By Keswick Life
On Sunday, October 14th, 2018, the Keswick Foxhounds “Came Home” to their new kennel. A ribbon-cutting followed by a Toast to the Hounds and Keswick Huntsman, Paul Wilson blew: ”Going Home” as he led the hounds into the kennel.
The eight-week renovation of the Keswick Hunt Club Kennels began in mid-August and was completed in mid October 2018. The renovation design was a collaboration between Paul Wilson, KHC Huntsman, and Uhler and Company, design-build. The goal of the project was a complete renovation of the kennels to maximize the square footage within the existing building footprint as required by the county ordinance. Along with a more attractive roofline with functional venting, construction crews have retrofitted the interior to create more usable and healthier spaces for our hounds along with a new whelping area to the North. Under the wise guidance of Paul Wilson and others, we estimate that our hounds can move into their new home during October. The completed effort is a state of the art facility with new hound kennels, updated fixtures, electric, water and sewer, and a modernized area that can be maintained with minimal maintenance. The whelping lodges, hot bitch yards, and puppy areas were redone entirely as well as food storage and isolation areas for sick hounds. Washer and Dryer, heated areas and cupola fans were added to improve the overall utility of the buildings
Construction crews completed the concrete footings, foundations, and slabs at the club to be followed immediately by the framing and installation of the ductwork associated with the new HVAC. Concurrently, the roofing crew began the removal of the old roof while the structural engineers began the steel superstructure needed to support the building. This represents among the more challenging aspects of the renovation as all of the work took place on the exterior of the building to preserve the interior surfaces precisely as they are. More specifically, construction crews installed steel beams within the walls and exterior tubing under what became the new roof and insulation. These will support the sagging structure and the new weight associated with roof insulation and possible buildup of snow.
Along with new systems and structural support, work continued on the modern bathrooms, kitchen, and covered porch area. These gave our membership additional space for our most popular functions and improved functionality for food preparation. The conversion of what was the old kitchen and storeroom into usable space added seating capacity for approximately 40 people.
The Keswick Hunt Club reopened its doors for an opening cocktail party on February 23rd, 2019, navigating the mud with many bringing along an extra pair of shoes. Over 150 enjoyed their favorite cocktail in the fine, old clubhouse for the first time in about a year. It’s fantastic. The core of the building looks the same, except now, there’s no chance that the floor will collapse, and a new roof will stop all the old leaks that were once a problem.
The kitchen is state of the art, and those using the new ADA compliant bathrooms may mistakenly believe they are at a newly renovated suite up the hill at Keswick Hall. The former storeroom and kitchen have been wonderfully repurposed to usable space. They will now serve as a slightly quieter area, allowing those with failing hearing to understand more of the conversation, perhaps. Plus airconditioning and heating have been installed.
Most all of the photographs and memorabilia were reframed and “identified” and had been hung back on the walls for future generations to be able to view the history of the Hunt Club. All admired a wall for photos of all of the former Masters and another for the preeminent horses and people from Keswick.
The Huntsman’s cottage was removed and in its place are numerous bushes from Keswick Hall that will figure in the landscaping plan along with the barn and Huntsman’s cottage.
Rick Uhler came from a family of craftsmen/women, and as a result of working in the field with his uncle, grandmother, and mother, he fell in love with the building process. He intended to become a high-end custom builder from a very early age.
Due to a desire to spend more time together, Rick convinced Darla to learn to build houses as well. With the patience of a saint, Rick taught Darla how to frame, install exterior trim and siding, install interior trim, stair systems, and cabinetry. During necessary weekend workdays, all three kids could be seen on project sites building forts and cleaning up construction debris for extra money.
After many years of working for other builders, they began building custom homes as well as spec homes in the Shenandoah Valley. They quickly learned that the market in Charlottesville was much more suited to the types of houses they preferred to build.
The Uhlers began subcontracting once again for builders in Charlottesville. After many years of subcontracting, Rick went to work as a Construction Manager for two area builders while Darla managed the carpentry crew.
As a result of the recession of 2007-2008, Rick and Darla went back to work in the field together with the idea of starting their own building business once the market turned around. Around this time, their two oldest children came into the business with the same passion for building. In 2010, they built the first of many high-end projects in the Charlottesville area. By 2013, all three children shared the passion and came to work for the business.
Current Family Business
- Rick Uhler- Design/Operations
- Darla Uhler- Business/Operations
- Derek Uhler- Design/Project Managr
- Rachel Uhler-Pile- Design/Selections
- Cameron Pile- Casework Production
- Reagan Uhler- Business/Operations
Uhler & Company currently has 20 employees in total.
After having done some minor work for Paul and Diane Manning, the Mannings approached Rick to do a major renovation on an existing hay barn on their new property. This led to other projects with the Mannings and eventually, the restoration of the Keswick Hunt Club grounds. Rick and Derek worked closely with Peter Taylor and John Markey on the renovation of the clubhouse taking great care to leave it historically intact while bringing it safely into the modern era for events taking place inside of its walls. The engineering challenge on the clubhouse renovations was one of the most difficult they had ever experienced while working within the constraints of an original building. Derek took over the reins on the kennel design with a necessary close eye on budget considerations. He knew he had to build a virtually bulletproof building, knowing that the hounds would destroy anything not made of concrete or steel.
When approached about building the new barn/Huntsman apartment, the design changed and changed again due to budget and member input consideration, as well as the beautiful stall hardware donated to KHC by Jaffrey Woodriff.
The idea to combine the cottage and barn into one allowed for a higher quality level for each project, and ultimately opened up the entirety of the Hunt Club site instead of cluttering it. The most significant stroke of inspiration came upon researching some of the great historic barns in the past when Derek decided that a Gambrel or split pitch, roof not only made the building much more attractive but also allowed for a more spacious and functional apartment as well. The ability to draw plans in 3D helped to visualize the final product immensely and enabled all stakeholders to get a feel for how it would nestle into the land.
Upon settling on the final design, Derek enjoyed once again working with Peter Taylor and John Markey to deliver a product that was deserving of sitting next to the historical KHC Clubhouse. Halfway through the project, a curveball was thrown with a notice by the new head of building inspections informing that the requirements for the fire rating between the Barn area and the apartment area were now doubled, effective retroactively. They were thus rendering the initial approval by Albemarle County Building Inspections void until the barn area complied with the more stringent requirements. What initially could have been a detrimental situation, ultimately became a solution that improved the longevity of the barn By replacing the rough cut wood posts with concrete, the new KHC barn/ Huntsman cottage should stand for multiple generations of Keswick Hunt Club Members. We at Uhler & Company are so grateful to have been a part of this historic renovation, and will always cherish the friendships that have been made among the Keswick Hunt Club Members.
The Keswick Hunt Club is indeed lucky to have its’ generous membership who made the completion of the renovations possible with an overwhelming participation rate in the original fund drive. Thanks to their generosity, the construction of the Clubhouse, the kennels and barns with the Huntsman’s living quarters are completed. This fantastic project will keep KHC alive for many years to come.
Get ready for the next 100 years of fun! Keep checking in at Keswick Life for updates on this fabulous restoration of Keswick’s fine old clubhouse, kennels and barn, and Huntsman’s lodgings.