Thursday, December 27, 2012

Virginia House, Richmond

After my trip to Richmond I had one regret; I didn't schedule an appointment to tour Virginia House!
Located next door, literally, to Agecroft Hall, the house was also built of ancient materials imported from an old house in England as part of Thomas William's original plan to build an authentic Tudor Village in Richmond.
Virginia House was built by Alexander and Virginia (hence the name) Weddells but began life as a priory in 1109 built by Earl Warwick which was later remodeled in the 17th century.
 Much like their neighbor, Agecroft Hall, the house was purchased at a demolition sale.
The Weddells built their new old house in anticipation of it eventually becoming the headquarters and museum for the Virginia Historical Society.
Despite that plan, the house was built as a modern home albeit one of historical materials and importance.
While the materials began to arrive in 1926 via ship they were so waterlogged that they had to sit to dry out for 6 months before building could procede. The Weddells finally moved into their new old house in 1929.
If you didn't know this modern history of the structure you'd assume it was a 17th century house that had been well preserved for hundreds of years. Of course, nothing this grand was constructed in the New World at this time, particularly in Richmond!
Through the drive and to the back of the house you see the modern house emerge. A 3 car garage currently operates as the shed and workroom for the extensive gardens.
Henry Grant Morse was again the architect responsible for the reconstruction of the structure which was based on many different houses found throughout England.
Noted landscape architect Charles Gillette designed the gardens which are to this day spectacular, even in the middle of winter!
The land slopes steeply down to the James River so the gardens are terraced with the house rising high above the many garden rooms.
William Lawrence Bottomley was brought on by Mrs. Wenddells to design an outdoor garden loggia connected to the house from some more building remnants.
This is probably my favorite part of the house.
The ceiling of the Loggia came from a house on the grounds of Knole in England while the columns were salvaged from Spain.
The roof of the loggia is a patio to view the gardens and river from above.
The loggia shelters this private water garden from the rear gardens.
From the rear terrace one looks down upon the formal gardens as art and towards the James River beyond.
The structure of the gardens shows more clearly in their dormant period.
The springtime shows the gardens to their best advantage I'm told.
The grounds are dotted with lots of interesting sculpture such as this Egyptian frieze fragment found within a garden wall.
The Weddells used Gillette over a period of many years to design these extensive gardens which appear to have taken generations to compose.
My favorite sculptures however are these 2 funny little men standing about 5'-0" tall. Does anyone know anything about them?
Don't forget to book a tour before your visit to Richmond. I'll just have to go back to Richmond to tour Virginia House!