Ben Lomond in 1976 during the fateful restoration.
Goochland’s Ben Lomond is named after a mountain on the banks of Loch Lomond in Scotland. The name Ben Lomond comes from the Scottish Gaelic Beinn Laomainn which translates to Beacon Mountain. In 1736, Isham Randolph, Sr. of Turkey Island in Henrico County, was granted a Royal Patent for 3,000 acres in Goochland County. It was on a part of this land that he built his mansion, Dungeness. Isham’s grandson, Archibald Cary Randolph bought the property that comprises Ben Lomond from the Dungeness estate in the late 1700’s and built his own house. An 1801 insurance policy shows that the original house was roughly the size of the central portion of the house as shown in the picture above. One of Randolph’s passions was horses and it was on this farm that famed racehorse Sir Archie was foaled in 1805.
The ruins of Ben Lomond
In 1806, Archibald Cary Randolph was forced to sell Ben Lomond and his horses to pay debts. Archibald was also known to be particularly bad with money. In a case heard before the Supreme Court, Archibald along with his two brothers, were said to be “notoriously insolvent” and had wasted their father’s estate. Archibald sent Sir Archie went to his partner William Tayloe and Ben Lomond was sold to Benjamin Watkins. The property passed down through the Watkins family for several generations and then went through a succession of owners: Van Mater, Schuett, Hazelwood, Rutherfoord, Bremner, Lewis, Hicks, Woodruff and Liebert to name a few.
The house has been described as a two-story, central passage plan house that was popular in the eighteenth century. Houses built in a similar style in Goochland include Tuckahoe, Rock Castle. In the 1970’s, Ben Lomond was undergoing an extensive restoration and renovation project when it caught fire. Neighbors could only stand in awe as the historic structure succumbed to the intense heat before the fire department could arrive. All that remains today is the western chimney, brick foundation and the steps. Strewn amongst the ground cover are fallen bricks from the massive eastern chimney, broken glass and pieces of metal. Two beautiful magnolia trees and scattered boxwoods give evidence of the park-like grounds that must have once existed. A few crumbling outbuildings stand as reminders of the once magnificent farm are slowly following the manor house into oblivion.
Past the decimated structure and just beyond the edge of the wood line is a square stone wall, the age of which is unknown. Inside this enclosure is speculated to be the grave of Sir Archie (1803-1833). He was the greatest racehorse of his day and sired many champions in his years at stud. His line went on to produce Man O’War, Seabiscuit and Secretariat to name just a few. Part of the mystery surrounding Sir Archie is his burial place. Sir Archie spent his last 17 years at stud at Mowfield Plantation, just west of Jackson, North Carolina which also lays claim as his place of burial. For decades, this has been a heated debate.
Burial place of Sir Archie?
The loss of Ben Lomond was another devastating blow to this part of Goochland. By the time of the fire, the historic area of Rock Castle had already lost Dungeness and Mannsville, both with Randolph connections, and Bolling’s Orapax. Today Ben Lomond survives as a haunting ruin that can only hint at it’s former glory.
To learn more about Ben Lomond: read Volume 3-1 of the Goochland County Historical Society’s magazine.