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Historic Lynchburg

Lynchburg Tour of Homes 2018

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The Historic Foundation of Lynchburg, VA is hosting it’s Tour of Homes on Sunday, September 23, 2018.  This year’s historic neighborhood is Daniel’s Hill.  Daniel’s Hill was first developed as a residential neighborhood in the late 1840’s, when Judge Daniel began subdividing and selling his plantation.  In the mid-1870’s Daniel’s Hill began a building boom that transformed the neighborhood from largely rural farmland into a bustling residential suburb.  Among Lynchburg’s historic districts Daniel’s Hill is unique for the diversity of its architecture.  Styles range from Federal to Italianate to Georgian Revival to Queen Anne.  Types of buildings include opulent mansions, modest working class homes, rowhouses, servant’s quarters, stores, factories and churches.

Carriage House Inn

The Carriage House Inn will be one of the homes on the Tour of Homes

1. The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast, 404 Cabell Street, is one of the homes open for tour.  This Italianate mansion was designed by R.C. Burkholder and built between 1875 and 1878.  Richard Thomas (RT) had the mansion built, after purchasing the double lot for $2,150.  He married Emma Hurt and they had eleven children, with only five growing into adulthood.

The massive brick home is predominately a rectangle with both exterior and interior walls constructed of three courses of brick.  Today’s 3-sided wraparound porch and porté cochere were added in the late 19th century, Queen Anne’s influence.  A sweeping staircase is found in the entry foyer.  Romanesque arches framing windows and doors, pediments, scrolled brackets, pilasters, overhanging eaves and pillars distinguish this mansion as Italianate in style.

Dabney-Scott Adams House

The Dabney-Scott Adams House will be open for the Tour of Homes

2.  405 Cabell Street is known as the Dabney-Scott-Adams house.  Built in 1852 it bears much evidence of its original configuration-a standard three-bay, hipped roof Greek revival with a one story porch.  In 1882 the house was stuccoed, the attic was made usable with the addition of dormers and a glass conservancy was added to the left of the front parlor.  The parlor to the right of the foyer still contains the original plaster mouldings and ceiling ornaments.  The 2-story brick servants’ quarters remain, as a separate building to the left of the house.

The house is known in Lynchhburg history as “Dabney’s Folly”.  Built by Albert Dabney, who also owned the Phoenix Foundry, he spent lavishly in the construction of the house.  Ultimately he went broke and had to sell both the house and the foundry.  The home has recently been purchased and the new owner will be restoring the home to its original grandeur.

Waldren-Hancock House

Waldren-Hancock House will be on the Tour of Homes

3.  211 Cabell Street.  The Queen-Anne style Waldron-Hancock House was built in 1874.  The house retained most of its fireplaces and fireplace tiles, moldings, banisters and wainscoting, a corner cabinet and a servants’ bell hanging over the doorway into the dining room.  The exterior of the house has been painted blue with lavender trim.  Be sure and notice the curved clapboard above the upstairs sleeping porch, in graduated shades of lavender and purple.

The backyard contains a brick patio with ample space for entertaining around the fire pit, several vegetable gardens and numerous fruit trees.  The owners envision rebuilding a carriage house, as was there in the late 1800’s.

A smaller home on Cabell Street

 

4.  123 Cabell Street.  A renovation of a fine, but smaller, house that has improved upon the original house with modern amenities while still preserving as many original and architectural elements as possible.  Gutting an older house, reimagining rooms and traffic flow, removing walls, adding windows and reconfiguring kitchens and baths are the fun of “starting over.”  The historic character remains but you can imagine yourself living here in 2018.  When possible architectural features such as original moldings, mantles, claw foot tubs and detailed paneling are preserved.  Located walking distance to all that downtown Lynchburg has to offer-dining, the theater and opera, museums, shops and the vibrant art scene Cabell Street is quickly becoming the place to live!

Tour of Homes

The Patrons Party will take place at the Rivermont House on F Street

This year’s tour will take place on Sunday, September 23, 2018, between the hours of 1:00 until 4:30.  Tickets can be purchased at the old church located at 217 Cabell Street.  The Patron’s Party will take place at Rivermont House, located at 205 F Street, between 6:00 until 8:30.  Ticket prices for the tour are $20.00.  The Patron’s Party requires a separate ticket at $75.00.

