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It’s a fact: Lafayette’s Stop Remembered

30 Jun
Powells Tavern0001 adj watermark

Powell’s Tavern in the 1970’s undergoing restoration.

In 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette was on his way from Richmond to Albemarle County to see is old friend Mr. Thomas Jefferson.

Lafayette’s first stop after leaving Richmond on the River Road (same route you know today) was a lunch stop at Powell’s Tavern located near the eastern line of Goochland (opposite James River Estates). The tavern was first a single clapboard structure constructed about 1770 and still standing. Business prospered and the increase meant expansion for the tavern. A front or second structure was constructed of brick, circa 1820. A narrow passage between the two buildings allowed the carriage to let passengers out under roof – a real first class idea! The distinguished visitor enjoyed a two hour stop over with a “cold collation” served to his party.

At Goochland Courthouse a large crowd awaited his arrival with banners of welcome and a final tribute to the General who saved the young America and gave us freedom and liberty.

There were three levels of public accommodation in those days: ordinaries, taverns, and inns, the latter being the best. The ordinary provided ordinary food for the traveler and waters for horses. Taverns provided food and some bed space. Inns provided food and overnight rooms but one usually shared a room with other tourists. The next tavern up the River Road was George’s Tavern located at the junction of Cartersville Road. The River Road was a winding, steep ups and downs, mud road which followed the river to Scottsville.

(The above is from the “It’s a fact” column that the Goochland County Historical Society contributed to the The Goochland Gazette on October 15, 1987.)

Powell’s Tavern was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

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Amazing things are happening in Goochland!

13 Aug
D. Brad Hatch and Jennifer McDonough

D. Brad Hatch and Jennifer McDonough

200-year-old bricks found at the center of the Courthouse columns! Footing for a 20-30 foot high brick wall that surrounded the stone jail was uncovered! Recently, archaeologists D. Brad Hatch and Jennifer McDonough from Dovetail Cultural Resource Group came to the Courthouse Green at the behest of the Historical Society to search for the footings of the wall long thought to have existed around the jail.

Various items found during excavation

Various items found during excavation

The first hole tried showed evidence of the long missing wall and immediately, the archaeologists started bringing things up that had been covered for a century or more. Nail, bits of pottery and ceramic, pieces of glass, chunks of brick and a 1905 Indian head penny.

1905 Indian head penny

1905 Indian head penny

The dig continued as the searchers tried spot after spot searching for more evidence of footings. Starting from the first hole, the pair moved outward, away from the jail and then across the jail yard looking for more evidence. Finally, with a little help from some ground penetrating radar equipment, the remains of the former wall were found in a large enough quantity to establish the size and length. Goochland’s nineteenth century jail wall had been proved to have existed!

The proof of the former wall.

The proof of the former wall.

Most of what is left in the ground is the rubble that was left when the wall was pushed down a century ago. Pieces of brick and cement remain as a testament to the walls that once surrounded jails in Virginia in the 1800’s. Once these structures were deemed no longer of use, most were taken down. The bricks were often used in other structures and what was left was pushed down and covered over as is the case in Goochland. This is just the first step in the upcoming restoration of the Old Stone Jail.

Courthouse column

Courthouse column

A few days after the excavation, workmen came to patch and paint the columns on the front of the historic Courthouse. During the patching, the bricks that make up the interior of the columns were briefly exposed. The is possibly the first time these bricks have seen the light of day in almost 200 years! What will turn up next?

Contributed by James Richmond of the Goochland County Historical Society

2014 Holiday Meeting

31 Dec

On Sunday, December 7, 2014, the Goochland County Historical Society held its annual Holiday meeting at historic Ben Dover in Manakin-Sabot.

Ben Dover

Ben Dover

The 1853 house was a big draw for the approximately 100 people who attended. Owner Louisa Preston gave us a quick history of the house and grounds and then the meeting moved on to Society business. President Wayne Dementi proposed the 2015 Board. Christina Dunn and Peter Gretz were then named and approved as the two newest Board members.

Delicious treats!

Delicious treats!

Lord Cornwallis (Bruce Venter) was our speaker for the day. His entertaining and informative performance kept everyone’s attention.

Lord Cornwallis (Bruce Venter)

Lord Cornwallis (Bruce Venter)

A big thank you goes out to the Preston family for making Ben Dover available for our meeting. Thanks very much to Louise Thompson for making sure the spread of treats was laid out for everyone to enjoy. Thank you to outgoing Board members Temple Bayliss, Bruce Venter, Sam Smith and Richard Carchman for your service to the Society. Also, thank you to our members for your support in 2014. Here’s to hoping that 2015 will be even better!

Fall Meeting – Hatfields, McCoys and Elk Hill

23 Oct

On September 28, the Goochland County Historical Society held its Fall Meeting at historic Elk Hill. The main house at Elk Hill was built between 1835 and 1839 by Randolph Harrison, Jr. and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today the property is part of Elk Hill Farm, a facility that supports troubled young people and their parents through a residential program that teaches academic, vocational, life and behavioral skills.

