Barboursville in Orange County, Virginia, once the home of James Barbour and the finest residence in the county, it burned on Christmas Day in 1884. Today is stands in preserved ruins. It’s a captivating visit for anyone who loves mysterious buildings.
Tomorrow, Saturday, is the last day of the 2008 Poplar Forest field school. These past two weeks have flown by in a blur, feeling long and short at the same time. These often 12 hour days have revolved around historic preservation work, theory, field trips, conversation, more work, etc. And then it would repeat the next day. [Hence, the lack of field school updates.] It’s a unique experience to extract myself mostly from my usual life for two weeks to induldge in preservation. I have truly enjoyed these past two weeks, even with the long days.
I don’t think that there is a sufficient way to describe field school, or at least not succinctly. So when I think of field school I’ll think of measurements, sticking my head up chimneys, crawling around on dirty floors to investigate the floorboards, lunch on the porch, exploring southern Virginia, coffee in the mornings, van rides, staying up to write and draft with everyone, laughing at cheesy architectural jokes, meeting great new people, being able to consistently talk preservation (theory or practice), learning that Travis McDonald is pretty much preservation superman, and getting to go cool places that no one else but a field school gets to go. It has been a wonderful experience.
Below are some more photographs, although they are only three instances of our adventures. There are just too many to include and many more topics to address (such as visited sites) in other posts.
This photograph looks to the front portico on our “Hogtown” house from the north room on the first floor. This poor house; it is so beautiful. It’s just crying to be loved. Again, the hours upon hours of measurements and descriptions were exhausting and fun, although after Saturday’s round we all could not think anymore or carry on a conversation. Hopefully, our efforts will at least preserve some of the house’s story. If local records do not exist, this would be a good house for some oral history work.
Pictured above is Barboursville, the home of Governor Barbour. It was designed by Thomas Jefferson. (The center room is an octagon.) The house burned on Christmas Day in 1884, but was never rebuilt. Since 1884, the ruins have been preserved and now there is a vineyard, restaurant, and inn on the property. (We only visited the ruins, fyi.) I’ve never seen such well preserved ruins that have not been vandalized. It was amazing and educational to be able to see the ghost marks of stairs, closets, timber joists, and architraves. There is still plaster on some of the walls! http://barboursvillewine.net/b/content/view/31/97/
As our last field trip we visited Prestwould Plantation in Clarksville, VA. This is very much off the beaten path, but deserves more than just some recognition. This was the home of the wealthiest (and possibly smartest) 18th century woman in the United States. Being as wealthy as she was, she possessed the finest wallpaper, furnishings, and paintings. If there were going to be a set limit on house museums, this one would definitely need to be included. A local gentleman named Julian Hudson has spent the last 20 years tracking down the original furnishings from this house. It is restored beautifully. The best part is that everything in the house is documented (receipts, received notices, budgets, everything!) People from Sotheby’s and Winterthur come here to study the decorative arts and material culture. It is just an amazing place, but barely known. It is located 2 hours from Lynchburg, but the beautiful drive and the house were worth the trip. (If you are interested, here is a link to the National Register Nomination.) http://www.nps.gov/nhl/designations/samples/va/Prestwould.pdf
Of course we have been many more places, that is just a sampling. And there is still more that can be recounted about field school, perhaps, for another post.
and p.s. my drafting still takes forever, but it is certainly fun to practice again!