Essex County Virginia

Historic Buildings of Essex County

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Many of the homes listed are not open to the public except during Garden Week and other selected special occasions. The two churches listed are open to the public.

Belle Farm House
From Tappahannock, intersection of Queen St. (Rt. 360) and Rt. 17, take 17 north 4 miles to Rt. 712. Turn right and go one-half mile to end of road.

Belle Farm House has a peripatetic history: woodwork in the rear wing has been used in four separate locations and that of the main house, three. The front portion was built at an unknown date on land that was part of Warner Hall in Gloucester County. The rear portion was part of a house at Gloucester Point that was used as a hospital during the Revolutionary War and was later moved to the Belle Farm location near the Bell Farm HouseSevern River. In 1930 the Williamsburg Reconstruction Corporation purchased the house and removed the floors and woodwork. As a country house, however, Belle Farm was not appropriate for reconstruction in the restored area. John Latane Lewis, Jr., the father of the present owner, bought the woodwork from Colonial Williamsburg. In 1951-52 he re-constructed the house in Williamsburg where the family lived until Mr. Lewis died and Mrs. Lewis entered a retirement home in the 1980s.
The current owners, Mr. & Mrs. Shepherd Fitz-Hugh Lewis, through the efforts of master craftsman Albert M. Zettl of Aylett in King William County; had the woodwork removed from the Williamsburg house and used in the construction of the present Belle Farm House at its location on the Rappahannock River. Notable features include fine paneling and interior woodwork - wainscoting, crown and dentil molding, and magnificent mantles. The furnishings are a mixture of family pieces and antiques acquired by the owners. The exterior appearance bears some resemblance to the original Gloucester structure and to the construction in Williamsburg; however, certain modifications to the size and location of porches were made to provide a better view of the Rappahannock River, which is one-and-a-half miles wide at this point. The house was open to Historic Garden Week visitors on the Williamsburg tour in 1955. Mr. and Mrs. Shepherd E Lewis, owners.

From Tappahannock, intersection of Queen St. (Rt. 360) and Rt. 17 take Rt. 17 north 7 miles to Beverley Road. Turn right to house.

Blandfield was built on a 3,500 acre plantation on the Rappahannock River between 1769 and 1773 by Robert Beverley II and remained in that family until 1983 when Mr. and Mrs. James C. Wheat, Jr. purchased the house. They began extensive and meticulous restoration under the counsel and direction of the staff of Colonial Williamsburg.  Although there is no architect who has been linked to the building of Blandfieldthis Palladian house, it is known that the plan was adapted from specific plates in the influential 1728 Book of Architecture by English architect James Gibbs. Drum House in Scotland also has been considered to be a prototype for Blandfield. Described in the Virginia Landmarks Register as belonging to the important group of mid-Georgian Tidewater mansions characterized by the five-part plan that links flanking dependencies to the main house by hyphens or one-story corridors, Blandfield was one of the largest houses in Virginia at the time it was built.
Today, brilliant color, striking wallpaper design, and elaborate mill-work give the massive formal interior a vastly different appearance from what the Wheats first encountered when they bought the property. During the 1840s, the interior paneling and molding had been replaced with plain Greek Revival trim and the two stairways had been modified in the 19th century style. Restoration and furnishing has been ongoing for 13 years and continues today based on historical research, the Beverley family papers, and scientific investigation. Of particular interest is the yellow floral wallpaper in the south parlor, which was hung using 18th century techniques. The documentary paper was made by pasting together 18 by 24-inch squares to create rolls of paper. The paper was then painted with the background color and shipped to London where it was printed with 200-year-old wood blocks. Blandfield is listed in the Virginia Historic Landmark Register and the National Register of Historic Places. Open for the first time to Historic Garden Week visitors. Mrs. James C. Wheat Jr., owner.
Brooke's Bank
From Tappahannock, intersection of Queen Street (Rt. 360) and Rt. 17 take Rt. 17 north 14 miles. Turn right at Brooke's Bank Road. Follow signs.

