Monday, October 25, 2010

The Wedding Cake House. Martinsville, Virginia

When I set out for my day trip on Saturday, I had planned on staying away from the Blue Ridge Parkway as all the news outlets had it bumper-to-bumper traffic (to see how well that vow went, read yesterday’s post).

I had it all mapped out. I was going to go up through Martinsville, VA and then pick up a Virginia scenic byway to Ferrum and then loop back to Greensboro.

I don’t pay any attention to sports and even less attention to NASCAR – the state sport of the South. Bad move; they were running the Tums Fast Relief 500 (how appropriate – stock car racing makes me nauseous) at the Martinsville Speedway. So I got stuck in traffic there and not on the Parkway.

Ate a quick lunch and then took a side trip to the Wedding Cake House in the Millionaires’ Row neighborhood. There is very little information on the house on the Internet. All I could find is that it was built in 1903 by a man named George Lester. It is hard to tell from the photo, but it is badly in need of renovation. In a city of 15,000 with more than 20% unemployment, I doubt that it will happen any time soon.

It is made out of concrete block and cement trim, which was an extremely unusual building material at that time.


Anyes said...

The building does deserve its strange name. It seems made out of cake fondant ;-)

frayedattheedge said...

It would be a great pity if the building were allowed to deteriorate further ..... perhaps some philanthropist could take on some unemployed people to work on it!!

Lynn Pritchett said...

Ah yes. I live in Martinsville, and have watched this house with interest, as I used to work as a massage therapist across the street. Believe it or not, this house has been renovated, inside and out in 2008.
The home was featured in a 2007 publication "Weird Virginia". You can read about it here, and see what it looked like just three years ago. You can see that there have beem some improvements made. And it looked absolutely horrible before then!

Karen said...

Anyes: I read a comment somewhere that it was meant to resemble a wedding cake for the newlywed couple who moved in. I can't find any confirmation of that, but it makes sense.

Anne: Unless they can bring back some sort of industry that provides a living wage to the area and all of Southwest Virginia, I'm afraid there isn't a lot of hope for these grand old buildings.

Lynn: Thank you so much for the links, particularly the Flickr link. I really need to go farther down Starling Avenue and take a look at the other homes.

Christa Downs said...

Hello. I live in Martinsville, Virginia. I'm sorry to say this, but is that timestamp correct? I've lived here for 10 years, and I can tell yuo that that picture is old. I can also give you some more information on the Cake House that I found out from some older (50+) friends of mine.

Most people in Martinsville refer to it only as the Cake House, though some add Wedding to it. George Lester built the house as a testament of his love to his bride. However, there is a dark history to the topmost story.

According to my friends, George and his wife had three kids. Two of the kids developed sickness (I was told by one person it was scarlet fever, another that it was small pox) and was placed in the top room to keep the third child from getting sick. The two children died, causing much grief to the family. The mother died years later in the same room of old age and grief at the loss of her children, the third having moved away, and her husband had died before her.

The house sat for about five years before being bought by an older man who knew the family. Supposedly, he experienced hauntings in the house, but some people say he used the story to build hype on the house. He died of a heart attack in the top room, where he insisted on sleeping. This only added to the hype.

No one has experienced these hauntings since then though. The house has had several owners since then, but up until three or so years ago, no one bothered to renovate the house. The last owner, however, decided to sell the house only to someone who would take care of it.

The house was bought by a group of people who decided to renovate the place and apply for it to be a historical landmark. The reason I say the timestamp is wrong is because the house was renovated before the summer of 2010, yet your stamp says it was October of 2010. But after examining it some more, I realize you may be correct. There is one problem though-this is the best it has looked in about 20 years. I've seen pictures of it from before I was born, and it is definitely better now. All of the windows have been replaced, the entire building has been repainted, and the light above the door replaced. Also, the porch and yard were covered in debris, which has been cleared away. The two pots where overflowing with dirt and dead plants and have since been cleaned out. So, to Martinsville, the Cake House has been restored to its former glory and requires no more renovation, at least for a few more years.

I hope this is informative to all of you. Lovingly, Christa.