Parrish House a legacy of famed builder Hawkins

This is the second of three features on the homes included in the 54th annual Dried Flower Sale and House Tour sponsored by the women of Trinity Episcopal Church Parish on Oct. 16 and 17. For details about the weekend’s program, call 540-937-4279.

From contributed reports
The story of a house, especially one that has stood the test of time for more than 100 years, is like that of a cloth which weaves in many different threads to make its unique and beautiful effect. So it is with The Parrish House at Thornton River Farm on Richmond Road in Viewtown.

This house, currently owned by Chris and Caroline Parrish, is locally known as the Jolliffe house, because that family occupied it for several generations, since its completion in 1892 by a local, and prolific builder, George W. Hawkins.

So, the story starts with a builder, George Washington Hawkins, born either on April 14, 1848 (according to the family Bible) or on April 24 1850 (according to the county’s marriage license). His parents, Mordecai and Mary Anne Willis, were farmers, and like most farmers who were successful, they could repair, and they could build. Being self-sufficient in those days was pretty much a requirement for survival, let alone success. According to the U.S. Census of 1870, Mordecai Hawkins owned $2,000 in real estate, and $600 in personal property, very respectable numbers. George W. was the youngest of seven sons, and the legacy from his family was the gift of home building. His own legacy to us is in two parts: a number of his classic homes still standing in the county, and the homes built by his own youngest son, Charles.

George W.’s homes include Parrish (1892), Pierce (1896), and Buckner (1899), as well as the Blankenbaker house in Laurel Mills, Babcock’s near Washington, and Crossmolina near Massie’s Corner. Some of his son Charles Hawkins’ homes were Hampden Hall (1907), and the Miller house in 1910.

As one may gather from the dates above, building a house such as the Parrish House took about three years. George, and later Charles, would drive George’s steam traction engine to the job site as a source of power. The farm site provided the builders with their materials, fieldstone for the house’s foundation, and timber from the woods for the lumber. A sawmill was set up in a nearby field. Sawmilling and foundation work were completed the first year, framing and plastering the second year, and finish work completed in the final of the three years. Scott McBride, a local carpenter and writer for Fine Woodworking, explains, “This patient scheduling minimized problems with settling and shrinkage.”

With the exception of a small room added as a bathroom and a small deck at the back, the Parrish House today is just as it was built. As was common in those days, the house was built using a balloon construction method. This means that continuous studs run up the height of the first and second stories. The exterior has the look of a typical Southern farmhouse, with traditional Hawkins bay windows, large porches front and back, and generous windows to let the air circulate. Inside, a large front hall, with a central staircase and landing, is also a Hawkins trademark.

And what is a Rappahannock story without something outlandish? Harry Jolliffe, beholding his wonderful new house in 1894, decided it needed a wife. So he sent a picture of the home to the Richmond paper with an advertisement for a wife. The advertisement was successful, the bride came to Rappahannock, and the couple had a son. The wife grew lonely, and sent word for her brother to come and live with them, and he did. But he and Harry Jolliffe died, the wife returned to Richmond, and the son remained. His father and uncle are buried in the side yard of the house, which Chris’s father, Ike Parrish, bought from the son, and added it to Thornton River Farm in the 1970s.

Chris Parrish remembers it very well. Growing up next door, so to speak, in the 1950s, he would come down to play with Tyson and John Jolliffe, squirting milk from the dairy cows, and listening to the rattle of the nearby bridge over the Thornton, when a rare car or truck went by. (In old documents, the way across the river there was called “Joliff’s Ford.”) Chris remembers hearing the story of the barn Jolliffe built in the 1930s. He put a hardwood floor in the second story, and held a barn dance there every Saturday until it was paid for. Then, and only then, did he put put hay up there. The property has the foundations of one of the three stills that the hollow was famous for.

The view from Richmond Road is of a charming, spacious home, nestled in its gardens and lawns. But the history of the Parrish House points to a far more fascinating and interesting past, tied to the ongoing development of the county and its culture.

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