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Transcript of Dan's Hill
Created By Jacqueline A. Luzar for the Garden Club of Virginia
AcknowledgementsI wish to thank the entirety of the Garden Club of Virginia for the Favretti Fellowship opportunity. Each meeting with a Garden Club of Virginia member revealed a passionate and enthusiastic individual with a love of Virginia history and its land. The knowledgeable and attentive members of Rieley and Associates are the highest caliber of individuals one could ever have the honor to work with. I especially wish to thank Will Rieley and Roxanne Brouse for their time, thoughtfulness, and expertise. My appreciation goes out to the ladies of Danville, including Nan Freed, Carol Strange of Laurel Cliff, Lois Mengel, and Betty Updike, who acted as respectable, benevolent hostesses of their region. Without the photographs and blueprints from the files of Betty Updike, as well as the recollections of both she and Lois Mengel, much of the history of Dans Hill would have been lost. Thank you to the entire Thomson family for their hospitality and their eagerness to learn and maintain the historic element of Dans Hill. Overall, the kindness and generosity of everyone in Danville was immeasurable. I also wish to extend gratitude to Garden Club of Virginia fellow Penny Heavner, whose optimism and interest in Garden Club properties, including both Gay Mont and Dans Hill, brought us together.
Copyright 2005 by The Garden Club of Virginia. All Rights Reserved.
Reproduction: All material contained herein is the intellectual property of the Garden Club of Virginia except where noted. Permission for reproduction, except for personal use, must be obtained from: The Fellowship Committee, Chair The Garden Club of Virginia The Kent-Valentine House 12 East Franklin Street Richmond, VA 23219 www.gcvirginia.org2
ContentsIntroduction The Land of Dans Hill The Wilson Era Terraces Brick Construction The Gazebo Wilson Cemetery The Boatwright Era The Pool House and Pool Robert Bursons Designs Walkways and Path Alterations The Surrounding Landscape The Thomsons Resources Appendicies 4 5 6 11 13 14 17 19 26 29 33 35 39 40 41
IntroIn Pittsylvania County, Virginia on the northern banks of the Dan River, the Dans Hill property has experienced a rich history, with its occupants contributing to the economic, social, and overall vitality of the surrounding region. Dans Hill has seen two major eras. The first era is that of the Wilsons, who settled along the Dan River beginning in the eighteenth century, while the second began in the 1930s when the Boatwrights purchased the property. The property passed into the hands of the Thomson family in 2005 with the aspiration of caring for the land and its historic structures. In this document, information on the Wilson and Boatwright Eras is provided in a summary, followed by photos and descriptions of landscape details. Appendices follow that include a plants list, photos of the roses on the property, and a copy of the Historic American Building Surveys architectural drawings from 1933.
The Land of Dans HillGeologically, Dans Hill is located in the Central Virginia Volcanic PultonicBelt. The main residence and gardens are located between the two lakes setting north of the Dan River in the bottom portion of the image above. Exposed geology near the Wilson Cemetery is shown below. The soils on the property are characteristic with their high sand content.
Image by author, 2005
Detailed USGS Descriptions of Geology around Dans Hill:Ofgn: White to pink fine- to mediumgrained, lineated, muscovitequartz feldspar gneiss. Mafic minerals comprise only 3% to 4%. Contains enclaves or xenoliths of metavolcanic rocks.
United States Geological Survey. Danville and Vicinity.
Olgr: Greenish-grey to pinkish-grey, medium- to course-grained, nearly structureless to protomylonitic, muscovite grainitoid gneiss. Thick homogeneous sills and dikes intruded into metavolcanic and metasedimentary rocks.1
1Conley, James F. Geology of the Southwestern Virginia Piedmont. Charlottesville, Virginia: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources, 1985.
Wilson BeginningsThe Wilson legacy in the Danville area began in 1746, when Peter Wilson moved to Pittsylvania County from Pennsylvania.2 Peter Wilson, who was of Scotch-Irish descent, settled on lands along the Dan River and established Wilsons Ferry as a means to cross the waterway. Until 1817, no large scale commercial centers would be developed, causing economic focus to settle on plantations and ferrying points.3 Wilsons Ferry was one of the few ways across the Dan River in the region and was critical to many settling or passing through the area. Transportation of goods from Pittsylvania County and the surrounding region was costly due to the high expense of transport and poor navigable conditions of the Roanoke River. Production of tobacco and hogs developed into the concentration of settlers, with tobacco becoming the regions dominant crop.4 Peter Wilson and his descendents would become instrumental in the areas tobacco production legacy.