 

Federal Transient Bureau Fire

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Photo by The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast

Fire at the Federal Transient Bureau

On the morning of March 24, 1934, at approximately 4:45 am, the cook preparing breakfast at Lynchburg, Virginia’s Federal Transient Bureau spilled grease on a stove burner as he was cooking sausage and gravy.  The stovetop flare was extinguished but not before it sparked a blaze that climbed the abandoned elevator shaft that had been converted into the kitchen.  The fire quickly spread to the second floor and the roof, ultimately killing at least 19 men and injuring at least 70 others.

Transient Bureaus were a form of federal aid instituted in the New Deal, by President Theodore Roosevelt, to help communities inundated with men traveling the country when rumors of work surfaced.  Operated by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the bureaus were designed to relieve pressure on local relief agencies.  Lynchburg’s shelter was one of eight in the state of Virginia.

Opened on December 18, 1933 in a 2-story building at the corner of 12th and Church Streets, in downtown Lynchburg, it fed and sheltered men during the Great Depression.  The building was originally built as retail space but was retrofitted to provide shelter to 100 men, separated by race.  On the morning of March 24, 1934 it sheltered 190 men, 83 white and 190 black.

The cook attempted to extinguish the fire plus woke the night superintendent to unlock the storage closet containing more fire extinguishers.  The superintendent began yelling “fire” in the over-crowded sleeping areas in an attempt to wake the sleeping men.  The windows of the building had been covered with wood and cardboard to provide privacy.  The barriers were meant to be removable but many were stuck, providing a deadly barrier when the stairs became too clogged with men, smoke and flames.  The building did not have any fire escapes.

A patrol officer called the fire department about 5:05 am.  It took the Fifth Street Fire Station less than 2 minutes to reach the scene.  It was difficult for the fire engines to be positioned near the burning building due to the number of injured men who were filling the streets and sidewalks as they lay bloodied and broken or were continuing to jump from the windows.  Two men were found dead on the sidewalk.

The city’s ambulances carried as many as five people per trip to Lynchburg Hospital and Virginia Baptist Hospital.  Mail and bakery trucks were forced into service as additional ambulances.  The scene at the hospital was described as “that of a field hospital in a combat zone after a severe battle.”

Seven of the men are buried in Old City Cemetery.  The Transient Bureau’s records were salvaged from the fire, but many of the telegrams sent to the families came back unclaimed.  It seemed the transients had lied about their family or home address out of embarrassment.

The Federal Transient Bureau fire remains to this day as the deadliest fire for a single blaze in Lynchburg’s history.  After the fire the federal government mandated several changes in the operation of homeless shelters.

Fire extinguishers were mandated in sleeping areas of all Transient Bureaus across the country.  The minimum space between cots or bunks was regulated.  A minimum of two unobstructed and lighted exits from each sleeping area were required.  The night watchman or superintendent was to patrol the premises every 30 minutes and had to be trained in fire prevention and suppression.  The city of Lynchburg mandated that fire escapes were required on all shelters at least two stories tall.

The fire became one of the catalysts prompting the formation of the all-volunteer Lynchburg Life Saving and First Aid Crew.  The Lynchburg Life Saving and First Aid Crew operated in tandem with the Lynchburg Fire Department until 2012.  The LLSC now teaches those in the community CPR and life saving techniques.

On Saturday, March 24, 2018-the 84th anniversary of the disaster-a historical marker was dedicated at the corner of 12th and Church Streets.  The marker recounts the tragedy and its effect on the Lynchburg community.

 

Some information contained in this blog is attributed to The News and Advance, March 24,2018.

 

Searching for the Overseer’s House

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As our blog followers know we find Poplar Forest an interesting, thought provoking and unique treasure in the Lynchburg, VA area.  This month we are highlighting some current archaeological work being pursued at Poplar Forest.

During the summer of 2017 the first archaeological steps to locate the overseer’s house were begun. Located on a lot adjacent to Poplar Forest students from the annual Field School in Historic Archaeology and Landscapes conducted a six-week study of a plot of land.  Excavating a total of 26 shovel test pits and 7 five-foot excavation units many “treasures” dating to the late 18th-early 19th century were found.

Artifacts included handwrought and machine cut nails, window glass, melted glass, fragments of ceramic vessels, an iron buckle and a coat sleeve button.  A large quantity of slag, the waste product from blacksmithing, was also found.  It is now assumed that the area studied is only the edge of the site and that it probably extends onto other properties located just outside of the land currently owned by Poplar Forest.

