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Historic Lynchburg

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.

 

 

 

Queena Stovall

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Queena Stoval

Country Auction by Queena Stovall

Emma Serena “Queena” Stovall has just been honored with a historical marker, the publishing of a new book–Inside Looking Out: The Art of Queena Stovall–and the current exhibition of her works on display at Lynchburg College’s Daura Gallery.

Queena Stoval

Fireside in Virginia by Queena Stovall

Emma Serena Dillard “Queena” Stovall was born in Amherst County in 1887.  She received the nickname “Queena” from her grandmother because of how other young children could not pronounce Serena.  She married Jonathan Stovall, a traveling salesman in 1908.  They had 9 children.  Living in Lynchburg, Virginia during the fall and winter and spending the spring and summer at their farm in Amherst County, Virginia they had a good life.

In 1949 Queena decided to pursue artistic ventures, she was 62.  She enrolled at Randolph-Macon Women’s College to take art classes under the direction of Pierre Daura.  Daura liked her natural style of painting so much that he suggested she stop taking classes with him and follow her own unique style without any outside influences.

Queena Stovall’s artwork depicts both black and white Virginians in rural settings, which earned her the title of “Grandma Moses of Virginia.”  She produced scenes of ordinary life such as crop harvests, funerals, jarring for the winter, baptisms, cooking and livestock and estate auctions.  In 1956 she displayed her first solo exhibition at Lynchburg College.  She continued to paint until her health started to fail in 1967.

An exhibition of 44 of her 49 original oil paintings, along with five reproductions, are currently on display at Lynchburg College’s Daura Gallery.  This is the largest collection of her paintings ever shown together.  The exhibit will be open until April 13, 2018.  After leaving Lynchburg College the exhibit will travel to the Virginia Museum of History and Culture in Richmond.  It will be featured there between May 12 through October 14, 2018.

Queena Stoval

Swing Low Sweet Chariot by Queena Stovall

The Daura Gallery also sponsored the publishing of the book “Inside Looking Out: The Art of Queena Stovall.”  The 104-page book marks the first time all of Stovall’s works have been printed in color.

Located along Route 130, in Amherst County, Virginia, the historical marker highlights her life and work.  Located less than one-half mile from the farm where she lived for 35 years and painted it is a compliment to the strength of her artwork.

 

 

Shoes are Linked to Lynchburg

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shoes

Vintage shoes from the Craddock Terry Shoe Co. in Lynchburg

Did you know that from the first half of the 19th century and until the late 1980’s shoes and Lynchburg, Virginia were synonymous?

In 1888 the Craddock-Terry Shoe Company was founded by John W. Craddock, A.P. Craddock and T.M. Terry.  This company became the largest and most significant manufacturer in Lynchburg and grew into the 5th largest shoe company in the world.  When the Craddock-Terry Shoe Company opened a plant at the corner of 14th and Jefferson Streets in 1901 it was the first shoe company south of the Mason-Dixon Line.  By the mid-1900’s the company employed over 3,000 workers, in various plants located throughout the city.  In addition to its Lynchburg plants, by 1921 Craddock- Terry had factories in St. Louis, MO. and Milwaukee, WI.

Logo of the Craddock Terry Shoe Company, Lynchburg, VA.

Known for manufacturing a quality, precisely fitted product with careful attention to detail and practicality, by 1941, the Craddock-Terry Corporation was manufacturing 26,000 pairs of shoes and boots each day, most of them for the military.  Combat boots and other military shoes were the biggest sellers.

During the late-1940’s the sale of regular footwear picked up.  It was during this time that Craddock-Terry began to specialize in shoes for babies, children, women and men.  During their peak production capacity they were producing almost 100,000 pairs of shoes each day!

By October 1987, Craddock-Terry was forced to file for bankruptcy, with assets of $44.1 million, liabilities of $49.8 million and over one thousand creditors.

We are lucky enough to own an original pair of Craddock-Terry women’s shoes, probably from the late 1800’s.  We found them in an antique store in Roanoke.  The stamp on the bottom is still clearly visible, the shoelaces are in tact and the condition of the shoes is pristine.  When we close and sell The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast we will probably donate them the Craddock-Terry Hotel to be put on display in their lobby.  They were a “true find” that we routinely share with our guests.