Peter Wilsons son, John Wilson, inherited his lands and established a home on elevated land south of the Dan River, naming it Dans Hill. Over time, through the opening of a store at Wilsons Ferry in 1771, investment in transportation for goods, and the production of tobacco John Wilson became one of the wealthiest men in the region.5 He held lands in both Pittsylvania and Halifax County upon which his family, workers, and many enslaved individuals were established. An active individual, John Wilson was a financier, colonel in the American Revolution and represented Pittsylvania in the House of Delegates at the Virginia Convention of 1788.6 During his lifetime, he would be sheriff, justice of the peace, Overseer of the Poor, part of the Virginia Non-Importation Association, and active in the Methodist church.7 Along with others in the region, he was interested in establishing a major center for the inspection, trade and distribution of tobacco. John Wilson developed into the leading planter entrepreneur of the area and as a result one of Danvilles major founding fathers. A portion of the land upon which the new town was established was John Wilsons. He and his wife, Mary Lumpkin, raised eleven children, most of who would go on to be equally as influential to the region. As adults, several children moved to lands given to them by their father and lived in structures constructed by skilled craftsmen, who were most likely Wilsons enslaved laborers.
2Siegel, Frederick F. The Roots of Southern Distinctiveness. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press, 1987. p. 28 3Siegel, Frederick F. p. 13 4Siegel, Frederick F. p. 14 5Siegel, Frederick F. p. 28 6Halifax Web WorX. Transcribed from Dan Shaw. South of the Dan Tour. Accessed at: Accessed on 5 June 2005. 7Siegel, Frederick F. p. 28
JOHN WILSONS CHILDRENJohn Wilson (d. 1820) and Mary Lumpkin (b. 1749 in Virginia, d. 4 January 1827)Peter Wilson ---married Ruth Stovall Hairston and lived at Berry Hill John William Nataniel---married Winnefred Tunstall (daughter of William Tunstall Jr. of Belle Grove) and lived at Belle Grade on the Dan River Clement George---married Elizabeth Brodnax and settled Laurel Cliff Robert---married Catherine Pannill (daughter of Samuel Pannill of Green Hill Campbell County) and received Dans Hill from his father Mary ---married Colonel John Clark Patsy ---married Alex Cunningham Nannie ---married Robert Brodnax Isabella (b. 1778, d. September 18, 1846) ---married James Anderson Glenn (b. 4 May 1765 in Glasgow, Scotland),
Signature of Robert Wilson from the will of John Wilson, located in Chatham.7
John Wilsons Will
The will of John Wilson and other property records may be accessed at the Pittsylvania County Court House in Chatham, Virgnia.8
Colonel John Wilsons seventh son, Robert Wilson, inherited Dans Hill in 1820
at the death of his father. Robert Wilson was a colonel in the War of 1812 and married Catharine Pannill of the Green Hill plantation in Campbell County, Virginia. Robert Wilson exhibited his influence in Danville through things such as support in 1837 for a turnpike that would connect the town of Fincastle to Danville and his encouragement for a branch bank, which was also backed by his brother Nathaniel.8 Robert Wilson continued the tobacco production legacy of his father on the property. His greatest contribution to Dans Hill, however, would be the construction of the grand terraces along with the plantation home and outbuildings.
The immense undertaking of the main home and terraces at Dans Hill would be
completed in 1833 after eight years of construction.9 The home was constructed predominantly in the Federal style. It has been suggested that James Dejarnett, an area master builder, designed the Dans Hill residence; however, the sites designer has not been confirmed.10 Native lumber from the property was used for the structure and bricks were created on the site. In 1923, an article was composed by Mrs. Rorer James in Historic Gardens of Virginia, which expressed details about the structures at Dans Hill from this period. At the time the article was published, Robert Wilson James was the fifth generation of Wilsons to own the property. Built elements constructed by Robert Wilson existing on the site at the time included: stables, carriage-house, in which the old four-horse coach was kept, the weaving-house, where expert weavers in former days made the homespun worn by the house servants and farm hands, a laundry room, dairy, smokehouse, icehouses, kitchen with huge fireplace in which a person could easily stand, and the several log cabins for servants quarters. The main residential structure was also described as: a spacious three-story brick structure of the Colonial type, containing twenty rooms, and furnished with the original mahogany furniture placed there years ago. The present owners, Robert Wilson James and his wife, who was Miss Irene Dwyer, of Ohio, have recently installed in this home all the modern conveniences, consisting of heat, electric lights, bathrooms, and an up-to-date refrigerating plant, making it, in addition to its traditional charms and general beauty, one of the most comfortable homes possible. A fireside grouping in the drawing-room shows the beautiful old imported marble mantel and the brass fender and andirons. The oil painting above the fireplace is a portrait of Robert Wilson, the builder of the present home, and it is interesting to know that this portrait was painted in the very room in which it hangs. The antique porcelain jars on either end of the mantel complete the picture.118Siegel, Frederick F. pp. 33, 55 9Sale, Edith Tunis. The Piedmont Section. Historic Gardens of Virginia. Richmond, Virginia: James River Garden Club, 1923. p. 283. 10Mitchell, Sarah E., Mitchells Publications/Sims-Mitchell House B&B of Chatham, Virginia. Accessed at: Accessed in July 2005. 11Sale, Edith Tunis. p. 283.
