Woodlawn’s history trip

This is the last of three articles about the 56th annual Trinity Episcopal Church Dried Flower Sale and House Tour Oct. 20-21. Tickets for all three houses, including tea from 2 to 5 at Middleton Inn, are $30 and available at Trinity’s parish hall on Gay Street in Washington and at each of the houses. Admission to a single house or to the tea is $10.

Woodlawn is the third house on the Episcopal Church House tour this year, and is the oldest, built in 1797. The original owner was a tobacco planter and a Revolutionary War veteran, and the house site was given to him for service to his country. It sits serenely on a little knoll, off Jericho Road in Flint Hill, with traditional boxwood plantings in the front, and to the side, a pond with Japanese cherry trees.

Current Woodlawn owner and restorer Tom Glass opens his doors as the third stop on this year’s House Tour, Oct. 20-21. Courtesy photo.
Current Woodlawn owner and restorer Tom Glass opens his doors as the third stop on this year’s House Tour, Oct. 20-21. Courtesy photo.

In the back, the land falls away in a series of little terraces, with flower beds and specimen trees, fading into woods in the distance. It might seem quite at home – but it wasn’t built in Rappahannock County. It sat for 209 years in a field in Appomattox County, some 150 miles away, and its present gracious state was made possible only by the vision and skill of its present owner, Tom Glass – who saw it in that field, abandoned and dilapidated, and had the expertise to know how to move it and rebuild it. Like many present day Rappahannockers, transplanted here by choice, it has found a way to blend in, and contribute its own uniqueness to the county’s charms.

The house that Glass saw had not been lived in for 70 years, and never had any changes from the time it was first built. It had no electricity or plumbing, and every window, door, fireplace, piece of trim and wainscoting were original. It took three months of planning, two weeks of deconstruction, and two 18-wheelers – one flatbed for the timbers, joists and larger pieces, and a box trailer for the windows, doors and floorboards – for Woodlawn to reach its new home in Flint Hill. Now, each numbered piece is back in its proper place, and the original windows, doors, chair rails, staircase and banisters are safely ready to survive another two hundred years.

Its exterior facade is severely symmetrical, and the double brick chimney with an inset door to the English basement is unique. The brick foundations and chimney are not original, but made to the specifications of the original. There were remains of front and back porches, and Glass used the measurements of the footers and piers to replace those.

Though the exterior seen here is not original — the chimney and porches are copies — everything is designed exactly to the original’s specifications. Courtesy photo.
Though the exterior seen here is not original — the chimney and porches are copies — everything is designed exactly to the original’s specifications. Courtesy photo.

The original side hall, a wide hallway with both front and back doors, was originally a sort of public place, for business to be done, or for guests to wait to be seen. Now it serves as the entry and the dining room, with a salvaged chestnut dining table and Amish chairs. The two downstairs rooms were originally parlors, or sometimes bedrooms; their doors have been widened for a living room and modern kitchen. 

There were six fireplaces in the house, all different, and all of which have been replicated. The living room is furnished with comfortable upholstered pieces and enlivened with colorful art work, some by Glass, and by old fabrics from around the world, collected by his wife, Phyllis. Pieces of old saris, Vietnamese and Peruvian embroidery, and oriental rugs provide a different history. The couple collect pottery from around the world too, and large pieces decorate the mantels and chest tops.

On the second floor, the floor plan is exactly as it was originally, with a large hallway leading into two large bedrooms, as well as a child’s bedroom, with its original turquoise blue paint. This room has been made into a modern bathroom, with salvaged pressed tin mirrors and tiles from Amsterdam. On this floor, like the first, the subdued colors of the original house are contrasted with colorful rugs, paintings, pottery and other artifacts.

The house’s attic and basement, originally just open storage spaces, have been made into modern bedrooms, baths and an office. They are not on the tour.

Courtesy photo.
Courtesy photo.

Woodlawn has been happily adopted by its new county. It is a wonderful example of the power of vision and hope, as well as expertise, attention to detail and skill. Its new setting honors its long past and its new owners, as well as all those who worked on it in any capacity. The guests who visit it will come away with a respect for the past, as well as for the present effort which ensures that Woodlawn will still be there, ennobling the views, for several more centuries.