Historic Buckland Tavern, in Virginia, to be Auctioned Sept 20th

I just got word that the historic Buckland Tavern, in Gainesville, Virginia, will be sold at auction on September 20th.  The old tavern, built around 1824, has been described as “a particularly handsome landmark on Lee Highway.” It is stately and yet charming in its simplicity, standing sentinel at the gateway to the historic district. But it’s also very historic. It’s been called significant because it’s a “visible symbol of the commercial prosperity that accompanied the construction of the Alexandria-Warrenton Turnpike in the early 1820s.” It hosted some famous visitors over the years, too!  In other words, it’s got curb appeal and it’s important. So it’s fair to say that Buckland Tavern is one of the keystone properties of historic Buckland, and it will certainly be a nice buy for a historic house lover. Read more…

Henry David Thoreau on Building His “Cabin”


Thoreau Cabin replica at Walden Pond (Source: RythmicQuietude, Wikipedia)

Did you know that the date was July 4th, in 1845, when Henry David Thoreau first moved in to his small house in the woods near Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts? Thoreau aimed to live there more “deliberately,” and to confront only the “essential facts of life” that he encountered them in nature.  It was an experiment that, Read more…

Historic “Fairfield” Estate in Berryville, VA, To Be Auctioned (and yes, George Washington Really Slept Here)


George Washington didn’t just sleep here . . . he reportedly visited the place a lot.  And it’s recorded in his diaries. It was, after all, the home of a cousin of his, Warner Washington. Warner built this grand mansion, called “Fairfield,” in 1768 — just a few years before the Revolutionary War propelled his younger cousin George into international fame.  Decades later, Fairfield was also owned by Anne Lee Page, the aunt of General Robert E. Lee and the sister of Virginia governor “Light Horse” Harry Lee.  So lots of other historical figures probably slept here, too.


And . . . as it turns out . . . you, too, could sleep at Fairfield. In fact, you could live there, since this historic estate will be auctioned to a lucky new owner on Thursday, May 25, 2017, at 12 pm.  This is remarkable because Read more…

Highlights from the 2016 Vernacular Architecture Forum Conference in Durham, NC

The Vernacular Architecture Forum (VAF) is the premier organization in North America dedicated to the appreciation and study of ordinary buildings and landscapes. Established in 1979, VAF is composed of scholars from many fields, including history, architectural history, geography, anthropology, sociology, landscape history, historic preservation, and material culture studies.

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The VAF holds a 3-day annual conference, which is always a wonderful experience.  Unlike many academic conferences, the VAF’s annual gathering ypically features two full days of tours, featuring lots of historic architecture, and then one full day of scholarly papers.  This year, I was honored to present my work on historic graffiti research during a session called “Field Notes,” which explored different ways people are approaching the study of historic buildings.  It was a packed room (the below pic shows half of it), and I definitely had to fight through some nerves!

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The Vernacular Architecture Forum’s tours — often by bus and lasting the entire day — generally showcase many historic buildings and cultural landscapes that represent the region where the conference is hosted.  I’ve attended the conference for 3 years straight now (South Jersey, Chicago, and NC), and I always learn a great deal about local/regional history, architectural history, and folklife on the tours. If you are a scholar in any of the aforementioned disciplines, or a museum professional, or a historic preservationist, or even if you simply have a keen interest in the study of ordinary historic buildings and landscapes, you really should join the VAF and attend a conference!

This year’s annual meeting was hosted in Durham, North Carolina, and was dubbed “Farm to Factory: Piedmont Stories in Black and White.”  It was wonderful.  Below is a photo essay (all photos mine) chronicling many of the sites I saw while on the Thursday & Friday tours.  Read more…

Historic ‘White Hall Manor’ to be Auctioned in King George, VA on Nov. 4th

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Forty acres and a…winery? B&B? Small farm?  You choose — it seems like there are lots of possibilities for this historic estate in King George, Virginia!  And it will be auctioned on November 4th, at 12:00 noon!  According to the auction package, this 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath manor house — which sits on 40 acres — is completely renovated with “over $700,000 in improvements,” including everything from HVAC to roofing.  A quick search on Google Maps reveals that this beautiful, colonial-era estate is located about 20 miles east of Fredericksburg and about 15 miles from Colonial Beach — so a fantastic location, rich in both history and scenery. Read more…

Quick Review of Bernie Herman’s ‘The Stolen House’


Bernie Herman’s The Stolen House, first published in 1992, investigates and reconstructs a small community in the Cypress Swamp of southern Delaware during the first decades of the United States, from roughly the 1780s to the 1820s — using the taking-off point of a stolen house.  Yes, a stolen house.

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New TV Series searches for Hidden Treasures at Historic Properties

There are few things more exciting (well, at least for a history nerd like myself) than when someone discovers a hidden artifact at a historic house —  in a wall, a basement, an attic, or even underground.  Intriguing discoveries like these provide us with direct, tangible links to people from the past who occupied these spaces before we did.  And yeah — sometimes, they’re quite valuable.  So I’m pretty excited to have learned about a new television series — produced by the same team that created the hit ‘American Pickers‘– that is going to highlight the fascinating stories and hidden secrets behind some fantastic historical buildings.  And perhaps the best part is that you could possibly participate!  The producers are currently looking for historical properties all over the United States to possibly feature for a show.  Do you know of a property you think would be great for the show?  Whether it is a home, civic centre or place of business, I’m told they want to hear from anyone and everyone!  If so, why not give them a call!?  The contact is Lauren Hugh at Our House Media, who suggested you contact her at 416-551-1032 x260 or  Spread the word!

Incredible Home for Auction in Fredericksburg has Cannon Ball from Civil War Lodged in Wall

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Fredericksburg, Virginia is a remarkable place.  I visited there a few years ago, and I was surprised at just how historic, vibrant, and culturally textured it was.  I was in Fredericksburg to attend a preservation event at the University of Mary Washington (which has a fantastic undergraduate program in historic preservation, by the way).  While in town, I visited several of the must-see historic sites, including the Mary Washington House (owned by George Washington’s mother), the 18th century Rising Sun Tavern, the plantation house Chatham Manor, and the Civil War battlefield (below).

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All of the historic sites I visited were fascinating, and I also had a great evening at Capital Ale House, which had great beer and food.  In short, my two days in Fredericksburg were fantastic — even though my visit was during the wintertime!  While there, I remarked several times that I’d love to live in Fredericksburg.  So . . . when I came across this amazing historic house that’s going up for auction soon, I realized that it was pretty much my dream house. Read more…

Remarkable: c. 1790 Log House in Gettysburg Available for $150,000


This amazing property just drips with historical significance!   Now offered for sale at just $150,000, this log cabin that was constructed in 1790 — just 7 years after the American Revolution.   So it has withstood the test of time and witnessed a lot of history — including, of course, the famous Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.  But what makes this property even more remarkable is that Thaddeus Stevens once owned the property.  Who was Thaddeus Stevens, you ask? Read more…

Realtor Uses “Not Haunted” Sign Rider to Market Historic Home in Tennessee


I’ve never seen this trick before, but I got a good laugh out of it, and thought I’d share.  After agent Dorothy Williams Havens, in Clarksville, TN, watched interest wane on her listing of a circa 1876 Italianate home, she decided to grab renewed attention — and maybe alleviate some fears — by placing a rider atop her real estate sign that says, “Not Haunted.”  It even has a cute, friendly little ghost on it, which is the icing on the cake for me. Read more…