West Second Street home a nod to region’s roots

Published 7:51 pm Thursday, June 8, 2017

They searched for their new home in Elizabeth City, in New Bern and Edenton. But when Mary Pat and Scott Musselman found Washington, their visit stuck with them, and a West Second Street home, built in 1906 and completely restored by previous owners, was the piece that proved irresistible.

“It’s just a charming, southern home. Because I do think it’s a southern home — with the lightness and the sunshine, and it suits us very well,” said Mary Pat Musselman. “We love being here. It’s a good fit for both of us.”

Several years ago, the retired teachers from the small town of Brockport, New York, near Rochester, decided they’d like to live closer to their children. With one in Washington, D.C. and the other in Atlanta, they began considering places more or less equidistant to both. Once they found Washington — and a helpful realtor in Scott Campbell — they were sold on the town.

Things moved quickly from there: they put their house on the market up north, never expecting it to sell almost immediately. But it did, and from quite a distance away, they began looking online at Washington homes for sale. A list of houses and another trip down south later sealed the deal.

“We decided that weekend,” Musselman said. “It was a shock to the system, but this house just spoke to us. It worked out. … And the back yard was a big plus in my opinion, because it was big new garden canvas to dig to my heart’s delight.”

It was a good fit. The couple had to downsize significantly, but they were ready to do so. Scott Musselman, a history buff, delighted in that they were moving to a historic southern town — he’s had a love of the South for many years, according to his wife.

“He danced a jig the second we crossed the border,” she laughed.

GARDEN SUPPLY: An avid gardener, Mary Pat Musselman has turned the backyard of the couple’s West Second Street home into a garden paradise.

While they moved to a new place, not knowing a soul, they’ve become a part of a growing community of the native-born and newcomers who’ve chosen Washington as their home.

“I think our story is no different than any other people moving here. You come; you start to get involved. Now I drive and around and think, ‘Yeah, this feels good.’ And I don’t miss the snow and don’t miss the cold. Scott delights in telling me what the temperature is up there on winter days.”

An avid gardener, Musselman easily adjusted to the shorter winters. Four years after the couple bought the house, their backyard is now thriving with hydrangea, ferns, butterfly bushes, beds of flowers interspersed with hosta, Carolina jasmine and many other lush species.

“I’m just always shocked to see things growing in March. In New York, you’re still under two feet of snow,” she said.

One of her favorite places, worthy of an evening’s porch sit, is a small, screened-in porch just off the kitchen. If the first-floor office is Scott’s preferred place, the porch, facing an arched pergola bursting with Carolina jasmine, is hers. From there, brick pavers lead to the expansive backyard, bisected by a wooden outbuilding Musselman calls a shed, though its exterior has just as much southern charm as the house itself. And behind the shed? Yet another garden, this one thriving with shade-loving ferns.

“People are surprised by the back yards on this street, because they’re so deep, and they back up to pretty yards on the other side,” Musselman said.

If the garden evokes southern charm, so does the house. It’s not large: greeting visitors is a high-ceiling hall, with a staircase, that opens onto the living room. A dining room, kitchen and small office with a full bath follow. Upstairs are two bedrooms and another full bath. But there’s still a sense of space, part of it defined by Musselman’s use of the palest pastels on the walls to complement whitewashed antiques. The soft colors continue upstairs with pale blues and golds highlighted by more hardwood floors Musselman painted a glossy white — a huge departure from the burgundy covering the floors when they purchased their home.

The town, its location, its history, the garden and growing season, the house itself — all are a perfect fit for the Musselmans.

“Coming from an old, drafty, big Victorian house — which I loved — I love the coziness of (this house), I love the brightness of it. We get sunlight through every single window at some point in the day,” Musselman said. “It’s just the very, very sweetness of it. It’s just right for two people.”

SOUTHERN LIVING: Mary Pat Musselman’s collection of pottery is on display throughout the house, as seen here on the living room mantelpiece, one of four in the house.