The House that Happiness Built

The home has known many lives in its 120 years. When the home was originally built in the early 1900s, it’s estimated that it was

The Apricot House is family and beauty wrapped in a tiny little package

By Megan Williams  |  Photos By Ashlee Glen| Renovation Photos Courtesy of Ann Schoew

In our January/February 2024 issue of Lynchburg Living, the print story incorrectly stated that the Apricot House was abandoned from the 70s until 2020. The home was in fact owned by the Brown family from the late 1980s until 2020. Lynchburg Living deeply regrets the exclusion of their family history from this story. The content that follows has been updated to reflect the correct information.

Tucked at the end of 13th Street in the heart of Diamond Hill is a little mint green house. You might just miss it if you’re exploring the historic neighborhood, but if you let the jigsaw arrangement of scattered cobblestone guide your way, you’ll land right at its front door.

The home has known many lives in its 120 years. When the home was originally built in the early 1900s, it’s estimated that it was built with just one room on top of the other and expanded upon as the family grew.

“Originally likely built just one room over another and then expanded as a family grew and set just outside the mansions of Washington Street in Diamond Hill, I imagine someone in service likely was able to walk to work every day from this home, and maybe even return for lunch each day,” Victoria Bartholomew wrote in her speech when she presented current owners, Ann Schoew and Wade Stewart, and Winkie and Dick Schoew, with the 2023 Merit Award from the Lynchburg Historic Foundation.

While its history of owners is unknown to its full extent, one former resident remembers the home being a place of unending love, incredible meals, and family gatherings.

“I lived there from around 1988 until 1994, a year after my daughter was born,” said Christina Williams, whose mother and stepfather, Eloise and Otis Brown, moved into the home in the late 80s. 

The Browns rented the home on 13th Street until they were given the opportunity to rent-to-own. In November 2005, they officially signed the deed and were the owners.

“My mom was the first person in her family to buy a home,” said Williams. “It was a big deal.”

The Browns spent three decades in the house, building a life and a family. Williams and her sister, Pamela, lived in the home alongside their mother and stepfather and, when Williams’ daughter, niece, and nephew were born, they all came home to 13th Street.

In October 2018, a fire heavily damaged the home and, after battling a series of illnesses, Eloise made the difficult decision to sell in 2020.

“Victoria Bartholomew purchased it in 2020 and demoed it with plans to renovate, and we bought it from her in 2021,” said co-owner Ann Schoew. “It had been demoed down to studs at that point.”

The Apricot House is a family-owned property and renovation project, with husband and wife team Wade Stewart and Ann Schoew working alongside Ann’s parents, Winkie and Dick Schoew. The family partnered with Ben Jacobs and Pete Jaeckels of Hill City Homes for the renovation and contracting work, making the home a group project in every sense.

Ann purchased the home alongside her husband, Wade, and her parents, Winkie and Dick.

“The four of us and Ben [Jacobs] came over and we could see how special it could be,” Ann said.

Ann and her family spent the next year renovating the home from the ground up, keeping as many original elements as they could and sourcing as many era-appropriate pieces as possible.

“The staircase is original to the home,” explained Winkie. “We kept as much original as we could. A few pieces of extra flooring—which we had to replace because of the fire—came from the Lynchburg City Armory, so it’s still from the right historic era.”

“All windows that were replaced were pulled from a historic house on Rivermont,” Ben Jacobs furthered. The owner of Hill City Homes, Jacobs has a penchant for historic home renovation, making the partnership with the homeowners a natural fit.

As the group began meticulously bringing the home back to life, a name unfurled: The Apricot House.

“Many houses in Diamond Hill have names,” said Ann. “We are not aware of a name for 415 13th Street. We call it ‘Apricot House’, named for the apricot tree growing in the front yard. One of our neighbors introduced themselves with a jar of apricot preserves made from the tree, which she has been making annually for years. We love that connection.”

“My stepfather and niece planted that apricot tree,” Williams remembered.

As renovations continued, The Apricot House began revealing pieces of its history. Coal, large stone slabs, bricks, a large pair of ice tongs, an entire fireplace, and little pieces of fabric have all been excavated from the property. To keep as much original to the home as possible, Dick repurposed the stone slabs for a front walkway and built a fire pit with the old brick. The ice tongs rest against the exposed interior fireplace, both natural conversation starters.

“The fireplace was exposed when we bought the property,” Winkie said.

“All brick is original and we reglazed it to promote stability,” Ann continued. Originally, the fireplace would have been a coal burning fireplace, like all fireplaces in Diamond Hill.

The biggest undertaking in the home was the kitchen. After the fire in 2018, there was virtually no floor left in the kitchen area, so the group had their work cut out for them.

“A lot of the floor [in the kitchen] is reclaimed from upstairs, and we had to add in bracing underneath the floors to accommodate the large kitchen island,” said Jacobs. “The laundry room floor off of the kitchen is old basketball floor from the armory.”

“Mom and I made all of the ceramic tiles for the kitchen backsplash,” said Ann. “That was fun for us to do together.”

Winkie also made all the plates, bowls, and ceramic dishes around the house. 

Walking into the home, you get a sense of how lovingly it has been restored. Touring the home with Ann, her family, Jacobs, and Hill City Homes contractor Pete Jaeckels, the home exudes family in every sense. Laughter reverberates off the walls and the space, just under 1,000 square feet, feels warm and inviting. 

It’s easy to understand why The Apricot House has earned a Merit Award from the Lynchburg Historic Foundation. Ann explained that those awards aren’t sought out or applied for, they are externally nominated and selected.

“415 13th St speaks to the regular people of Lynchburg, the you and I of the day and that’s why the incredible renovation work in bringing this home back to life is so important,” Bartholomew continued in her Merit Award speech. “They took this under–1000-square-foot vernacular home with a burned hole in the roof, falling plaster, and rotted flooring into this century all while preserving the character, love, and personality of this place. They made sure we could see all of ourselves in this neighborhood—and not just ogle at the beauty of the neighborhood but feel the human scale impact of the human spirit here.”

In many cultures, the apricot symbolizes happiness and positive change, and it’s certain that The Apricot House will continue its legacy of beautiful memories.

The Apricot House is currently available for short-term rental as an Airbnb. You can find the listing by following @downtown_apricot_house on Instagram.

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