Tag Archives: Joseph Reid Anderson

Saving a Nineteenth Century Dining Table

25 Sep

As reported in the November 2019 newsletter, the Goochland County Historical Society (GCHS) was donated a large collection of home furnishings that belonged to the family of Joseph R. Anderson, a wealthy industrialist who once owned Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond and a tract of land in Goochland upon which his son Joseph R. Anderson, Jr. built the estate known as Thorncliff (above) in the early 1880s. GCHS is conserving furnishings and will display a collection of the furniture in the near future.

To prepare the furniture for display, some degree of conservation was required. One of the first items to be conserved, was also the largest, a three-piece dining table (shown above, c. 1920) that when put together is a whopping 14.5 feet in length.

According to Jay Gates of Gates Antiques Ltd., the table was probably made in Baltimore, Maryland in the early part of the 1800s. The construction dates for the table pre-date the building of Thorncliff, making this piece one of the earlier items donated by the Anderson family. It could possibly have been in the Richmond home of Joseph Reid Anderson, Sr. that once stood where the Jefferson Hotel stands today.

The two demi-lune end pieces (above), each more than 4 feet long, are mahogany with “plum pudding” veneer on the apron (below) and fluted legs with brass casters.

The center drop-leaf table (below) is also made from mahogany with a veneer apron but features plain legs and no casters. This was not uncommon since the center piece would not be as noticeable as the table ends, and may have been purchased at a later date to extend the demi-lunes.

One of the demi-lunes had apparently been in front of a window as its finish had faded to a very light tan (below before restoration). The demi-lune portions of the table also needed repair as the wood had become unstable and could no longer support the drop-leaves which had become detached. The center drop-leaf table was in better condition but had a large discoloration on the top. It also was sun bleached with some warping to the wood.

The work on the three pieces was done by Gates Antiques Ltd. They repaired the wood where necessary and the finish was hand-rubbed back to a rich mahogany color.

The table in its restored condition (above) is one of the pieces from the Anderson Collection that will be displayed at the Society when we debut “The Anderson Collection: Pieces from the Past.” Sometime in 2021. The gift of the furnishings also included funds for the restoration.

To learn more about Thorncliff, read Goochland County Historical Society Magazine Vol. 47, “Racehorses and Racketeers: The Story of Thorncliff” by James Richmond, information on Dover can also be found in Goochland Yesterday and Today by Cece Bullard.  These are available for purchase at the Historical Society Office and online.

Lost Goochland – The Forest

12 May

The Forest

Thomas Pleasants built “The Forest” shortly after purchasing the land in 1776.  Pleasants, a wealthy landowner and Quaker, lived on neighboring plantation “Beaverdam” and possibly built “The Forest” for the use of his son, William.  The 1805 will of Thomas Pleasants divided his vast land holdings among his children, William Henry Pleasant received “the land that he lived on”.  A plat recorded in the Clerk’s Office shortly after this showed William’s name on Charlie-Forest as it was then called.  The land would stay in the Pleasants family for a number of years before legal issues forced it to be sold to the highest bidder.

The plat of Charlie-Forest

The estate next came into the hands of Jane Dandridge and her husband, Dr. Thomas Curd, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.  They too would leave the land to their children, but again, problems with debts resulted in the house being sold.  In 1866, the owner of Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, would become the next landlord of “The Forest”.

Gen. Joseph Reid Anderson

Joseph Reid Anderson, Civil War General and owner of Tredegar, was a smart industrialist who made the decision to keep his money overseas during the war.  This would enable him to purchase large tracts of land in Goochland during Reconstruction.  Anderson eventually sold the land containing “The Forest” to his daughter Fannie and her husband, Dr. Edwin Hobson of Richmond.   The estate had rolling hills, springs, a peach orchard and a large Osage orange tree in the yard, all fondly remembered by Richard R. G. Hobson who spent many summers at his family’s country retreat during the Great Depression.

The land remained in the Anderson-Hobson family until 1951, when remaining family members sold the land to the Kent Brothers.  What followed was the slow decline of the once great estate.  Years of absentee landowners and part time tenants followed until the land was signed over to “The Forest Land Company”.  In 1974, the house that had witnessed the Revolutionary War, Civil War and years of legal battles between debt ridden families lost its battle and was leveled to make way for a subdivision.

Contributed by James Richmond of the Goochland County Historical Society

To read more about “The Forest”: Read Vol. 8, No. 1 of the Society’s magazine featuring Elie Weeks’ historical outline of the history of the house and Vol. 11, No. 2 featuring “Hard Times and Soft Hearts, Goochland County during the Depression” by Richard R.G. Hobson.