Virginia House: Bridging Centuries in Richmond, VA

The Historical Journey of Virginia House

Virginia House has a rich history that dates back to the 12th century. Initially, it was part of the Priory of the Augustinian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, established in 1109.

The building that housed the order was completed around 1119 in Warwick, England.

This religious establishment enjoyed a golden age for nearly a century, serving as the seat of all Holy Sepulcher houses in Britain.

The priory’s fate took a turn when King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church in 1536. The priory at Warwick was confiscated, along with hundreds of other religious establishments.

The first owner post-confiscation was Thomas Hawkins, alias Fisher, a fishmonger who acquired the building during the reign of Edward VI.

Fisher entertained the newly crowned Elizabeth I at his Tudor manor house, which he called “Hawk’s Nest.”

Fast forward to the early 20th century, the priory was bought by Alexander and Virginia Weddell at a demolition sale in 1925.

The Weddells had the audacious plan of dismantling and relocating the house to Richmond, Virginia.

The house was meticulously deconstructed, and its materials were shipped across the Atlantic to be reassembled on a hillside overlooking the historic James River.

The house was completed a few months before the stock market crash 1929. It was designed to blend three romantic English Tudor designs but equipped with modern amenities like central heating and a modern kitchen.

This marked the beginning of Virginia House’s new chapter in Richmond, where it stands as a testament to architectural ingenuity and historic preservation.

The Architectural Grandeur

Virginia House is not just any ordinary house; it’s an architectural marvel. Alexander and Virginia Weddell designed the house and blended three romantic English Tudor designs.

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The Weddells collaborated with architect Henry Grant Morse, who was primarily a designer of public buildings, to bring their vision to life.

Despite its historical roots, Virginia House was built with modern conveniences. It features seven full baths, central heat, a modern kitchen, and spacious closets.

These amenities make the house a historical artifact and a comfortable residence, bridging the gap between the past and the present.

The house also boasts unique architectural elements like curvilinear Dutch gables added around 1620 and strapwork design seen on the parapets.

These features were imported from the Low Countries in the early 17th century, adding an international flair to the English Tudor design.

Noted landscape architect Charles Gillette designed the nearly eight acres of gardens and grounds surrounding Virginia House.

The gardens provide a rich backdrop throughout the year, making it one of the things to do in Richmond, Virginia, for those interested in history and horticulture.

The Gardens and Grounds

The gardens of Virginia House are nothing short of a masterpiece, designed by the renowned landscape architect Charles Gillette.

Covering nearly eight acres, these gardens serve as a lush backdrop to the historical house, enhancing its grandeur.

One of the most striking features of these gardens is their year-round appeal. Whether it’s the vibrant colors of spring or the serene snow-covered landscapes of winter, the gardens offer something for every season.

This makes Virginia House a year-round destination for locals and tourists alike.

The gardens feature a rich flora tapestry, including native and exotic plants. The gardens are a haven for nature lovers, from blooming flowers to towering trees.

They offer a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life, making it a perfect spot for strolls or even picnics.

The gardens also host various community events and educational programs throughout the year. These range from gardening workshops to seasonal festivals, offering something for everyone.

It’s a great way to engage with the community while enjoying Virginia House’s natural beauty.

The Weddells and Their Vision

Alexander and Virginia Weddell were the visionary couple behind Virginia House. The Weddells had grand plans for Virginia House. They envisioned the west wing serving as a museum for the Virginia Historical Society.

This was part of their broader plan for the house to one day serve as the society’s headquarters, ensuring that the house would continue to be a center for cultural and historical activities.

Virginia House Purple and Stone
Virginia House Purple and Stone Jennifer M. Guild, Media Relations Specialist, Virginia Historical Society, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1929, the Weddell deeded Virginia House to the Virginia Historical Society but maintained a lifetime tenancy for themselves.

This allowed them to continue living in the house while ensuring its long-term preservation and public access.

Unfortunately, the Weddell met a tragic end in a train crash on New Year’s Day in 1948. Following their demise, the Virginia Historical Society took full responsibility for the house.

Despite this tragic end, the Weddells’ vision for the home as a center for cultural and historical activities continues to be realized today.

Inside Virginia House

You’re immediately transported to a different era inside Virginia House. The interiors are adorned with English and Spanish antiques, silk draperies, Oriental carpets, and fine silver and china.

Each room tells a story, offering a glimpse into the lives of those who once called this place home.

Mrs. Weddell’s keen eye for style is evident as you move through the various rooms.

Her touch is visible throughout the house, from the choice of draperies to the furniture arrangement. Her unique appreciation of style adds a personal touch to the historic residence.

Despite its historical appearance, the house is equipped with modern conveniences.

It features a state-of-the-art kitchen, spacious closets, and central heating, ensuring a comfortable living experience. These modern amenities make Virginia House a historical site and a functional residence.

Today, Virginia House is open to the public for tours. Visitors can explore the various rooms, each decorated uniquely, reflecting different periods and cultures.

It’s a great way to experience history firsthand, offering an immersive journey through time.

Virginia House Today

Today, Virginia House is owned and operated by the Virginia Historical Society. It is a testament to architectural ingenuity and historical preservation, attracting visitors from all walks of life.

The site is available for facility rentals and special events, offering a unique setting for weddings, corporate events, and other special occasions. Its gardens and interiors provide a picturesque backdrop, making any event memorable.

Virginia House continues to be a hub for community engagement. It hosts various events and educational programs throughout the year, from gardening workshops to historical lectures. These activities offer something for everyone, making it a vibrant community space.

Ongoing preservation efforts ensure that Virginia House remains a historical and architectural marvel.

These efforts are crucial for maintaining the house’s structural integrity and historical significance, ensuring that future generations can enjoy this Richmond gem.

Recent News and Public Perception

Virginia House plays a significant role in the Richmond community. It serves as a center for cultural and historical activities, offering a unique setting for various events and programs.

Its gardens and interiors are a source of pride for locals, making it a popular destination for family outings and educational trips.

The house enjoys a positive public perception, seen as a valuable asset to the Richmond community. Its year-round appeal makes it a popular destination for locals and tourists, contributing to Richmond’s cultural and historical landscape.

Given its historical significance and architectural grandeur, Virginia House is expected to continue attracting visitors for years.

Ongoing preservation efforts and community engagement programs ensure that it remains a vibrant and relevant part of Richmond’s cultural landscape.

Conclusion

Virginia House stands as a historical and architectural marvel in Richmond, Virginia. Its rich history, dating back to the 12th century, and architectural grandeur make it a must-visit destination.

The house successfully bridges the past and the present, offering modern amenities while preserving historical elements.

Its gardens and interiors provide a picturesque setting for various events, making it a versatile community space.

The vision of Alexander and Virginia Weddell continues to be realized today, as the house serves as a center for cultural and historical activities.

Their planning and execution have ensured that Virginia House remains a valuable asset to the Richmond community.

Virginia House invites you to explore its rich history and architectural beauty. It offers something for everyone, making it a perfect destination for family outings, educational trips, and special events. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience this Richmond gem.

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