GREENSBORO — One couple took on an epic fixer upper. Just north of Goldsboro in Caroline County they renovated an historic building to someday flip. They chose a brick house built in the 1700s that had not been occupied in over 30 years. Everything needed work, Bob and Lisa Moser did almost the whole project on their own. Before they moved to Greensboro, they ping-ponged back and forth between Pennsylvania and Delaware. But Lisa said she had always wanted to live in Maryland.
Castle Hall, on the National Historic Registry, is on 5.79 acres and stands at 6,000 square feet of brick. It is also said to be haunted.
So far neither Moser has experienced anything paranormal. They are both down to earth and practical with their investment and the project of bringing Castle Hall back to life.
This project was not their first choice.
“It’s actually funny but sad. We were in a position to buy a retirement beach property. Just something we could enjoy with our children and our grandchildren. We were also in the mix of planning a wedding for our youngest daughter. And we had an idea ‘wouldn’t it be nice to get a piece of property that we could possibly have events at,’ because we originally thought maybe we could possibly have wedding events,” Lisa said.
“We did everything ourselves. The only thing we contracted out was the heating and air, the roof and the gas. It took us three years to do because when we bought the property on Aug. 17, 2017, we worked outside until November just clearing the property. It was so overgrown. We rented backhoes and Dumpsters. I think we took six Dumpsters out of there just between the outbuildings and the main house,” Bob said.
“The original owners of the house were three generations of Hardcastles and then after the Hardcastles came J. Spencer Lapham, who was an agriculturist or horticulturist. He planted the boxwoods, which were gorgeous, 100 years old. But because they were so neglected, they were infested with mites. We had to take all of the boxwoods out,” Lisa said.
Similarly there was nothing of value inside the house. All the furniture had dry rot and there were termites, lots of termites. Nearly every window with that ancient swirly pattern was broken.
“We hired a pest company to come out, because there is a massive termite infestation. We knew there were termites, but we didn’t know it was still an active infestation. It was like a wave of termites,” he said.
So how did they fall in love with this house?
“I think it was the architecture of the property and just the wood work and stuff. That was what it was for me. Nobody can build a house like this today. This is a three-story brick building,” he said.
There are 59 windows in Castle Hall. They had to hand cut 532 panes of glass.
“We spent four months every day, seven days a week rebuilding windows,” Bob said.
“Everything we do we try to repurpose and recycle. We got all the glass from the Founder’s House in Sudlersville. They were replacing all their glass. It is approximately the same age as our house. The windows weren’t the same size, but we were able to get the old wavy glass and cut it to reglaze it,” Lisa said.
She noted some of the features she fell in love with.
“When we walked through the house, we saw the crown molding and the dentil molding. We didn’t know if we could do it, but we knew that somebody had to. Somebody has to do something,” she said.
When they bought the property they had no idea how old it was.
“It was originally unpatended in 1781 for 1,268 acres for Thomas Hardcastle. He bought all the land on his own. He did not inherit it. He was a self-purchaser. It was originally 1,100 acres in 1700. He was one of the largest landowners in the north end of the county. That is the last standing house in this area, so we are so thankful that they have preserved it,” said B.J. Tarr, of the Greensboro Historical Society.
After the Mosers’ start date of Aug. 17, 2017, they finally moved in Halloween night of 2020, a little over three years later. The original plan to do a wedding venue got sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We actually had our daughter’s wedding here, which is kind of an interesting story. That same day was our 35th wedding anniversary. And it was the last Hardcastle, it was their anniversary as well by Alexander Hardcastle. He was a prominent doctor in Caroline County. They had quite a marriage day celebration back in the 1800s. We have a pamphlet, three or four pages, of who came, what they ate. It is really pretty cool and it was given to us by one of the Hardcastles,” Lisa said.
“We joke with people when they ask how it’s going with quarantine. We laugh and say we have been in quarantine for three years,” Bob said.
“We have four children, and our daughter is expecting twins, so we are going to be up to 12 grandchildren. And you know what? It’s a homestead. It’s a nice place to enjoy,” Lisa said.
They have been generous in sharing the property with the public. People have done photo shoots. There have been several marriages. They also share their home online. They have documented this metamorphosis on their Facebook page. They have more than 2,000 followers.
They opened up their home on Friday, Nov. 13, for a house tour for the Greensboro Historical Society. Admissiion was free, but they collected donations of canned goods for the north county blessing boxes. About 30 people got a chance to see Castle Hall from the inside.
Aside from the joy of owning a historic gem, they are also aware that it is more valuable now that it is all fixed.
How much have they spent? Is it the ultimate flip?
“No bank would give you a mortgage because of the amount of renovation. So we paid cash for it. We paid $150,000 in cash. We have put probably $200,000 in to it. The asking price was $299,000. We offered $100,000 cash. He came back with $150,000 and we went to close (the) next week,” she said.
Bob guessed that they could triple their money back.
“We restored it; we didn’t renovate it,” he said.
“I am a conservationist and I like to salvage, and we use whatever we can. And I think that is what we should do,” Lisa said.
They repurposed slate roof tiles from another building for their kitchen floor. They found old butcher block and installed it.
When asked what they were most excited about with the house, they had different answers.
“The resale value. It’s an investment for us, something for our kids when we go,” Bob said.
“I am excited to get back outside and work on the gardens,” Lisa said.
“I think of us as stewards. That’s one of the reasons, if you believe in ghosts, that they don’t mess with us,” she said.