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Cathy Dyson writes about King George County. You can email her at

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The Cleydael saga continues: Bank wants nothing less than the full payoff of the loan

Cleydael, the historic home in King George County, was sold at auction in October, but the bank holding the note never accepted the deal.

Instead, Bank of America announced it will accept nothing less than the full payoff of the loan, according to the attorney representing the bank.

The payoff amount, as of earlier this month, is $204,661 and includes almost $30,000 in interest charges.

Julie Evasco, attorney for Shapiro & Burson in Virginia Beach, also said that Bank of America is moving toward selling Cleydael at a foreclosure auction on Feb. 21.

One King George couple hopes it won’t get to that point.

Charlie Parker and his wife, Renee, a former School Board member, want to make Cleydael their retirement project and are willing to invest the time and money necessary.

“We would spend the rest of our lives making it what it used to be and bringing people there to share the history,” Renee Parker said, adding her husband always wanted to fix up an old place. “To come up with this, a historical treasure, is more than we dreamed.”

Cleydael was built in 1859 and is known for its ties to John Wilkes Booth. He sought—but didn’t get—refuge at the home near Dahlgren after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

The farmhouse has fallen into disrepair in recent years after its last owner, Kathryn Coombs, allowed sheep and other animals into the house. She died without a will, and since July, lawyers representing her estate and the bank have tried to settle matters—unsuccessfully.

Twice, a foreclosure auction was scheduled on the courthouse steps and canceled at the last minute. The bank allowed an estate auction in October, when King George developer Ed Veazey offered the high bid of $141,000.

The estate attorney congratulated him after the auction and said, “Meet the new owner, as if it was a done deal,” Veazey said recently.

But weeks passed, and Bank of America never sealed the deal.

That’s not so unusual with financial institutions as big as Bank of America, said Tim Dudley, vice president of the Richmond company that handled the October estate sale.

People might assume a lien holder would take whatever it could get in a recession, but to a bank that runs like a big machine, “the amount is not arbitrary,” Dudley said.

Veazey hadn’t planned to restore Cleydael himself; he wanted to sell it to someone who would. He said the sole reason he bid on the two-story home and 12 acres was to keep the property from falling into the wrong hands.

Soon after the October auction, Veazey started talking with the Parkers, and they expressed interest in owning the property.

They’ve talked with estate and bank lawyers and have been approved for a $215,000 loan. They’re in the process of submitting their bid to Bank of America—and remain cautiously optimistic.

“This entire process has been up and down for over three months,” she said last week. “In other words, ‘It ain’t over ’til it’s over.’”

The Parkers also had building professionals assess the problems at Cleydael, and their list of needed work totals $83,890. The biggest chunk of that—$40,000—is to fix the roof, a portion of which was peeled back during Hurricane Irene.

Estate attorneys have said all along that the current homeowners’ policy should cover the roof damage.

Other needed repairs include replacing front and back porches, which have rotted flooring and beams; professional wood-floor cleaning to remove urine; and replacing plaster damaged by water and beams rotted by termites.

Renee Parker said she and her husband don’t dwell on the negative aspects. They’re too excited by the thought of restoring the place.

“We spend most of our time thinking of the priorities of repairs, who to get advice from regarding the redecorating and landscaping and how to save money on both,” she said.

She and her husband work at the Navy base in Dahlgren. He’s an analyst for the Aegis system and can do much of the repair work himself, she said.

Veazey said he hopes the Parkers will be able to take over Cleydael because they are the kind of people who can restore the home to the way it was during the Civil War.

Laurie Verge, director of the Surratt House in Clinton, Md., which also has ties to the Lincoln assassination, said she would be delighted if the Parkers became owners.