“West End” is one of the most impressive mansions in the Northern Neck. Located outside the metropolis of Wicomico Church, the brick house—laid in Flemish bond—commands the road into Ball’s Neck. The setting is idyllic, worthy of being illustrated in a classic work of literature.
For almost 30 years now, the house has been the home of Dorothy and Doug Rogers, who have labored to restore the property to its original grandeur. In that effort, they have succeeded brilliantly. For her part, Dorothy has painted every surface in the house with at least two coats of paint, all of it having been applied with a three-inch brush. No surface in the 6,000 square feet has experienced the touch of a paint roller.
Dorothy has an affinity for the use of color, which led to her giving each room its special panache. The house has its original floors of heart pine that give testimony to its age and the care which it has received. The Rogerses also have remodeled the kitchen using antique heart pine for the cabinets and paneling. The detail of their work befits and augments the historic nature of the house.
The original early 19th-century house was augmented in the 1930s by the addition of a wing on each end designed by the noted architect Walter Macomber, whose specialty was historic preservation. Perhaps his most famous designs came near the end of his career when he laid out two of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the Department of State in Washington. He frequently came to the Northern Neck, being enamored by the wealth of historic structures that abounds here. At “West End,” he incorporated into the additions the use of old wood paneling, thereby enlarging the historic ambience.
In his arena, in his 80s Doug turned the grounds into a mini sheep ranch, building his own fencing and housing—all with Dorothy’s help—and becoming quite expert in ovine husbandry. He built paddocks and shutes to move the sheep from one pasture to another, all reminiscent of a great maze, but one which is readily discernible to the human visitor as well as to the sheep.
Doug was born in Omaha, Neb., the year following the Stock Market Crash that began the Great Depression. He was educated locally, before matriculating at Iowa State University where he majored in mechanical engineering. Doug was a creative individual, who would thrive on his projects. With his engineer’s mindset, he liked bringing order out of chaos. He knew what to do, and when to do it.
Initially, upon coming to the Northern Neck, Dorothy and Doug settled in an old house in Irvington, but when “West End” became available on the market, they immediately knew it was the house for them. Undaunted by the prospects of such a great undertaking, they took the plunge and began to work their magic.
They have kept the ivy-covered walls of the exterior neatly trimmed, and they have introduced garden vistas and outdoor “rooms” in which one is surrounded by “walls” of beautiful plantings designed by Dorothy.
The grounds contain several ancient pecan trees and Kentucky coffee bean trees, the latter having been introduced into the Northern Neck in the 19th century by entrepreneurs who mistakenly calculated the dawn of a new market. In that venture, the anticipated “dawn” was followed quite quickly by a “sunset”—however, the massive trees have remained as the venture’s legacy in several locations.
In recent years, Doug underwent a period of decline in his health, and in January, appropriately, he died at “West End”, the beloved home that he and Dorothy had brought back to life. In the 30 years that I knew him, we never had a conversation without him speaking of some new project in which he was expanding the historic and horticultural presence of the property. Today it stands as a monument both to his and to Dorothy’s wisdom and dedication.
Douglas Alan Rogers, May 28, 1930–January 3, 2021. R.I.P.