The lodge is one of several recent renovations to the sprawling estate once known as Pioneer Point Farm. The current 45 acres originally belonged to a 700-acre land grant from Britain in the 1600s. In 1702, the farm was purchased by Richard Tilghman and remained in his family until 1925 when it was sold to John J. Raskob, an executive with Dupont and General Motors. Tombstones dating from the early 1800s still remain on the property, but the first wood-framed dwelling on the estate is long gone. Raskob built the current brick mansion where the front door knocker, inscribed with “Hartefield House,” bears the only witness to that original home. For his 13 children and their friends, he also constructed an equally grand, neighboring brick house, which is now being restored by the Russian government.
After Raskob died, the estate was sold to a succession of owners in the decades following World War II. The Soviet government purchased the two houses and surrounding land in 1972 and later obtained more acreage after a land swap with the State Department, which in return received property in Moscow. The deal, however, wasn’t initially well received by the locals who were worried about suspicious foreigners. “It was during the Cold War and people around here were afraid that the Russians would bring their battleships,” says Ushakova. “But then they realized that it wasn’t so bad because Russians started coming to the local shops to buy food and everything. They realized that there was no danger and saw that we took care of the house and property. Moreover, they realized that the Russians were friendly and hospitable.”