Brooke's Bank (c. 1751) was built by Sarah Taliaferro Brooke following the death of her husband William, who died in a naval battle. The land was granted to Mrs. Brooke in 1751 by King George II in recognition of her husband's service to the Crown. Set back from the Rappahannock River approximately one hundred yards, the house is classic Georgian laid in Flemish bond with an elaborately molded belt course across the four Brooks Banksides.  The brickwork is especially noteworthy because the two massive end chimneys, which tower 20 feet above the roof, are adorned with diamond patterns in glazed brick heads. It is said that the series of diamonds on three sides of each chimney was built to discourage witches from entering the house. As further protection, doors were paneled in the double cross, or cross and open Bible design, with Holy Lord hinges on them. There are four patterns on one chimney and three on the other to make the lucky number seven. This is unique in Virginia houses.
In the 1770s, Brooke's Bank saw a second period embellishment of Federal details, primarily around the mantelpieces. In the 1930s, the Enos Richardson family bought the property and added a series of additions to the east and west wings as well as other modem conveniences. In 1994, Mr. George Walker Box purchased the property and began restoration of its exterior to its original Georgian character by removing the Richardson era wings and adding new wings to either end to reflect a more Federal era style. They are restoring the interior as well to its original state with completion scheduled for 1999. The house is considered to be an architectural gem because most of the interior is original, including woodwork, hardware, hinges, doorways, paneling, etc. Mr. George Walker Box, owner.
Cherry Walk c.1780
From Woodlawn-Sandy, turn left on Rt. 620 for 0.5 miles to Cherry Walk. After touring house return to Rt. 360 and proceed to Tappahannock to continue tour.

Built on a colonial site by Carter Croxton, of Revolutionary War fame, the house remained in the family and was home to Alexander Woodford Broaddus, a county notable, who left it to his youngest daughter, Woodley, later Mrs. A. S. Acree. She guarded the property zealously for almost 100 years until her death in the mid 1970s. It was bought by the Rowlands in 1982.Cherry Walk
The house is a four-bay brick dwelling with dormered steep gambrel roof. Of particular note are the five supporting outbuildings: two dairies. a smokehouse, a summer kitchen, and a privy. A much-enlarged early barn, a plank corncrib, and a late 19th century blacksmith's shop have also been restored.
Beverley Wellford Rowland, who has strong ties to this area dating to the 17th century, designed and planted the gardens after extensive research. Her plan included a formal herb garden, Mr. Rowlands vegetable garden which mirrors the design of the herb garden, a fruit plot, and a swimming pool with surrounding perennial borders filled with native and drought tolerant plants. The gardens reinforce the historic integrity and rural simplicity of the house and outbuildings and attest to the owners' continuing hands-on involvement with the project.
The entire site, including 97 acres, house, and all outbuildings, is listed on the Virginia Register and the National Register of Historic Places and is protected in perpetuity by an historic and open space easement donated by the Rowlands to the State of Virginia.
Open for the first time to Historic Garden Week visitors. Mr. and Mrs. Walter Speed Rowland, owners.
From Tappahannock, intersection of Queen St. (Rt. 360) and Rt. 17, take Rt. 17 north 13 miles. Turn left at crossover and follow signs to house.

Edenetta was built in 1823 by Robert Payne Waring on a land grant from the king and passed into the Baylor family at the marriage of Lucy Waring to Richard Baylor, where it remained until 1984 when Dr. and Mrs. Robert Y. Coleman purchased the property and began renovation. The land has been designated a stewardship forest, the first in Essex County, with plots set aside for plantings to preserve wildlife. Edenetta
The two-and-a-half story brick manor house with English basement is noted for its four massive Tuscan columns of Aquia sandstone , which reach skyward two stories from its stone porch and pyramid steps. The interior ceilings are adorned with elaborate cut plaster work and moldings. The dining room has a black Egyptian marble fireplace, and the parlor has a white Italian marble one. During restoration, the owners replaced the back (now road side) porch; added a stairway in the front hall; added the kitchen-library wing; restored parts of the faux graining on interior pine doors; and developed a formal boxwood garden with a large stone fountain in the center of the parterre. The original stone pillars remain as do two of the outbuildings - the brick smokehouse (now serving as a garden house) and the old kitchen/servants' quarters, still under restoration. Furniture from the Baylor family that remains in the house includes an unusual square piano, a large secretary, a bookcase now being used as a china cupboard, and two sideboards with marble tops. Open for the first time to Historic Garden Week visitors. Dr. and Mrs. Robert Y. Coleman, owners.
From Tappahannock, intersection of Queen Street (Rt. 360) and Rt. 17 take Rt. 17 north 17 miles. Turn left on Rt. 640 and go one-tenth of a mile. Driveway is on right.

