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Historic Lynchburg

Are You a Timeless Movie Buff?

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If so, you will be very interested in a series of classic movies to be shown at The Academy Center of the Arts during January and February 2020.

Every Wednesday, starting January 8th and concluding February 26th, at 1:30 your favorite classics from the 30’s to the early 60’s will be showing.  The opening show will be Meet Me in St. Louis (1944.)  Films also playing will include Singing in the Rain (1952), West Side Story (1961), and The Wizard of Oz (1939).  The final film presented will be Kiss Me Kate (1953) on February 26th.

The concession stand will be selling retro candy and popcorn for $.05 a bag!

General admission tickets are $8.00 for each patron.  For more information or to purchase tickets contact the Box Office at 434.846.8499.  The Academy Center of the Arts is located at 600 Main Street in downtown Lynchburg, VA.

If you have not been to a performance since the restored Academy Theatre has re-opened you will be impressed and amazed.  The entire building looks like new but retains it’s original luster and impressiveness from years gone by.

Lynchburg’s Mistletoe Market

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Lynchburg Mistletoe Market

Mistletoe Market

Again this year Lynchburg Virginia’s Community Market is hosting their Mistletoe Market.  On Saturday mornings ( December 1, 8, 15 & 22, 2018), between 7:00 until 2:00 you will be able to find the best of local offerings as gifts for your family, friends or even yourself.

The Mistletoe Market features unique, hand-crafted gifts, foods and items that are sure to delight everyone on your holiday shopping list.  Choose from seasonal produce, fresh greens such as: poinsettias, wreaths garlands or swags, fire starters and natural decorations for inside or out, artisan foods, personal sketches as a portrait, caricature or silhouette, tasting tables, free gift wrapping and live music.  Carriage rides through downtown Lynchburg will be offered on the 1st and 18th between 10:00 until 2:00.  Santa and Mrs. Claus will visit to spend time with your children and to take photos on December 18, 2018 between 10:00 util 2:00.  And for the procrastinators out there, the Mistletoe Market will be open on Saturday, December 22, 2018 between 7:00 until 3:00.

The Lyncburg Community Market is located at 1219 Main Street.  They operate year-round, Tuesday through Saturday, 7:00 until 2:00.  The Farmer’s Market is open on Tuesdays (10:00 until 2:00) and Saturdays (7:00 until 2:00.)  Be a proud supporter of your community and the local area, you’ll be amazed with what you will find throughout the changing seasons.

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.