Monday, September 10, 2012

Aurora, Spencer, Virginia

What I was looking for on our Sunday drive was a house called Aurora located just off US Highway 58 in Patrick County, Virginia. While looking for interesting houses up in Virginia (which is just an hour north of Greensboro), I found that Virginia's Department of Historic Sites had listed all the buildings that had acquired National Historic Register status along with photos and the nominating documents.

Aurora interested me as it was the home built by Thomas Jefferson Penn, who founded a tobacco manufacturing company that ultimately became American Tobacco (Lucky Strikes, anyone?). It was also a very rare example of the Italian Villa style as shown in Andrew Jackson Downing's style book The Architecture of Country Houses (1850). In fact, if you go to the article about Downing in Wikipedia, you will find Aurora under the heading of Architectural Influence, which may help explain why this is considered such a gem.

I didn't hold out much hope for the condition of the house. First, it is fairly distant from good sized towns and located in a county where unemployment has reached more than 15% due to the loss of textile and furniture manufacturing jobs. And the photo that was included in the nomination form in 1991 showed a house that was in terrible need of work with the front porch half-rotted away from the house. A real money pit if ever there was one.

Another photo from when Aurora was up for sale back a few years ago, also showed a house in disrepair with the bushes and landscaping in terrible need of a gardener's shears.

But I had read on the Internet, that an immigrant from El Salvador had bought Aurora and was in the process of fixing it up. So onward we drove on the back roads until we found this:

Oh, and Aurora has always been pink and that gave it it's nickname - The Pink House.

What a wonderful restoration job a Central American immigrant to the United States has done to a house that truly typifies American architecture of the mid-1800's.

Also, if you would like to read more about Aurora and it's history and that of the Penn family, click here to read the nominating document to the National Register of Historic Places.


dinahmow said...

What a lovely picture!And hats off to the Salvadoran for being true to style.

Anyes said...

Isn't it amazing what love can do to a building...Lots of love and I guess lots of money as well.

What an amazing restoration. I guess you and TB must have been pleasantly surprised :-)

Toffeeapple said...

I do like to see sympathetic restoration, it is beautiful again.

Karen said...

Di: It was a relief to see it still standing and taken well care of. Americans don't care so much for the old buildings, I'm afraid.

Anyes: My guess is lots and lots and LOTS of money. But it is beautiful.

Toffeeapple: I'm glad, too, that he kept it as it was supposed to look when it was built back in the 1850's.

Tracey said...

Just now seeing this. What a wonderful transformation. All it needed was lots of love (and $$$ Lol!) Hats off!!