Why is the location of this house important?  The structure was likely one of the earliest to be built on the plantation, possibly as early as the 1760’s.  This structure would have been a center of activity until Jefferson built the octagonal retreat house in 1806.  Determining the whereabouts of the overseer’s house will assist in determining how the plantation was originally laid out in the years prior to the construction of Poplar Forest, Jefferson’s retreat house.

It is thought that Thomas Jefferson wrote the majority of his book, Notes on the State of Virginia, in the overseer’s house while he was convalescing after a fall from his horse.  The book is a statement of Jefferson’s principles and is a reflection of his wide-ranging tasks and talents.  It deals with culture, comments about social phenomena and his political and social philosophies.

As always, a trip to Polar Forest will teach you something new or expose you to a new idea or thought presented by Thomas Jefferson.

 

 

What’s Behind the Name Poplar Forest?

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Rear view of Poplar Forest showing the poplar trees of Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Whether you live in the Lynchburg, VA area or not we know many of our readers and guests at The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast have taken the time to visit historic Poplar Forest.  While touring this magnificent house and the grounds did you ever wonder why Poplar Forest is called Poplar Forest?

Thomas Jefferson built his retreat adjacent to a poplar forest, in Bedford County, in part to honor the majestic tree that grew prolifically in the woods surrounding his property.

Thomas Jefferson was an experienced builder.  While building his retreat he specified certain woods for specific uses and functions.  The heartwood from old-growth poplar trees was prized for exterior as well as interior features.  Poplar wood was used for structural members of the house such as joists and  rafters.  It was used for the Doric balusters of the classical roof balustrade.  The trim found both outside and inside the house were hand-molded from poplar wood.

Poplar wood is scarce today due to the fact that a living tree must be felled in its prime.  If left to become a full, mature tree–in 200-300 years–the heartwood will rot and disappear.  The poplar wood used by Jefferson was sawed by hand with pit saws operated by enslaved labor.

Surrounding Poplar Forest, the mansion, you will see five Jefferson-era poplar trees on the north side of the house.  Today these trees are more valuable as historical landscape features rather than sources of lumber.  In 2000 one large poplar tree was taken down.  It did have some usable heartwood that has been used for moldings in the house: bases, chair rails, architraves and entablatures.  This interior trim is also being made by hand, as in Jefferson’s day.

The next time you visit Poplar Forest, as there is always something new to see or experience, take a few moments to walk the perimeter of the house.  Look up at the magnificent poplar trees.  Imagine Thomas Jefferson and his grand daughters staring at these same trees, many, many years ago.

As extra incentive to visit and tour Poplar Forest if you visit on Saturday, May 12th an architectural restoration talk and tour will be offered.  During this special talk and tour you will learn how the restoration architects, architectural historians and craftsmen are meticulously restoring Jefferson’s vision for this stately mansion.  These tours are at 11 and 2 on the 12th.  Reservations are suggested.  Regular tour admission prices apply.

 

Downtown Loft Tour 2018

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The Old Piedmont Flour Mill (now loft apartments) will be on the Downtown Loft Tour

It’s that time again….the Downtown Loft Tour in historic Lynchburg, VA.

This benefit tour supports the Free Clinic of Central Virginia.  Marking it’s 14th anniversary, this years tour may be the most exciting yet!  Featuring several brand “new” loft buildings you will be able to experience several great buildings for the first time.  One “new” loft building will be Factory 88, located at 320 12th Street.  Originally the Ford and Winfree Tobacco Factory, it is thought to have been built in 1850 and features various one-bedroom floorplans on three floors.  Other loft buildings will be announced, as we get closer to April 28th.

Gish Flats

Several loft buildings from last year will be featuring different loft units.  These include The Gish Flats, Imperial Tobacco Lofts and the Piedmont Flour Mill Lofts.  The Piedmont Flour Mill was built in the 1870’s.  The silos, on Washington Street, were built after 1910.  There are plans to convert the silos into loft apartments also.  All milling ceased at the Piedmont Flour Mill in 1987.

The tour takes place on Saturday, April 28, 2018 between 10 until 4.  This is a self-guided tour.  You can choose to visit any or all of the lofts, in any order.  Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 on the day of the tour.  Will-call tickets plus a tour map and brochure will be available for pick-up at the Free Clinic, 1016 Main Street, starting at 9:00 a.m. on the 28th.  For more information call 434.847.5866, ext. 23 or visit www.freeclinicva.org.

Guests staying with us at The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast will be able to access the tour by walking down Cabell Street into downtown Lynchburg.  Mike and I will look for you as we tour each unique and interesting loft.

