Early settlement period buildings in Virginia were typically built using locally sourced materials. And by locally sourced, I really mean locally sourced: old-growth trees harvested during land clearing, stones removed from fields being prepared for planting or from mountainside outcrops, and bricks that were shaped from hand-dug clay, then burned in homemade kilns using wood cut from local forests. Here in Rockbridge County, a limestone-rich area in Virginia’s southern Shenandoah Valley, we are lucky to have a few spectacular stone buildings built with locally quarried limestone. Vineyard Hill, on the Virginia Landmarks Register, is one of those special places.
Begun about 1774, the home is built into an embankment with a lower-level kitchen that has a massive “walk in” fireplace with old wrought iron fittings. Above the basement, the home was originally one-and-a-half stories, with winding boxed-in staircases between levels and interior partition walls constructed with beaded tongue-and-groove boards that range in width from 10 to 20 inches. Old photos of the home revealed evidence that the house was expanded to accommodate a second story, with an attic above that, in the early 19th century.
Located on one of the old roads traversing the Shenandoah Valley, the home is about a mile south of Buffalo Creek, a major tributary of the James River. It was originally the seat of a much larger farm owned by Alexander Beggs, and later owned by the Weaver and Brady families (associated with Buffalo Forge, a major player in the regionally significant iron industry during the 19th century).
Other stone buildings on the Vineyard Hill property survive in restored or adapted form, including a fulling mill, and a springhouse with a lined spring. There is evidence the old fulling mill, initially built to process flax fibers into linen thread, was later used as a blacksmith shop or for some other iron-related activity.
This property is currently listed for sale with James River Realty. Please contact me if you’d like to know more about it or other historic properties in Virginia.