Elk Hill

Elk Hill

Our venue for the day was the beautiful Chapel that is surrounded by 100 year old trees. With sun shining through the stained glass windows, Michael Farley, Elk Hill CFO, gave a brief overview of Elk Hill and its mission. Then GCHS Vice-President Bruce Venter welcomed our guest speaker, Dean King, who spoke the adventures he had while researching his book, The Feud: The Hatfields and McCoys, The True Story (2013). Mr. King showed a slideshow of photographs of some of the people he interviewed and some of the locations where the feud occurred. Even though shot at and warned to stay away, he eventually gained the confidence of the citizens of the places he visited. His dedication led to the publication of the book as well as a reality series based on the book for the History Channel. We were even fortunate enough to have a direct descendant of one of the Hatfields in the audience for the presentation.

The Singleton Chapel, Elk Hill

The Singleton Chapel, Elk Hill

Afterwards, Elk Hill provided wonderful refreshments for the attendees and Mr. King graciously signed books. We would like to thank Dean King for a wonderful presentation. We would also like to thank Elk Hill representatives David Wyman (CEO), Michael Farley (CFO) and Ann Criswell (Director of Development) for taking care of us.

Dean King signing copies of The Feud

Dean King signing copies of The Feud

For additional information on Elk Hill, visit www.ElkHill.org.

To learn more about Dean King, visit www.deanhking.com.

Byrd Presbyterian Church

23 Apr

Byrd Presbyterian Church is located four miles west of Goochland County’s Courthouse. The rectangular brick structure is considered to be an outstanding example of the simple brick churches built in Virginia during the 19th century.

Byrd Presbyterian Church

Byrd Presbyterian Church

Begun in 1837 and finished in 1838, the church was constructed using Flemish bond on the front and common bond on the 3 surrounding sides. Originally there were two front doors. One door served the main floor while the other provided access to the balcony. There is also evidence that originally a front portico was planned, but never built. The building has managed to retain many of its original features including a slate roof, interior fittings, and twelve original windows with their rare 19th century venetian blinds. During renovations in the 1880’s, the two doors were changed to one central door and modernizations such as a metal pressed ceiling, tongue-and-groove wainscoting and moveable pews were added. Behind the church is a large, for its congregation, cemetery with headstones dating back to the 1850’s. Many Goochland notables are buried there including the Purchasing agent for the Confederacy in London and several descendants of Patrick Henry.

Samuel Davies

Samuel Davies

Byrd’s congregation is a direct descendant of a group organized in 1748 by the Reverend Samuel Davies, a leader in the fight for religious freedom in Colonial Virginia. The group began meeting in Tucker Woodson’s barn on land near the Goochland Courthouse. In 1759, land was acquired near Byrd Creek for the purpose of erecting a new place of worship. This building remained in use until deterioration forced the congregation to share nearby Lickinghole Church. In 1837, Samuel and Mary Finch conveyed 1 acre of land in the Belham community to the Presbyterian elders. On this land, the current church was built and dedicated as Union Church. It would remain “Union” or “Brick Union Church” until 1883. At that time, the congregation decided to change the name back to the earlier “Byrd Church”.

The outline of the original door can be seen to the right of the current door.

The outline of the original door can be seen to the right of the current door.

In the fall of 2000, Byrd Presbyterian Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It is notable for its architectural significance, location, cemetery and its connection to Samuel Davies. The beautiful landscape surrounding Byrd Church as well as its history makes it a wonderful stop on any tour of historic Goochland places.

Contributed by James Richmond of the Goochland County Historical Society

To learn more about Byrd Church: read Volume 20 of the Goochland County Historical Society’s magazine.

Ben Dover

27 Jan

Between the villages of Manakin and Sabot stands Ben Dover. The approach to Ben Dover with its surrounding magnolias and shade trees is a journey to another place and time. It is hard to believe but underneath its current façade, stands the last of the grand Italianate mansions that once graced this part of the county.

Ben Dover

Ben Dover

In 1853, William B. Stanard had Ben Dover built in the Italian Villa style that flourished in the middle of the 19th century. The house is thought to have been inspired by an illustration published in Andrew Jackson Downing’s The Architecture of Country Houses (1851). Along with neighboring Eastwood and Sabot Hill, Ben Dover differed greatly from the typical regional style employed at other plantations in the area such as Boscobel and Joe Brooke. The home originally featured an irregular roofline, decorative fenestrations, and a three-story tower. It was constructed of locally fired bricks and then stuccoed to resemble ashlar. Some of the opulent interior flourishes were silver plated doorknobs, hand-painted ceilings and marble mantles with cast iron fireguards.

