For many decades, many in the Lynchburg community have walked, run or driven by the Georgian mansion at 3012 Rivermont Avenue; many have even matriculated there when the home functioned as a Catholic school for girls. For the past two years, locals have watched a flurry of construction activity come and go. Now, Mark Little and Todd Leap, the new owners of Villa Maria, are opening the doors of their newly renovated home to host the Lynchburg Historical Foundation Gala at the Villa on September 24 from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Little, who is originally from Lynchburg and serves on the foundation’s Board of Directors, says that the couple is happy to open their home in this way, hosting this important event for an organization that is so dear to their hearts. “Architecturally, Lynchburg is such a beautiful city,” he says. “Hosting the gala is a way to raise awareness of repurposing old homes…The old homes here are amazing, and renovating [Villa Maria] has been a way to showcase my love of architecture and design.”
At the black-tie-optional gala, patrons will enjoy music by Apple Butter Soul Band, catering by Avenue Foods, a door prize of fine jewelry from Finks, and a live auction of a luxurious destination getaway. Partygoers will also have the opportunity to tour two floors of the home, seeing first hand the results of what the homeowners deem a two-year labor of love.
When Leap and Little purchased Villa Maria in 2013, the 10,000 square-foot home was in need of attention. “The bones were in good shape; all of the original characteristics were intact,” says Little. However, he explains, the home had no kitchen and all of the baths were either builder grade or had commercial stalls and fixtures; all the functional systems of the home were antiquated as well. So with Little as the lead designer—handling everything from interior design, preservation of historic architecture, and contractor management—the couple completed a total renovation of Villa Maria. Highlights include a cook’s kitchen featuring custom cabinetry, marble countertops and top-of-the-line appliances, and a stunning master suite in which they transformed a sleeping porch into a master bath, complete with historically accurate replicas of original windows. They also redesigned and renovated much of the exterior landscaping; Leap has played a major role in this aspect of design and implementation.
Lynchburg Historical Foundation Executive Director Sally Schneider says she is thrilled with this year’s venue, and grateful that Little and Leap are generously providing a welcoming, grand and historically significant space for the gala. She also notes that the gala’s importance extends well beyond the fete on Saturday evening. “This event also helps gather people together, to help raise community awareness of the things we do at the foundation and why they matter,” says Schneider. The foundation works to promote the understanding of history, architecture and culture in the Lynchburg area, partnering with many local organizations for preservation and education projects. Recent projects supported by the foundation include the restoration of the second floor balcony of the Academy Center of the Arts, restoration of the Presbyterian Cemetery, and recording oral histories from community members.
To be sure, a big part of preserving history is protecting structures and artifacts, but she says there’s also a greater purpose behind such projects. “It’s more than fixing up and saving old properties. It’s about preserving bits of the past,” Schneider says. “We need to make sure our history is intact.”
To inquire about ticket availability or for more information,
contact the foundation at (434) 528-5353 or visit lynchburghistoricalfounation.org online.