December 3rd marks the date for the Aylett Country Day School Home for the Holidays House Tour. Plantation homes and historic buildings of Upper Essex County will be decked out in the Christmas finery and await your arrival. There will be eight breathtaking stops on this tour and what a spectacular way to start off the holiday season. Families, friends and neighbors will enjoy magnificent homes and while visiting Johnston’s Bed and Breakfast at the Linden House, they will enjoy their pre-ordered elegant box lunch prepared especially for them by Hobbs Hole Restaurant.
Blandfield was built on a 3,500-acre plantation on the Rappahannock River between 1769 and 1773 by Robert Beverley II, and remained in that family until 1983 when Mr. and Mrs. James C. Wheat, Jr. purchased the house. They began extensive and meticulous restoration under the counsel and direction of the staff of Colonial Williamsburg. Although there is no architect who has been linked to the building of this Palladian house, it is known that the plan was adapted from specific plates in the influential 1728 Book of Architecture by English architect James Gibbs. Drum House in Scotland has also been considered to be a prototype for Blandfield. Described in the Virginia Historic Landmarks Register as belonging to the important group of mid-Georgian Tidewater mansions characterized by the five-part plan that links flanking dependencies to the main house by hyphens or one-story corridors, Blandfield was one of the largest houses in Virginia at the time it was built.
Today, brilliant color, striking wallpaper design, and elaborate millwork give the massive formal interior a vastly different appearance from what the Wheat’s first encountered when they bought the property. During the 1840s, the interior paneling and molding had been replaced with plain Greek revival trim and the two stairways had been modified in the 19th-century style. Of particular interest is the yellow floral wallpaper in the south parlor, which was hung using 18th-century techniques. The documentary paper was made by pasting together 18 x 24-inch squares to create rolls of paper. The paper was then painted with the background color and shipped to London where it was printed with 200-year-old wood blocks.
Blandfield is listed in the Virginia Historic Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. Mr. James C. Wheat, owner.
Brooke’s Bank was built by Sarah Taliaferro Brooke following the death of her husband, William, who died in a naval battle. The land was granted to Mrs. Brooke in 1751by King George II in recognition of herhusband’s service to the crown. Set back from the Rappahannock River approximately one hundred yards, the house is classic Georgian laid in Flemish bond with an elaborately molded belt course across the four sides. The brickwork is especially noteworthy because the two massive end chimneys, which tower twenty feet above the roof, are adorned with diamond patterns in glazed brick heads. The series of diamonds on three sides of each chimney was built to discourage witches from entering the house. There are four patterns on one chimney and three on the other to make the lucky number seven. As further protection, doors were paneled in the double cross, or cross and open Bible design, with the Hold Lord hinges on them. This is unique in Virginia houses. In the 1770s, Brooke’s Bank saw a second period embellishment of Federal details, primarily around the mantelpieces. In the 1930s, the Enos Richardson family bought the property and added a series of additions to the east and west wings. Mr. George Walker Box purchased the property in 1994 and has restored the house to its original Georgian character by removing the Richardson era wings and adding new Federal era style wings to either end. The house is an architectural gem because most of the interior is original, including woodwork, hardware, hinges, doorways and paneling. Brooke’s Bank is listed in the Virginia Historic Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. Mr. George Walker Box, owner.
Elmwood was built in 1774 by Muscoe Garnett of Mt. Pleasant, who was one of the largest landed proprietors in Essex County, on property overlooking the Valley of the Rappahannock River, and remains in the seventh generation of the same family today. It is the last surviving mansion of a family that was prominently involved in the political life of Virginia and of the nation during the 18th and 19th centuries. The imposing Georgian house, laid in Flemish bond, is 100 feet long and 30 feet wide, with three stories over an English basement. A molded water table bands the entire foundation. The hipped roof is broken by dormers and by a central projecting pavilion on the front entrance with a second floor Palladian window. Woodwork in the house is thought to be by William Buckland. The elaborately paneled ballroom foreshadows Buckland’s magnificent work in Annapolis. In the mid-20th century, the Garnett’s undertook an extensive restoration, removing an 1851 stair tower, which had been added to the left of the main entrance, and Victorian porches on each side. Riverside and garden doorways were designed by architect Charles E. Spencer to replace Victorian ones. Elmwood is listed in the Virginia Historic Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. Mr. and Mrs. Muscoe R. H. Garnett, Jr., owners.
The Barn at Elmwood
The Barn at Elmwood dates from 1820. Built of brick, three stories high, it was a working 19th-century barn until its renovation in the 1980s. On the first floor livestock was kept. The upper two stories contained grain. Both the exterior and interior presently reveal the original hand-hewn beams and bricks fired on the site. The Barn was adapted to 20th-century living in 1980 by Richmond architect, Edward H. Winks. The first floor contains a family room and kitchen, while the second accommodates formal living quarters, a master bedroom and four original windows that were formerly doors through which foremen viewed the surrounding fields. The third floor is completely modernized with skylights and serves as children’s quarters. A country garden of herbs and perennials, as well as the original dependencies and corn cribs, complete its setting. Mr. and Mrs. David Foresman, owners.