Elmwood was built about 1774 by Muscoe Garnett of Mt. Pleasant, who was one of the largest landed proprietors in Essex County, on land overlooking the Valley of the Rappahannock River and remains in the seventh generation of the same family today. It is the last surviving mansion of a family that was prominently involved in the political life of Virginia and of the nation during the 18th and 19th centuries.Elmwood
The imposing Georgian house, laid in Flemish bond, is 100 feet long and 30 feet wide with three stories over an English basement. A molded water table bands the entire foundation. The hipped roof is broken by dormers and by a central projecting pavilion on the front entrance with a second floor Palladian window. Wood work in the house is thought to be by William Buckland. The elaborately paneled ballroom foreshadows Buckland's magnificent work in Annapolis. In the mid years of this century, the Garnetts undertook an extensive restoration, removing an 1851 stair tower, which had been added to the left of the main entrance, and Victorian porches on each side. Riverside and garden doorways were designed by architect Charles E. Spencer to replace the Victorian ones. Mr. and Mrs. Muscoe R. H. Garnett Jr., owners.
The Old House at Kendale Farm
From Tappahannock, take Rt. 17 North for 13.2 miles to Rt. 637. Turn right, go 1.1 miles to Rt. 661 (Kendall s Road). Turn right and go 1.9 miles to house. From Fredericksburg. on Rt. 17 South, go 13.7 miles south of Port Royal (intersection of Rt. 17 and Rt. 301) and turn left on Rt. 637

John Hill Carter Beverley, of the "Blandfield" Beverleys, was given this land by his family upon his marriage in 1880. There was an existing l830's outbuilding here that had a fireplace upstairs and down, and it is thought Beverley expanded this house for his bride. His great-grandson and his wife, the current owners, recently enlarged the Tidewater farmhouse to take advantage of the view of surrounding farmland and the Kendale FarmRappahannock River.
When Kendale Farm was divided several years ago, the owners chose this site because of their interest in landscaping, having always wanted to be able to garden on a large scale. They engaged the acclaimed landscape architectural firm Oehme, van Sweden and Associates, Inc. to design for them in the "New American Garden Style". Here, clusters of grasses and sweeps of colorful flowers and shrubbery change the scene several times within the seasons. Planting is environmentally suited for the region with the expectation that little maintenance will be needed. The owners say they are still in the learning stage with a developing wildflower meadow, located just beyond the kitchen garden. Open for the first time to Historic Garden Week visitors. Mr. and Mrs. W. Harrison Wellford, owners.
St. Paul's Church
From Tappahannock: on Rt. 360, 9.9 miles west of Tappahannock. From Richmond: on Rt. 360, 35 miles east of Richmond

In 1819 a small group of men in Tappahannock met to reorganize local Anglican congregations that had been scattered after the Revolution and to call a rector to South Farnham Parish. They secured the services of the Reverend John Rennolds from 1820-1825. The building of St. Paul's began during the tenure of his successor, the Reverend John Peyton McGuire. The structure replaced two Colonial brick churches. St. Pauls ChurchUpper and Lower Piscataway, both of which were in service before 1709. The architecture of the church reflected the Bishop's emphasis on preaching and personal conversion rather than the sacraments and services of the church. St. Paul's is one of two Virginia churches that still retain the center pulpit characteristic of the Anglican Evangelical Movement of the 19th century. The tall Gothic-style windows of the brick building ensure a bright interior. In 1920 the walls were reinforced and two rectangular windows on the front of the building were replaced with a large stained glass window.
Vauter's Episcopal Church
From Tappahannock, intersection of Queen St. (Rt. 360) and Rt. 17 take Rt. 17 North, 16 miles on right.