The landscape underwent immense transformation with the creation of several
grand terraces which would cascade geometrically down the hill upon which the main residence sat. The strength and time needed for the creation of the terraces would have been intense and demanded careful accuracy to create the precise, measured form of the terraces. Gardens were then planted on one or more of the terrace structures, although the original layout is not known. Below the terraces, the productive fields and pastures were viewed with the Dan River flowing beyond them.
In her book, the History of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, Maud Carter Clement stated
that in the period from the end of the American Revolution to the Civil war, The making of beautiful gardens with terraces, flagged walks and much boxwood lent dignity to the life of that period; and viewing the garden with an exchange of flowers was a part of the days pleasure when visiting a neighbor. 12 Dans Hill certainly possessed these features, with the addition of a gazebo. Several clues remain to hint at the appearance of the past plantings of Dans Hill. Along with the existence of English boxwood at the front entrance, a description provided by Mrs. Rorer James, as with the home, tells of landscape around the residence as it existed in 1923. The house is surrounded by extensive lawns and terraced gardens, covering about three acres, which extend to the river. The walks are bordered by wonderful old boxwood hedges which were planted when the house was built. In the gardens are some very rare old bulbs, put there when the gardens were originally laid out, and which the Department of Agriculture at Washington listed some time ago as practically extinct. 13
The property at Dans Hill was extensive throughout the Wilson Era, including sixteenhundred acres in 1923. The grounds would have been utilized for recreation along with domestic and economic uses. During his stay in the United States, the English composer Frederick Delius spent many weekends riding horses at Dans Hill. In a letter to his friend Rober Phifer, the composer inquired about the Wilson family, to which Mr. Phifer responded in July of 1894 that Old Man Wilson is dead---His daughter Annie married a Mr. Rorer James & they live at The Burton 14 For Delius to have spent much time at the property and to later inquire about the Wilson family, conjures images of the grand plantation and land with a pleasant atmosphere where leisurely riding was desirable.
Upon Robert Wilsons death, his third son, Robert Anderson Wilson, inherited the
property along with his wife Ruth Stovall Hairston, the daughter of Marshall and Ann Hairston of Martinsville, Virginia. Changes made to the property since the time of Robert Wilson are unclear, although it is known that a tennis court was constructed on the property and it is likely paths and planting patterns changed within the main garden area around the gazebo. Dans Hill remained in the possession of the Wilson family until the dawning of the Boatwright Era in the early 1930s.12Clement, Maud Carter. The History of Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Lynchburg, VA: J.P. Bell Company, 1929. 13Sale, Edith Tunis. p. 284. 14Phifer, Robert. Letter to Frederick Delius. 27 July 1894.
TerracesThe Dans Hill terraces were an immense earth moving project for their day and were most likely created along with the construction of the main residence. Turf covers the majority of terraces, unless formal plantings or natural, uncultivated growth is established. At the southwesterly area of the terraces, an earthen ramp leads down from the bottom most terrace into the fields below. Each terrace is ten feet in height with a one to one ratio that provides a relatively steep slope. These formal terraces remain in excellent condition and are exactly 33 feet wide at most points. The width of the terraces is equivalent to two rods (also known as poles or perches) which were common units of measurement used in surveying and land related activities for centuries. One rod is equivalent to 16.5 feet, while 160 square rod equals an acre.15
33 FEET 33 FEET 33 FEET 33 FEET 33 FEET
15Gibson, Robert. A Treatise of Practical Surveying:Which is Demonstrated from its First Principles, Wherein Everything That is Useful and Curious in that Art is Fully Considered and Explained. Dublin: Printed by P. Wogan,1795.
