Reel.” This was the first fundraiser held in support of the soon to be Lt. Govenor Bill Bolling.
The History of Mulberry Place
By Susan F.Sili
Mulberry Place was built by the Woolfolks; one of early Caroline’s well known families. Robert Woolfolk came to Caroline at the beginning of the 18th Century and established a home known as Shepherd’s Hill. He was appointed by the Royal Governor to serve as one of the first magistrates, an important position, just after the county was founded in 1727. His grandson, John George, accumulated a huge fortune and was one of the most influential businessmen in Colonial Virginia. He owned the charter for all transportation by coach to points east and north of Richmond. In essence, the essential transportation link connecting Richmond to Washington and the Potomac River was his exclusive property.
His son, Jourdan built Mulberry Place about 1827 near the “Old Stage Road” or Route 301 and he continued and expanded the stage line run by his father. The name, Mulberry is derived from its owner’s interest in the production of silk. Here he grew the White Mulberry Tree, the leaves of which are used to feed the silkworm. A number of early Virginians attempted to cultivate trees or caterpillars, in hopes that they would be able to produce silk for clothes. The industry did not flourish however and silk continued to be imported from abroad.
Jourdan Woolfolk married Elizabeth Taylor Winston in 1820 and they had six children. He continued to operate the stage line until the RF&P Railroad took over the passage between Richmond and Washington in 1840. Mulberry Place remained in the family until the early 1970s when the last grandson, Winston Woolfolk died. At the time, the property and its famous collection of antiques were sold by the auction firm, Sothebys. The estate has had two owners including a Belgian Count between the passing of Winston Woofolk and the acquisition of the house by Dr. and Mrs. Michael N. Trahos.
Mulberry Place is a late Federal, Flemish bond brick structure with “Dogs Tooth” dentils in the cornice and a one story porch which has been altered from the original. The porch although not original to the house is really quite spectacular, as is the impressive appearance of the house itself from the very long winding 18th century-like driveway. The grounds feature 400 of the original boxwoods. There are two stories with an English basement and the house features the classic center hallway with two rooms on either side. It also features eight working fireplaces with internal chimneys. The center hall on the entrance level is broken midway by an arch framed by heavy molding and a keystone.
The dining room is simply beautiful with wallpaper in a Peacock motif with principle colors of Mulberry red and blue. Here, there is a built-in wall cupboard which is most interesting; with the milk based water colors in the interior still thought to be original. The old English basement is discovered through a tiny, nearly hidden set of central steps. This leads to the wonderful basement kitchen and dining area in front of the hearth and warm and inviting family/entertaining area.
One of the most unusual aspects of Mulberry Place is the survival of the original kitchen and six other outbuildings, the oldest dating to the late 18th Century. Mrs. Trahos is an expert in early “foodways”and the original kitchen houses her collection of 18th and early 19th century kitchen implements. Mrs. Trahos has served as a docent for Gunston Hall and specializes in the demonstration of open hearth cooking from period “receipt” books including the “Virginia Housewife” by Mary Randolph published in 1824. An original copy resides in Mrs. Trahos’s extensive collection of early recipe books.
New Year’s Eve is a special time at Mulberry Place with a real emphasis on the old working kitchen, every New Years Eve, the Trahos’s host the Caroline Couples Bridge Club where the members prepare a midnight supper “Colonial Meal”. Each member is responsible for cooking a period dish in period implements in the oven and fireplace. At midnight, tradition demands that in honor of the New Year, Mike Trahos must fire one of the period cannons, which can be heard for miles around.
Little Known Facts About Mulberry Place
The “forcing house” has also survived. This is a brick structure with its southern exposure lined with two eighteen panel stationary windows and a center, nine over nine double hung window which gives access to the building. The sun enters the house through the glass wall and heats the brick keeping the interior of the house quite warm. The main interior space is dominated by a brick lined pit of a depth of six feet. The building was used much as a greenhouse would be used today to winter plants and to protect tender seedlings.
Mulberry Place and the surrounding countryside was the site of Civil War happenings when both armies camped in and around Caroline from 1862 onward. Both Sheridan and Custer passed along the Old Stage Road in 1864 and northern soldiers entered the homes and farms in southern Caroline. Earlier in the war, just after the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1863 from January to June, young Lt. John Hampden Chamberlayne, a Confederate artillery officer in A.P. Hills Light Division, camped in Caroline. He describes his location as being about four miles from Bowling Green near the Woolfolk and DeJarnette settlement. The Woolfolks entertained the young soldier and Ham wrote the following to his mother, “Nor are Spring days our only solace–being in the Woolfolk and DeJarnette settlement we are occasionally blessed by the extent of a party where elderly spinsters and very young girls are not unmixed with the substantial comfort of chicken salad, cold mutton and celery, not to mention backed by domestic wine and coffee are a fair exchange for our delectable society, our slang, our camp jokes and our never-before- heard-of-wishes for peace.” In the woods at Mulberry Place, the trenches from Captain Chamberlayne’s encampment are still recognizable.
The author is indebted to Mike and B.L. Trahos for the information contained in this article and for many happy hours spent at Mulberry Place in the pursuit of bridge.