404 Cabell Street, The Watt’s House
This 1878 Italianate mansion is the largest and finest Italianate mansion in the Daniel’s Hill Historic District and is the largest Italianate home in the city of Lynchburg.
n the spring of 1875, Richard Thomas Watts purchased the two lots on Daniel’s Hill for the sum of $2,150.00, onto which he erected his residence. Designed by R.C. Burkholder it was built between 1875 and 1878.
Watts enlisted in the Civil War as a private in Company A, Second Virginia Cavalry until he was promoted to take on the responsibility of adjutant with White’s Battalion. In May 1864, he was wounded at the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse and taken prisoner, then sent to Fort Delaware for the remainder of the war. Upon returning home he started a partnership with his brother, James W. Watts, and brother-in-law, George M. Jones, to form one of the first wholesale houses in the city: Jones, Watts, & Co. Hardware. In 1874 he married Emma T. Hurt, sold the company in 1887 and moved onto others interests, including coal mining and real estate investments. R.T. and Emma had eleven children, with only five growing to adulthood. R.T. died in 1910 bequeathing the house and lot to Emma, who died unexpectedly in 1911. As she died without a will, her five children agreed that the youngest, Mary, would receive the house and lot. In 1920 Mary married John Williams James, from Culpeper. In 1928 they sold the property to Lena Fore who furnished rooms to travelers between 1938 and 1939, when the property was known as the Cabell and D Street Tourist Home.
One of Daniels Hill’s most ornate mansions, the red brick Italianate was enlarged over the years. The front porch addition, made popular at the end of the 19th century by Queen Victoria, terminates at the north end of the porte-cohere´. The elaborate carriage house was constructed about 1909. Surrounded by an iron fence with brick pillars, the house gives passersby a sense of dignity and opulence.
The original brick house was trimmed with three bay windows and with two small porches facing Cabell Street. Six outbuildings dotted the property, which consists of 1.5 acres, along with two large frame structures fronting D Street. By 1902 the Cabell Street façade of the main house had been renovated and the Queen Anne-style porch features, seen today, had been added. Both the exterior and interior walls are constructed of three courses of brick. The floor plan features a sweeping staircase in the entry foyer, two parlors, a library, 5 bedrooms and 4 full baths (that are original to the house) with wonderful claw footed tubs. A living space for a servant can be found above the kitchen. When the house was built each room had a fireplace, originally coal-burning, as this is how the house was heated. About 1900 steam radiators were added, which have since been converted to hot water radiators. Several of the original gas lighting fixtures remain in the house. Rounded Romanesque arches frame windows and doors. Pediments, scrolled brackets, pilasters, overhanging eaves and pillars were common on Italianate homes.
Mike and Kathy purchased the home in 2003. Working weekly, 3-4 days per week, for almost five years the property has been restored to it’s former glory. Except for the addition of central air conditioning and Wi-Fi the house is much as it was when R.T. and Emma raised their family here. Most of the doors, window casings, light fixtures, mantels, plumbing fixtures and baseboards are original to the house as are the wainscoting in the foyer, dining room and library.
As stated by the Lynchburg Historical Foundation “this house is a fine example of preserving the past for the future”.
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