The dense woodland growth that has taken place on parts of the terraces, contrasts greatly with the turf portions. According to Betty Updike, when the Boatwright family purchased the property, the terraces were thickly covered with weeds a brambles that were laborious to remove.
Although stairs have been on the terraces for most of the twentieth century, the existence of stairs on the terraces in the nineteenth century is not certain.
The main residence may be viewed from the lower terraces.
Brick ConstructionBrick structures associated with the construction period completed in 1833, arecomposed of brick made on the plantation. These bricks possess a deep red hue and have a sandy composition. Masons lapped brick work in either Flemish or American bond. Extraordinary care was taken by those who constructed the buildings to produce structures with a precise and exacting appearance. Mortar between bricks was bevelled to create a slender raised surface that could then receive a thin, whitish line that would define accuracy in workmanship to the viewing eye. Termed penciling, the white line method appears on the main home, outbuildings, and greenhouse/ orangery. The illustrations show the greenhouse with a detail of its brickwork. Overall, the penciling remains in good condition.
Gazebo/SummerhouseThe gazebo, or summerhouse, is a significant point of interest on the Dans Hill property. Its construction most likely dates to the early nineteenth century. In the 1923 publication of the Historic Gardens of Virginia, the gazebo is described: At the intersection of four walks stands an octagonal summerhouse, with massive brick columns, in a perfect state of preservation, having already withstood the storms of nearly a hundred years--a delightful spot, overlooking the river, to sit and muse on the old romances of the crinoline days. Near the summerhouse is the old flower-house, known in former days as the greenhouse, where rare and beautiful flowers bloomed the entire winter.16 The story of how the gazebo was designed to represent the Philadelphias Fairmount Water Works, which dates to 1805 and is in the Greek Revival style, has been passed down through gernations.17
16Sale, Edith Tunis. p. 310-316. 17Updike, Elizabeth Betty Vaugh Boatwright. Interviews. June-July 2005.
To the Greenhouse
0 10 20 30 40
SCALE IN INCHES
The octagonal shape and eight columns are clearly shown on the plan above. Millstones are used as steps into the interior, and may have come from one of the Wilsons many mills, although the time of their placement is uncertain. Brick walks from the Boatwright Era surround the gazebo, with the basket weave pattern used at each entrance. Brick has also been used to designate a small planting area that hugs the gazebo perimeter. By standing at the northerly entrance, one can see through toward the eastern terraces where the pool house now stands. Interestingly, the gazebo is 11feet wide, exactly 1/3 of the width of an average, formal Dans Hill terrace.15
Left: This image from the early Boatwright era illustrates the sand paths that met the gazebo and were lined with bulbs. In the background, the Wilson era tennis court is seen, which would be removed before another was constructed by the Boatwrights.Photo made accessible by Betty Updike.
Below: This photo of the gazebo was possibly taken before the 1930s. The diagonal walkway that once led from the gazebo to the terraces is apparent and the greenhouse is seen to the left. It is not certain when the diagonal walk was placed or if it deviated from a plan that resembled the existing layout of the formal gardens. The diagonal path was changed during the Boatwright era.
Photo accessed at: Mitchell, Sarah E., Mitchells Publications/Sims-Mitchell House B&B of Chatham, Virginia. Website: Accessed in June 2006.
The Wilson Cemetery is located west of the main residence. Only a few gravestones
exist, including that of Ruth Stovall Wilson, Caroline E. Wilson, and Robert A. Wilson. One large gravestone that sets parallel to the ground has broken and bears the name of John. It is likely that many family members are buried here, but the graves were unmarked. Colonial/Revolutionary period graves in particular may not have been indicated by stones. At the minimum, one source suggests two of Isabella Wilsons sons, James Anderson Jr. and John Wilson Anderson, are buried here.1818 Halifax Web WorX. Transcribed from Dan Shaw. South of the Dan Tour. Accessible at: Accessed 5 June 2005.