Vauter's Episcopal Church, the upper church of St. Anne's Parish, was built in 1731 on land belonging to Bartholomew Vauter (originally spelled Vawter). One of the county's oldest structures, it is the eleventh oldest of 48 colonial churches still standing in Virginia. The masonry is among the finest of any colonial church. Bricks, which are laid in a Flemish bond pattern, were probably fired on site and the mortar made from Vauter's Churchoyster shells. Noteworthy inside are the high vaulted ceilings and T-shaped floor plan.
Since 1704 there has been a long succession of clergymen, among them Parson Robert Rose, who was an attorney, a physician, a surveyor of the city of Richmond and an active participant in Virginia politics. In 1761 the parish became embroiled with political authorities over the selection of its minister. Gov. Alexander Spotswood selected one man while the vestry chose another, and a lengthy debate ensued. Although the governor prevailed, it was enacted shortly thereafter that vestries in Virginia had the right to select their own ministers. Subsequent to the Revolution, Vauter's Church passed out of service, but it was given protection and saved from vandalism by Mrs. Muscoe Garnett of Elmwood, who claimed the building as standing on her property. At an undetermined time, the Queen Anne communion silver, made in London in 1724, was removed from the church, except for one chalice. In 1909 Mrs. Minnie Garnett Mitchell of Elmwood was instrumental in restoring the pieces to the church from a collection in the north. The flagon has not been found. The 1739 Lectern Bible, published in England, will be on display. Open for the first time to Historic Garden Week visitors.

From Tappahannock. on Rt. 17 North go 15.2 miles to Rt. 638. Turn right and proceed to end of road (about 1 mile). From Fredericksburg, on Rt. 17 S, continue 11.7 miles south of Port Royal (intersection of Rt. 17 and Rt. 301) and turn left on Rt. 638.

John Saunders, merchant and planter, constructed this Greek Revival plantation house in the mid-19th century on a bluff overlooking a bend in the Rappahannock River. During his ownership and that of his son, the plantations steamboat wharf was a focus of river transportation and commerce for upper Essex, carrying both freight and passengers between Baltimore, Fredericksburg, Norfolk, and points in between. It is Wheatlandone of the very few surviving steamboat wharves in the Chesapeake watershed.
The farm settled by members of the Hawkins family prior to 1801, was first called "Society Hill." Subsequent owners were Mordecai Spindle and William Gray. The new house, the main portion, is a two-story five-bay frame residence with a raised brick basement and a hipped roof. The building is perfectly symmetrical, with two identical front elevations, one facing the river and the other, the road and has a double-pile central hall plan. The kitchen wing was added in the late 19th century. A boxwood-lined walk leads to the river and a graceful flower garden on the south side leads to a gazebo.
The current owners, descendents of John Saunders, have returned to the house many pieces of original furniture, portraits, and family treasures. Wheatland is listed in the Virginia Landmark Register and the National Register of Historic Places. Open for the first time to Historic Garden Week visitors. Mr. and Mrs. Peter Charles Bance and Mr. and Mrs. Edgar John Dickinson Bance, owners.
Woodlawn - Sandy
From Tappahannock: Take Rt. 360 West for 8.5 miles. at Millers Tavern turn right on Rt. 620. Proceed 1.9 miles to Woodlawn-Sandy From St. Paul's Church: Take Rt. 360 East, 1.9 miles to Millers Tavern. Left on Rt. 620 1.9 miles to Woodlawn-Sandy.
The house, thought to have been built by members of the Wood family of Woodville, is a late-eighteenth century sister house of neighboring Cherry Walk. Characteristic of WoodlawnElizabethan tythe-barn construction, it is a frame, three-bay with dormered gambrel roof and a large chimney at each eave end over a high English basement. It was acquired by Captain P. A. Sandy in 1859 and passed through his granddaughter to Carl Lauther, Jr., from whom the current owners purchased it in 1990.
Known locally as "The Circus House," it was the headquarters of a traveling circus with sideshow in the 1940s. Today, a resident ghost playfully tunes the CD or radio to country music and turns the water on and off. The owners have extensive collections of porcelain, stoneware, baskets, Toby jugs, glass and furniture. Of particular interest are the 18th and 19th century hyacinth vases.
The period plantings and the charming kitchen dependency are sheltered by an enormous weeping willow. Open for the first time to Historic Garden Week visitors.

House renderings by Edward P. von Walter