The “Who’s Who” of Lynchburg Cemeteries

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John Lynch, founder of Lynchburg

Lynchburg cemeteries are located throughout the city and some date back to the early days of the city.  Many of the people buried in these cemeteries are famous.  If you are looking for something to do on a fine spring day, travel through the city of Lynchburg to the various cemeteries and look for the following famous “residents.”

Richard and Emma Watts

Lynchburg has five active cemeteries plus Old City Cemetery, which at this point in time is not accepting new burials.  The cemeteries in Lynchburg are as follows:  Fort Hill Memorial Park, Forest Hill Burial Park, Presbyterian Cemetery, Quaker Memorial Cemetery and Spring Hill Cemetery.

The Watts family plot is located in Spring Hill Cemetery.  Richard Thomas Watts was the gentleman who had 404 Cabell Street built (today known as The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast.)  RT died September 21, 1910.  His wife, Emma, died a few months later, March 22, 1911, while on a trip to California with their daughter Mary.  Their children are buried with them in the family plot.  Two of the gravestones are labeled just “baby.”  The impressive obelisk, designating the Watts family burial plot, was erected many years after RT and Emma were buried.

The founder of Lynchburg, John Lynch (1740-1820) is buried at the South River Meeting House Graveyard.  In the late 1700’s John Lynch operated a ferry service across the James River, from the foot of today’s Ninth Street to Amherst County.  In 1786 he founded Lynchburg.  The church today is known as Quaker Memorial Presbyterian.  This church served the Quakers until 1839.  By then most had moved away as they opposed slavery.

Poet and activist Anne Spencer (1882-1975) and her husband Edward (1876-1964) are buried at Forest Hill Burial Park.  The Spencer plot is located about 100 yards from the entrance, on the left side of the traffic circle.  Sharing the family plot are their daughters, Bethel and Alroy and son Chauncey.  Anne Spencer was the long-time librarian at Dunbar High School, and co-founded Lynchburg’s chapter of the NAACP.  She and Edward hosted many notable African-American intellectuals in their Pierce Street home.  Among their friends and visitors were: George Washington Carver, Paul Robeson, Dean Pickens, Adam Clayton Powell, Thurgood Marshall and W.E.B. Dubois.

Anne Spencer

Chauncey Spencer (1906-2002) shares the family plot.  A pioneering aviator and educator who pushed for racial integration of the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII, he took this cause to then Missouri Senator Harry Truman.  After WWII, President Truman desegregated the military.

Spring Hill Cemetery has quite a few “famous” residents.  Samuel Miller (1792-1869) was a local businessman and philanthropist.  He moved to Lynchburg at 18, prospered in business and became a multi-millionaire.  He donated the land that became Miller Park and the Lynchburg Female Orphan Asylum, known today as the Miller Home.

Lt. Gen. Jubal Early (1816-1894) is buried at Spring Hill. Known as Gen. Robert E. Lee’s “Bad Old Man” he reportedly had a bad temper but was brilliant on the battlefield.  When the Civil War ended he refused to swear allegiance to the Union so moved to Mexico and then Canada.  Eventually he settled in Lynchburg.

Artist Georgia Morgan (1869-1951) is buried at Spring Hill with her tombstone decorated with a painter’s pallet and brush.  Known for her still life and landscape paintings she was chair of Lynchburg College’s art department for 30 years.  Today her work can be found at the Jones Memorial Library and the Lynchburg Museum.

Don Reno (1927-1984) is also buried at Spring Hill.  Known as “The King of Flat Picking Guitarists” he was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.  He is credited with co-writing “Dueling Banjos,” the song made famous in the 1972 movie Deliverance.

Presbyterian Cemetery is the final resting  place of Edwin “Ned” Emerson (1839-1922).  He was an actor, performing at Ford’s Theatre when President Lincoln was shot on April 14, 1865.  He was delivering a line from “our American Cousin” when John Wilkes Booth, a friend of Emerson’s, killed Lincoln.  After Lincoln’s assassination, Emerson quit acting and moved to Lynchburg where he worked in the stationery and book business.

Folk artist Emma Serena “Queena” Stovall (1887-1980) is also buried at Presbyterian Cemetery.  A self-taught artist she didn’t start painting until she was 62 years old.  Sometimes called the “Grandma Moses of Virginia” her scenes of country life–farm auctions, funerals, hog killings, etc.–are in museums as well as private collections.

All of the Lynchburg cemeteries mentioned above are open to visitors from dawn to dusk.