The Oldest House in Virginia Is Still Standing After 120 Years

Virginia boasts a rich historical tapestry, adorned with countless venerable houses narrating tales of its bygone days. Surprisingly, the oldest among them is not Mount Vernon, George Washington’s residence, nor Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s abode. It’s not even Jamestown, the initial permanent English settlement in America. The distinction of being the oldest documented brick dwelling in the state belongs to Bacon’s Castle, a brick mansion erected in 1665.

In this blog post, we delve into the captivating history and enduring features of Bacon’s Castle, exploring the reasons behind its standing for over 120 years.

The Historical Journey of Bacon’s Castle

Constructed by the affluent merchant and planter Arthur Allen in Surry County, Virginia, Bacon’s Castle was initially named “Allen’s Brick House.” It stood out as one of the most striking homes in the colony, featuring a symmetrical design, a steep roof, and a unique triple-stack of chimneys. The house, reminiscent of a castle with its moat, drawbridge, and fortified gatehouse, exuded elegance and grandeur.

The name “Bacon’s Castle” emerged in 1676 when Nathaniel Bacon and his rebels seized the house during a revolt against colonial governor William Berkeley. The rebellion, rooted in discontent with Berkeley’s policies on trade, taxes, and Native American relations, lasted four months until Bacon’s demise. Despite the damage inflicted during the occupation, the Allen family later restored the house.

Remaining in the Allen family until 1844, Bacon’s Castle then changed hands to the Hankins family. Ultimately, in 1973, it was acquired by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (now Preservation Virginia), which meticulously restored and opened it to the public as a museum.

Distinctive Features of Bacon’s Castle

Bacon’s Castle stands as a splendid example of Jacobean architecture, a style prevalent in early 17th-century England. Unique features include:

  1. Triple-stack chimneys: The oldest in the country, characterized by their diagonal placement and decorative brickwork.
  2. Gables: Triangular roof sections adorned with molded brick patterns and ornamental spikes (finials).
  3. Windows: Large, rectangular, with wooden frames, diamond-shaped panes, and brick arches with keystones.
  4. Entrance: Facing the James River, featuring a wooden door, iron hinges, a carved wooden pediment, and a brick porch with columns.
  5. Interior: Four rooms on each floor, connected by a central hall, boasting wooden floors, paneling, fireplaces, and original furniture.

The Legacy Continues

Bacon’s Castle, a national treasure, stands testament to Virginia’s history and culture. Open to the public from March to December, it offers guided tours, special events, and educational programs. Beyond its historical significance, Bacon’s Castle serves as a unique venue for weddings, meetings, and other gatherings. For more information or to plan a visit, explore Bacon’s Castle’s website.

More than a mere house, Bacon’s Castle is a living monument where the past, present, and future converge. It beckons you to immerse yourself in history, appreciate the present, and envision a future intertwined with the echoes of time. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore this captivating piece of Virginia’s heritage.

Leave a Comment