We drove past colorful homes and neat, lovely lawns on the way to Virginia House in Richmond, Virginia. When we rolled to a stop on Sulgrave Road, we murmured excitedly about the exteriors of several buildings nearby, including Virginia House itself and the imposing Tudor architecture of its neighbor, Agecroft Hall.
We walked out of the heat into Virginia House where we were greeted by House Coordinator and Site Manager Tracy Bryan, who welcomed us to the home and told us about its history. Alexander and Virginia Weddell, Virginia House’s designers, brought materials from an English sixteenth-century manor house, a former priory, to Richmond for expansion and furnishing.
Despite completing the house just before the onset of the Great Depression, the Weddells built out and around the house with architect Henry Grant Morse to develop magnificent rooms like this withdrawing room and dining room.
My personal favorite is this library filled with beautifully bound books and manuscripts, globes, hats, maps, and a secret passage.
The Weddells gathered many objects meant to house guests, facilitate reading and writing, and encourage social interaction (and imitation, in our case).
We perused shelves of books in various rooms and discovered titles with a broad range of subjects, including some pictured here on dogs, housekeeping, and gardening.
The cool darkness on a warm day was punctuated by bright spots of impressive lighting fixtures and sunshine streaming in dramatic angles through stained glass windows.
We posed in front of a suit of armor and its companion, a small imitation made from recycled materials as part of a Girl Scout project.
We finished our visit with a stop in the gardens at the site (designed by Charles Gillette), which offered views of the house’s exterior and spaces to sit and relax while overlooking arrangements of flowers, shrubbery, and statues.
The Weddells presented the house to the Virginia Historical Society in 1929, while they lived in it until their deaths in 1948. The Virginia Historical Society now owns and operates the site.
This visit stands out to me for the great range of objects and spaces meant to evoke past and present. The Virginia House transported us from Richmond to England, and back to Richmond again. In it, we traveled from the sixteenth century to the first half of the twentieth, and finally back to the present, where the Virginia House continues to invite guests to visit and interpret the building.
For more history and information about Virginia House, see http://www.vahistorical.org/your-visit/virginia-house.
By Emily Pazar, WPAMC class of 2016