These three existing gravestones are
the most prominent from a distance. A fourth exists with a sculpted lamb sitting on top and the name Carrie. Left: Ruth Stovall Wilson Lower Left: Robert A. Wilson, inherited Dans Hill from his father Robert Wilson Lower Right: Caroline E. Wilson, daughter of Robert and Katharine (sometimes seen as Catherine) Pannill Wilson
The Boatwright EraIn 1931, John Guerrant Boatwright and his wife, Mary Archer Glass Boatwright*, moved to Dans Hill with their children Elizabeth Betty Vaughn Boatwright (Updike) and Robert M. Boatwright. Mr. Boatwright was a talented business man with the Dibrell Brothers tobacco company (later to be called DIMON), while Mrs. Boatwright published newspapers with Carter Glass & Sons Publishers. The family possessed an immense interest in historic places and was proud to be the new owners of the property. In relation to their historic interest, after less than two years of occupancy, the family had the honor for their home to be one of the first structures recorded by the Historic American Buildings Survey. The Boatwrights originally purchased five hundred acres of the original Dans Hill property and would later purchase one hundred additional acres. Obtainment of vaster lands that once belonged to Dans Hill was not feasible by the twentieth century. The land held potential for agriculture into the twentieth century. Tobacco and corn were the dominant crops during the Boatwright residency. The greatest income was derived from tobacco and four tobacco barns existed on the property, where tobacco could be hung and dried before it was sold. Cattle, which grazed in the fields, were kept consistently on the property during the Boatwright era and possibly during the Wilsons time. In the first decade of their residency, the Boatwright family decided to construct a pool on the second terrace directly behind the main garden and gazebo area. The pool included stone paving around its perimeter and pool house with plumbing. The pool house was a moderately sized structure with separate changing rooms for men and women. In the summer an awning could be attached to the pool house to provide additional shade for the structures portico. A rear addition, including the southerly porch, was added to the pool house around 1958. The design of the addition was fully the conception of John and Mary Archers son, Robert. Other structures were added to the property by the Boatwrights, to correspond with the changing needs of their generations. Within view of the pool house, a new tennis court was constructed during the early 1940s, replacing the Wilson era court. Betty Updike and her brother would often play tennis at the court for recreation. A new barn was constructed for Dans Hill in the late 1950s, since the older barn that dated from approximately 1800, was not meeting the propertys needs. In the 1950s the original kitchen structure was converted into a home for Lois Mingle and her new husband. They spent a decade in the home with their children until establishing a larger residence near by.*Mary Archer Glass Boatwright was originally from Lynchburg and the daughter of Senator Carter Glass of Virginia. 19
The Boatwrights enjoyed the diverse landscape of Dans Hill. The 19th century English boxwoods were respected throughout the Boatwright era and additional American boxwoods were added in the formal garden area. Mary Archer Glass Boatwright was known to extensively plant azalea shrubs, including those that create a line between the entrance drive and the lawns in front of the main residence. Lois Mingle particularly recalls the beauty of white azaleas that created a circle at the southerly end of the formal gardens that were on level with the gazebo. Both Lois Mingle and Betty Updike remarked that many azaleas and bulbs planted by the Boatwrights were lost in the 1990s due to the growing white tail deer population at Dans Hill and surrounding properties. Early in the 1950s Robert Burson was called upon to create original designs for two terrace gardens and the area on the easterly side of the main residence, the blueprint plans for which still exist. During the 1960s, Mary Archer Glass Boatwright established an Oriental Garden and Woodland Walk on the lower terraces. Both landscape features were considered to be designed by her. The Woodland Walk included vegetation such as dogwoods, camellias, and numerous azaleas. The origins of vegetation used to implement the designs are not certain, but it is known that Mrs. Boatwright purchased numerous plants from catalogs. The Boatwright era concluded in the Spring of 2005, although their memory and mark on the landscape will continue into the future.19
19Updike, Elizabeth Betty Vaugh Boatwright. Interviews. June-July 2005.
All information on the Boatwright Era was provided by Betty Updike unless otherwise noted
Historic American Buildings SurveyThe Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) was established by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior in 1933 to provide employment during the Great Depression and to produce an archive of historic American architecture. In autumn of 1933, HABS officials arrived at Dans Hill to photograph the main residential structure and to create scale architecutal drawings. These photographs reveal the landscape when the property was in its early stages of the Boatwright era. The top and center HABS photographs illustrate views of the main residence from the entrance, while the bottom photograph shows Dans Hill as seen from the main terraced area, looking towards the northeast. In all views the English boxwoods planted decades earlier are seen.
SOUTH SIDE OF RESIDENCE 1933
This photograph was taken by HABS officials before the pictured staircase was removed and the addition of a curved side staircase was constructed c.1955-1957. During part of the Boatwright era and as of 2005 the porch is enclosed by glass.22
The original dirt drive appears in this 1930s to early 1940s photograph. James Newman, who acted as the Boatwrights head of the grounds until his departure during World War II, is seen at left.Photo made accessible by Betty Updike.