Ben Dover before renovations

Ben Dover before renovations

The end of the Civil War saw an economic decline that brought about the sale of the plantation in 1872 to James Murray, a British engineer. After Murray’s death, his family sold Ben Dover to former Union General W. Horace Rose. During Rose’s tenancy, Ben Dover began a series of alterations in a battle to hold off the heavy deterioration of the house brought about by the flat roof and the use of porous handmade bricks. Rose had the house painted white and added an extensive five-bay porch. Another change Rose brought to Ben Dover was the addition of the pool, pool house and bowling alley. The circa 1905 single-lane Brunswick bowling alley is considered one of the best preserved in Virginia. This little alley helped secure the inclusion of Ben Dover to the National Register of Historic Places.

Brunswick Bowling Alley

Brunswick Bowling Alley

In 1925, Ben Dover was acquired by William T. Reed, Sr., the president of Larus & Brother Tobacco Company and a major figure in Richmond society during the 20th century. Reed counted among his friends Virginia Governor Harry Flood Byrd and aviator Charles Lindbergh who made a landing at Ben Dover in the 1927. Due to heavy damage caused by water seepage, the tower and second story of the porch had to be removed. It was at this time that Reed changed the Italian style façade of the house to Colonial Revival. The interior of the house, though updated, remained largely intact.

bowl2

The interior of Ben Dover is very spacious and still has remnants of the opulence that once graced it. The hand-painted ceilings are long gone but the marble mantle and cast iron fireguard still exist in the dining room. In the basement you can see the room that Rose converted into a dance hall. A long staircase leads you to the second floor with high ceilings and large bedchambers. A smaller stairway then leads you to the third floor with two more rooms.

photo

Ben Dover is a historical asset to the county and the region. It is notable for its changing façade that shows how plantations adapted to changing tastes. It is also notable as one of the two remaining plantations, out of five, visited by Ulric Dahlgren during the Goochland part of his ill-fated raid on Richmond in 1864. Beautifully landscaped grounds feature several supporting outbuildings including the wonderful bowling alley. For all of its historical assets, Ben Dover was added to the National Register of Historic Places in April of 2000.

Dining room with marble fireplace

Dining room with marble fireplace

Contributed by James Richmond of the Goochland County Historical Society

Ben Dover is currently listed for sale through realtor Pam Diemer (Pam@PamDiemer.com). As with the Lockkeepers House, the Historical Society is hoping for a buyer that will respect the history of these two properties. To learn more about Ben Dover: read Volume 4, number 2 of the Goochland County Historical Society’s magazine.

The Lock-Keepers House at Cedar Point

16 Nov

The Lock-Keeper’s House, circa 1836, is the last remaining lock-keeper’s house from the James River and Kanawha Canal system.  Located on Cedar Point Road in Goochland, the little building is a reminder of a time when the river was the fastest way to reach Richmond and the world.

lock

Personally surveyed and planned by George Washington, The James River and Kanawha Canal began in 1785 to ease shipments of passengers and goods from the interior of Virginia to the coast.  After a series of financial difficulties, the Commonwealth of Virginia took over and in March of 1832, the James River and Kanawha Canal Company was formed to extend the canal to the Ohio River.  By 1836 a lock was needed to move the traffic around the rocks at Cedar Point so Lock Number 7 was constructed.  The Lock-Keeper’s house was built alongside the lock for toll collection, invoice and cargo checking and as a tavern for the passengers of canal boats.  The house was in use for these purposes until the late 1800’s when the Richmond and Allegheny Railroad laid tracks on the old towpath of the canal.  Railroads led to an end of the canal era but the house stayed in use as a home for the railroad section masters.  The house was finally sold into the private sector in the 1960’s.

house

The Cedar Point Lock-Keeper’s house is a two-story frame structure on a stone foundation.  The foundation is whitewashed 18” granite and the upper stories are covered in weatherboard.  The interior is still arranged, as it would have been in the canal era, three stacked rooms to the right and three to the left.  There are two stairways, one at either end of the house.  One was for the lock-keeper and the other was for guests of the tavern.  The top floor is divided into two rooms for overnight accommodations and do not connect.  The easternmost room was for ladies.  The two top rooms were reached by different staircases which allowed the ladies to come and go without having to go through the tavern.

house2

The building has been damaged by floods and hurricanes on several occasions.  Two lines to the left of the basement entrance commemorate two early floods, one marked “30 Sept. 1870” and the other is for 1877.  Hurricane Camille arrived in 1969 with more flooding but the highest level so far would be caused by Hurricane Agnes.  That event in June of 1972 caused the river to rise 15 feet above flood stage causing water to rise 3 feet above the second level floor.  A bronze plaque commemorates Hurricane Agnes’ flood level on the outside of the house.  In November of 1974, the Lock-Keeper’s House was named to the National Register of Historic Places.

plaque

The Lock-Keeper’s House is currently listed for sale with Goochland Realty, Inc. realtor Vernell Burton.  The house has been converted to a home and offers a cozy atmosphere and incredible views of the James River.  The Historical Society is hoping that a buyer will keep the home intact for future generations.  If you are interested in purchasing the house, call 804-784-5288.

James River

James River

Contributed by James Richmond of the Goochland County Historical Society

To read more about The Lock-Keeper’s House: read volume 7, No. 1 of the Goochland County Historical Society’s magazine.