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Southern Virginia

( Originally Published 1932 )



BERRY HILL

BERRY HILL, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm Graeme Bruce, is situated in Halifax County. The plantation was purchased by James Coles Bruce from his first cousin, Edward Coles Carrington, who inherited it from his uncle, Isaac Coles, who purchased it from Benjamin Harrison of Berkeley, in 1769. The present house was built by Mr. Bruce, and is one of the few old houses left in Virginia that has never been occupied by anyone but the descendants of its founder.

The house is of pure Doric architecture, and stands in a park of twenty acres, in the midst of towering oaks with fine box hedges on either side. It is said by Fiske Kimball to be the noblest model of its kind in the Southern States, and one of the very first of its kind in America. The walls are three feet thick. Eight massive columns, upholding the front portico, rise from a series of stone steps sixty feet wide. The beautiful hall is twenty-five feet wide and forty feet long. The most striking feature of its interior is the circular stairways rising on both sides of the hall, which meet on a landing and continue as one. In the parlor and library the mantels of carved Italian marble are particularly noticeable. The original wall paper in the parlor and dining room is still intact. In the rear of the house there is a colonnade two hundred feet long. The entire house contains twenty-seven rooms. Presenting a dignified and classic effect are the billiard room and office. These miniatures of the mansion are located on either side of the circular driveway.

The park is surrounded by a fine, stone wall. Unfortunately the garden, which was planted under Mrs. Bruce's supervision, was destroyed, only some shrubs and boxwood remaining.

PRESTWOULD

Prestwould, in Mecklenburg County, is named after the English home of the Skipwith family in Leicestershire. It was inherited by Sir William Skipwith from his grandfather, Sir Gray Skipwith, who died in 1680, and who came to Virginia during the reign of Cromwell. Sir Peyton Skipwith came into possession of these lands of Prestwould from his father Sir William, who died in 1764.

This is one of Virginia's most interesting places. The house is situated on a high hill overlooking the Staunton River. It was erected in the eighteenth century, and built with slave labor. Stone for the building was taken from a quarry on the place. The house is square and large and has porches on three sides. There are high, stone walls around the lawn, in the midst of which is a giant oak that can be seen from a great distance.

There can be seen at Prestwould the plan of the first garden designed by Lady Jean, wife of Sir Peyton Skipwith, and there is a complete list of what was planted in this garden.

The mansion is noted for its rare wall paper. Prestwould is one of the few places in Virginia where most of the original furniture remains. A few pieces have been removed during the past fifty years. In the dining room is an interesting relic of the preelectrical era-a large fan, motive power for which was furnished by a small slave boy. There is an octagonal dancing pavilion on the place. The old graveyard can be seen with its stones bearing the coat-of-arms of the family. There is some rare ivy on the walls, and many handsome holly trees adorn the estate.

The present owners of Prestwould are Dr. and Mrs. John W. Price of Louisville, Kentucky.

CHATHAM HALL

Chatham Hall is situated on a hill overlooking the village of Chatham from the west and the range of White Oak Mountains from the east. The old mansion house was built by Colonel John Gilmer of Albemarle, who came to Chatham many years before the War Between the States. This house was burned, and Dr. C. O. Pruden built what is now one of the most imposing structures in Virginia.

To the rear is an old-fashioned garden planned and planted under the direction of Mrs. Pruden, who used as her model the garden of her mother, Mrs. Charles Old of Morewood, in Powhatan County. Lilac trees twenty feet high and roses whose names are not for our generation still hallow this charming spot.

ELDON

This beautiful home was built about 1820 by James Madison Whittle, one of Virginia's outstanding jurists and a brother of Commodore Whittle and the Right Reverend Francis Whittle, beloved Bishop of Virginia. It is situated one mile east of Chatham, and commands a wonderful view of the White Oak Mountains. The lawn of ten or more acres abounds in old-fashioned shrubs, ancient cedars, chestnut trees and rhododendron. Here also is to be seen the most beautiful wistaria in this section. The old Whittle burying ground is here.

Eldon was once the country home of Senator Claude A. Swanson, who remodelled it. It is now the property of Henry Swanson of Danville.

MOUNTAIN VIEW PLANTATION

This old Virginia plantation was the home of Colonel Thomas S. Jones and his wife Agnes Morton, the daughter of Benjamin Watkins who married Susannah DuPuy of the well-known Huguenot family. Her father, Captain John DuPuy, was a Revolutionary soldier.

Colonel Thomas S. Jones's family was identified with the early history of this section. His father, Emanuel, and Thomas B., were the sons of Lieutenant Thomas Jones, Sr., of the Revolutionary War, who received several land grants, and whose residence was at Mountain Top, where the old cemetery is located.

The Mountain View estate, three miles from Chatham, comprised more than three thousand acres, part of which was a gift from Colonel Jones's father to him in 1827. The mansion house, built about 1840, is a large, square, brick building, a splendid example of the architecture of its day, and stands a monument to the culture and refinement of the ante belluna days in Virginia. It is situated midst a grove of giant oaks, and its beautiful gardens are surrounded with hedges of symmetrically planted boxwood, spruce and other shrubbery. The brick was burned by Colonel Jones's servants; the woodwork is mostly of native lumber, and it is said that Mrs. Jones personally inspected each piece of the flooring. There are four large rooms on each floor, with a broad hall running straight through the house, with attic and basement rooms all ready for use. The front portico, with its great columns and well-laid flagstones, is a fitting entrance for such a hospitable home, and is a reminder of the many parties of other days.

The old servants' quarters have succumbed to time, but the brick kitchen with its huge fireplace is in a good state of preservation. While most of the descendants of Colonel Jones are widely scattered, two of his granddaughters still live in the town of Chatham.

The estate has been the property of Mrs. T. W. Laughlin for many years, and she has made every effort to preserve and protect the beauties of this old Virginia plantation.

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