Three outbuildings near the main residence remain in good condition. A smoke house and the weaving house are included in this trio of similarly constructed structures. A privy existed close by, but was removed after a tree fell on it during the Boatwright Era.Photo from HABS, 1933.20
A tennis court from the Wilson era that was removed by the Boatwrights in the 1930s is seen at the left. Boxwood buffer the tennis court and a sand based path that is lined with flowering bulbs and leads to an arbor covered with climing vines. A date for this photo is not available, but is most likey from Spring in the early 1930s.
Photo made accessible by Betty Updike.
20George Washington University Site. John Michael Vlachs The Cultural Landscape of the Plantation. Accessed July 2006.
Oil portrait of Mrs. Mary Archer Glass Boatwright, who was a passionate gardener throughout her time at Dans Hill.Oil painting made accessible by Betty Updike.
Oil portrait from the 1960s of Mrs. Elizabeth Betty Vaughan Boatwright Updike and her children Glenn Updike, John Updike and Leigh Updike.Oil painting made accessible by Betty Updike.
The BoxwoodBoxwood on the property are either Buxus sempervirens (American Boxwood) or Buxus sempervirens suffruticosa (English Boxwood.) The oldest boxwood associated with the construction of the main residence and terraces are Buxus. Later additions were Buxus sempervirens, which is pictured here.
This undated image shows relatively mature boxwood on the second highest terrace behind the main residence. Lois Mingle, a friend of the Boatwright family who spent much of her life on the Dans Hill property, vividly recalled Mary Archer Glass Boatwright remarking on trucks that drove away boxwoods from the southerly section of the terraces just before the Boatwrights moved in.21Photo made accessible by Betty Updike.
A youthful Betty Updike is pictured in the wintry landscape with her two dogs. Young Buxus sempervirens are seen accompanied by a protective structure around them.
Photo made accessible by Betty Updike.
21 Meangle, Lois. Conversation. June 2005.
The Pool House and PoolThe pool and pool house were established for recreation and as a social gathering space on the second highest terrace in the 1930s. The giant slide to the left was extremely popular with the Boatwrights and visitors.Black and white photo made accessible by Betty Updike.
This close up of the pool house shows the original appearance of the structure, with a young Betty Updike standing at the diving boards edge. An open view to the river and fields beyond is detected just behind her.22Black and white photo made accessible by Betty Updike.
A view of the Pool House from the formal garden level, taken in 2005, shows the facade of the pool house has been painted and the color and texture of its brick are no longer visible.
22Updike, Elizabeth Betty Vaugh Boatwright. Interviews. June-July 2005.
The pool house and pool viewed from the main formal garden space.
The pool viewed on level, looking northerly.
An open ceiling structure shelters the outdoor lounging space adjacent to the 1960s pool house addition. The space is accessible from within the pool house, as well as from the back and side.
EntriesThe entrance into the tenniscourt leads from the existing pool house area. The tennis court was established in the 1940s and is in a different location from an earlier tennis court that was removed by the Boatwrights. The entrance to the Boatwrights woodland garden is seen in the photo almost directly across from this entrance. The terraces provided an opportunity for the Boatwrights to create entries that allowed one to descend into a space, such as the tennis court, thus emphasizing the idea of that space as possessing its own individuality, designated from all other spaces around it.
This sloping entrance leads intothe woodland garden created by Mary Archer Boatwright. Bamboo from the former Asian garden is seen approaching the entrance at the right. This garden included shade tolerant plantings, such as rhododendrons.
