Monday, June 11, 2012

McGavock Mansion, Fort Chiswell, Virginia

If you drive Interstate 77 north out of North Carolina into Virginia, you will see this mansion sitting off in a field at Fort Chiswell, Virginia. It was a marker for my trips back to Ohio to see family that I wanted to be sure to take the correct exit in order to keep driving north and not head south as I did on one trip where I found myself in Bristol, Tennessee.

For many years, the house sat forlorn and covered in ivy. I figured it had been abandoned by the owners who were unable to keep up with what must have been a huge money pit. Soon it would just disappear either under the ivy which would take it down by destroying the mortar holding the bricks or someone would buy it and develop it as a truck stop or strip shopping center.

On our way to Wytheville to see the giant pencil, I stopped at the Virginia Welcome Center to pick up some brochures. Flipping through one of the pamphlets, I found out that the Fort Chiswell mansion was open for tours on the weekend. What a coup and so after traveling through downtown Wytheville, I drove over to the mansion to take the tour.

What a treat it was. The owner bought the house for $215,000 back in 2002 at auction and has set about restoring it back to how it looked when the McGavock brothers built it in the 1840's. There is more than 10,000 square feet in the main house and about 2,000 square feet more in the kitchen dependency and smokehouse. He has decorated it with antique furniture (huge pieces of Eastlake) that he has found on his travels as practically none of the original furniture was left in the house unlike the furnishing at Liberty Hall in Kenansville. Here is a great article out of the Roanoke Times about the history and renovation of the place:  Fort Chiswell Mansion Becomes the Grandaddy of All Renovations.

The one feature of the mansion that catches your eye every time is the huge Palladium window on the third floor.

They are an exact copy of the Palladium windows that Thomas Jefferson designed for Pavilion IV at the University of Virginia.


Roch said...

Wow! Thanks for that. I too have wondered about that place while also driving back and forth to Ohio to visit family (I also have found myself halfway to Bristol before realizing I took the wrong turn). Thanks for the info. I'll wonder no longer.

Toffeeapple said...

It is a beautiful building, have you any pictures of the interior?

Anonymous said...

I was a very close friend of the previous owner, Mrs. Arvella Brown who passed away in 1998. Mrs. Brown loved the old mansion and talked of opening it to the public someday. She asked me if I'd be the hostess and show the visitors around and tell them the story of the house dressed in an old southern bell dress and hat. She got sick right after that so it never came about. But, Mrs. Brown let her visions be known as to how she wanted her wishes for the home when she was no longer around to do it herself. She was a sweet, lovely lady with whom I, as well as many others, had a lot of respect. M. Dickey