Johnston’s Bed & Breakfast at Linden House
Linden has had sixteen owners in its 240 years. Built of brick in the Federal style, it is two stories over a high English basement, with an attic. The house has side halls and two rooms on each floor. There are two chimneys on the north side, giving all the rooms a fireplace. The most probable builder of the house was Meriday Brown. He bought 120 acres from John Sale in 1762, and over the next 40 years, put together a plantation of almost 500 acres, stretching between the main road to Fredericksburg and the Essex meeting house. He left the largest part of it to his son Lewis in 1808. Lewis died in 1825, leaving 493 acres to his son Richard Lewis Brown. Richard L. Brown sold 438 acres to Albert G. O’Neale in 1838. O’Neale owned the property for 13 years, selling part, 249 1/2 acres with the house, to his cousin Mrs. Sarah Jane Ellis in 1851.
Mrs. Ellis had one son, William L. and three daughters; Sarah Ann, who married John H. Pitts, Jane M., and Lelia, who married James W. Smith. Miss Jane Ellis and her sister, Mrs. Sarah Pitts and her two children John and Kate Pitts continued to live at Linden, until 1927 when Miss Kate Pitts died. The house then passed hands several times.
In 1973 Emory Carlton and his son-in-law Harrison Schroder Jr. bought the property and restored the house. Kenneth Pounsberry and his wife bought the property in 1990 and began a bed and breakfast, adding guest quarters in a separate addition. The inn continues today as the Johnston Bed & Breakfast at Linden. Mr. A. N. Johnston, owner.
This lovely Greek revival style home brick home, c. 1840, offers wonderful original doors and moldings and wide pine hardwood floors on the first and second floors. The period mantels, wide crown molding, and plaster walls throughout the home are also original. There are four chimneys, two on each end of the house and well designed porches on the front and back, each supported by large white pillars with bricked rooms beneath. Both the lower and top floors have large center halls flanked symmetrically by the various rooms of the house. The house was built by John G. Bentley on 796 of the original 2,200 acres owned by Thomas Gouldman, his wife’s great-grandfather. The house was sold to William Taliaferro and his wife Daisy Chapman Taliaferro in 1905. Taliaferro, blinded in a hunting accident in his early 20’s, became one of the most successful farmers in Essex, specializing in growing watermelons for pickles. He and Daisy had nine children, two of whom, Daisy and Andrew, made their home at Oakalona until 2001.
The Taliaferro heirs sold to Charles L. Williams in 2003, and in 2007 the Williams sold to Mr. and Mrs. Carl A. Strock, who have begun to restore the house and grounds. Mr. and Mrs. Carl A. Stock, owners.
Vauter’s Episcopal Church
Vauter’s Episcopal Church, the upper church of St. Anne’s Parish, was built in 1731 on land belonging to Bartholomew Vauter (originally spelled Vawter). One of the county’s oldest structures, it is the eleventh oldest of 48 colonial churches still standing in Virginia. The masonry is among the finest of any colonial church. Bricks, which are laid in a Flemish bond pattern, were probably fired on site and the mortar made from oyster shells. Noteworthy inside are the high vaulted ceilings and T-shaped floor plan. Since 1704 there has been a long succession of clergymen, among them Parson Robert Rose, who was an attorney, a physician, a surveyor of the city of Richmond and an active participant in Virginia politics.
In 1761 the parish became embroiled with political authorities over the selection of its minister. Governor Alexander Spottswood selected one man while the vestry chose another, and a lengthy debate ensued. Although the governor prevailed, it was enacted shortly thereafter that vestries in Virginia had the right to select their own ministers. Subsequent to the Revolution, Vauter’s Church passed out of service, but it was given protection and saved from vandalism by Mrs. Muscoe Garnett of Elmwood, who claimed the building as standing on her property. At an undetermined time, the Queen Anne communion silver, made in London in 1724, was removed from the church, except for one chalice. In 1909 Mrs. Minnie Garnett Mitchell of Elmwood was instrumental in restoring the pieces to the church from a collection in the north. The flagon has not been found. The church currently holds Sunday morning services at 9:00 am. Dr. Candine Johnson, Rector.
Wheatland is located on a small bluff overlooking the Rappahannock River. The present home and wharf were built by John Saunders, a planter and merchant, between 1849-1851. Wheatland remains in the Saunders family today, and is currently owned by brothers Peter C. Bance and Edgar J. D. Bance. Wheatland is an example of antebellum plantation architecture as it combines both Federal and Greek revival styles. The home is a two-story frame structure situated over a high, brick English basement. It has a metal-hipped roof, two interior chimneys, and two-story porticos on the front and rear exteriors. The interior layout is identical on all three floors with a large central hall separating two rooms on either side. A kitchen wing was added during a renovation in the late 1800s. This wing was extensively renovated and remodeled in 2001-2002 to add an English basement to match the original basement, which doubled the size of the existing kitchen.
Wheatland once had one of the largest boxwood gardens in the region. English boxwoods still line a walkway to the river, but many were sold to John D. Rockefeller during the depression to be used for Colonial Williamsburg. The wharf, known as Saunder’s Wharf, is one of the last remaining steamboat wharves in the Chesapeake Bay region. It was a local hub for trading and transportation. For years, Saunder’s Wharf was a regular steamboat stop for the Baltimore-Fredericksburg line. Steamboats continued to make stops at the wharf until April 11, 1937.
Wheatland is listed in the Virginia Historic Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. Mr. Peter C. Bance and Mr. Edgar J. D. Bance, owners.