Robert Bursons DesignsThe British-born Robert (Bob) E. Burson was both a horticulturalist and landscapedesigner. William E. Carson, chairman of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Development, hired Burson in June of 1930 as head of the departments Division of Landscape Engineering. From that point and throughout 1932, Burson was directly involved with the creation of the Virginia State Parks. He visited other states, explored Virginia, and promoted the establishment of six new parks: Seashore State Park, Westmoreland State Park, Staunton River State Park, Fairy Stone State Park, Hungry Mother State Park, and Douthat State Park. These parks would bear his influence and/or designs.23
Due to previous involvement with historical sites, William E. Caron selected Burson
as head of field, archaeological, and historical research on the George Washington Gristmill in Fairfax County, Virginia. Reconstruction of historic buildings on the site was the main goal. Burson visited the historical park Spring Mill Village, in Indiana, during 1932. Here he witnessed planning methods like those used at Colonial Williamsburg, along with the assimilation of historic buildings, or portions of buildings, brought from other locations. These influences would contribute to the work done at George Washingtons Gristmill. Although such influences may not appear at Dans Hill, this example demonstrates Bursons interaction with historic properties, involvement at important decision making levels, and a personal consideration towards historic properties through this interaction and travels.24
Bursons contribution to Dans Hill began in 1951, when he was hired by the
Boatwrights to create designs for the property. Major design areas included plantings around the main house and the establishment of gardens on the terraces. The terrace gardens possessed a formal appearance, lined with boxwood and azalea and were filled with varying flowers and several small trees. Also, the placement of brick walkways began at this time, possibly accompanied with the placement of terracotta pipes used for drainage along walks in the gardens surrounding the gazebo.
United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Westmoreland Historic Park District in Westmoreland County, Virginia. section 8, page 18. Virginia Department of Historic Resources. George Washington Historic Grist Mill Registration. Accessed July 2005.
Robert Bursons Design
ORIGINAL KITCHEN STRUCTURE
This image of Bursons design plan was taken from original blueprints provided by Betty Boatwright Updike.
Robert Bursons Terrace Garden Design
This image of Bursons design plan was taken from original blueprints provided by Betty Boatwright Updike.
Brick Patterns on Pathways
Basket Weave Pattern Usually found in spaces of transition, such as at the gazebo entrances or before the stairs leading into the terraces.
Herringbone Pattern Pattern comprising the vast majority of the brick pathways. Twentieth century additions in the landscape were not created with brick produced at the site. These bricks differ in composition and exhibit more resistance towards foot traffic, compared to the native brick created at Dans Hill.
Entry Walk AlterationsOriginally the entry path was made of sand and/or soil. Stone was laid into the entry by the Boatwrights and remained until the 1950s. At left, the 1930s image shows a view from the front porch of Dans Hill looking out toward the entry road. Below is a photo of the same stonework that is used by the pool house.
Looking southward to the main entrance of the Dans Hill home, the herringbone brickwork of the Boatwright Era is seen. The brick was placed after a decision to make alterations to the property and to hire Robert Burson. Bursons design plans were complete in 1953, dating the bricks placement to at least 1954. Brick was brought from off the site and is not related to the brick used in the construction of the earlier architectural structures.
Terrace Step RelocationThe terrace steps are seen at the images center. It is uncertain if this is the original access location or if any steps existed in the nineteenth century, since no records show evidence of such a detail. The image is courtesy of Betty Boatwright Updike, dating to approximately the 1930s.
The 1953 Burson design relocated the terrace steps to line up with the main residences rear porch and primary axis, as seen in this 2005 image. This decision leads the eye down a linear path into the terraces when standing at the residence rear or along its access walkway. Portions of Bursons design emphasized viewsheds of varying distances, whether it was the above mentioned view, or a simple view into one of the terrace gardens through a boxwood opening.
Landscape Views from the ResidenceLooking northward upon the English boxwood walk leading to the main residential structures entrance.
The original kitchen structure as viewed from the kitchen addition created beginning the summer of 2005.
The turf area on the northwestern side of the home, viewed from a upper level of the residence.
Barn and Corn CribsA barn was constructed bythe Boatwrights just west of the formal Dans Hill area to be used for storage of equipment and as a stable. A stable and corn cribs that remain undated are located adjacent to the barn. Left: A barn constructed by the Boatwrights Below: Corn Cribs adjacent to the barn pictured at the left.
West of the formal Dans Hill
area and barns, a dirt road leads to greenspace on the property, comprised of fields and woodland. The first lake, established in the 1940s may also be reached and eventually the road connects into a residential section, which was once part of the Dans Hill property. Left: Looking southward into a field Below: Heron Lake, established in the 1940s
In the Historic Gardens of Virginia book, it is stated, On this estate isa very fine mineral spring---the water having been analyzed some years ago and found to contain medicinal qualities rivaling some of the springs of the most famous health resorts. The exact location of this spring is not certain. However, Mrs. Betty Boatwright expressed that a spring flowed in the wooded area, which was flooded in the 1940s to create Lake Heron. The lake was created because Mr. John Boatwright desired to have a lake on the property for recreation and various uses. To create the lake, large earthmoving machinery was brought to the property for the first time and large amounts of soil were moved to create the lake bottom. In the 1960s, a second lake to the east was created. Aerial photographs of the property from 1954 show a structure that would have been destroyed by the 1960s lake creation and has been identified as a tenant house.
The Thomson Family
Sitting: Jack Vincent Thomson III, Giles Noah Thomson, Luke Alexander Thomson, Erica Warren Thomson. Standing: Jack Vincent Thomson II, Gayle Giles Thomson, Brooke Elizabeth Thomson, Henry Stoner Thomson.
With immense enthusiasm for its historical heritage, the Thomson family acquired
100 acres of the original Dans Hill property in the Spring of 2005. Gayle and Jack Thomson have expressed happiness at dedicating the coming years to Dans Hill and believe it will create wonderful memories and a unique atmosphere for their children. The rich legacy of the residence combined with its intriguing landscape attracted the Thomson family to the property. Their interest in the landscape has enticed the family to sustain the formal and natural aspects of the land. The entire family has proved to be warmhearted and eager to continue the legacy of Dans Hill into the future. A new kitchen was constructed by the Thomsons on the main residence during the Summer of 2005 and city water was introduced to the site. Additional land was added the following year so that Dans Hill property could once again greet the river as in yesteryear.39
ResourcesClement, Maud Carter. The History of Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Lynchburg, Virginia: J.P. Bell Company, 1929. Conley, James F. Geology of the Southwestern Virginia Piedmont. Charlottesville, Virginia: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources, 1985. George Washington University Site. John Michael Vlachs The Cultural Landscape of the Plantation. Accessed at: Accessed in July 2006. Gibson, Robert. A Treatise of Practical Surveying:Which is Demonstrated from its First Principles, Wherein Everything That is Useful and Curious in that Art is Fully Considered and Explained. Dublin: Printed by P. Wogan, 1795. Halifax Web WorX. Transcribed from Dan Shaw. South of the Dan Tour. Accessed at: Accessed on 5 June 2005. Melton, Herman. Pittsylvania 19th Century Grist Mills. Chatham, Virginia: 1991. Mitchell, Sarah E., Mitchells Publications/Sims-Mitchell House B&B of Chatham, Virginia. Accessed at: Accessed in July 2005. Phifer, Robert. Letter to Frederick Delius. 27 July 1894. Sale, Edith Tunis. The Piedmont Section. Historic Gardens of Virginia. Richmond, Virginia: James River Garden Club, 1923. pp. 310-316. Siegel, Frederick F. The Roots of Southern Distinctiveness. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press, 1987. United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Westmoreland Historic Park District in Westmoreland County, Virginia. section 8, page 18. United States. Soil Conservation Service., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Soil Survey of Pittsylvania County and the City of Danville, Virginia/ United States Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service; in Cooperation with Virginia Polytechnic Institute University. Washington, D.C. : 1994. Updike, Elizabeth Betty Vaugh Boatwright. Interviews. June-July 2005. Virginia Department of Historic Resources. George Washington Historic Grist Mill Registration. Accessed at: Accessed in July 2005.
PLANTS LIST OF DANS HILLVinca sp. Azalea sp. Chaenomeles sp. Hedera helix Lonicera japonica Ligustrum amurense Lagerstroemia indica Philadelphus lewisii Buxus sempervirens suffruticosa Buxus sempervirens Vibernum sp. Wisteria spp. Poncirus trifoliata Syringa sp. Acer palmatum Acer platanoides Acer rubrum Acer saccharum Acer saccharinum Celtis occidentalis Thuja sp. Fraxinus americanaAppendix A: Plants List 41
Fagus grandifolia Gleditsia triacanthos Ilex opaca Ilex aquifolium Juglans nigra Liriodendron tulipifera Magnolia grandiflora Malus sp. Magnolia x soulangiana Platanus occidentalis Quercus phellos Quercus falcata Tilia (Americana?) Ulmus americana Abies sp. Maclura pomifera Morus sp. Yucca sp.
ROSES OF DANS HILL
Roses located in proximity to the Greenhouse and poolhouse access road. Two plants accompany each other on either side of the brick walkway.
The same roses as shown above, showing the plants overall structure.
Appendix B: Roses of Dans Hill
The Roses shown on this page are found across from the Greenhouse and were most likely planted in the Boatwright Era.
Left: The bud of this rose is pictured beneath it.
Appendix B: Roses of Dans Hill
HABS Plans and Details, 1933
Appendix C: HABS Scale Drawings
HABS Plans and Details, 1933
Appendix C: HABS Scale Drawings