Rivermont in Eden: A Landmark 1936 Mansion on the Smith River, $650,000

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When the glory days of Rockingham and Caswell counties passed, they didn’t leave  much behind except some grand old houses. Rivermont in Eden is a relatively late example of the old mansions of Rockingham County (there are three currently for sale and another under contract). Built in 1936, it’s move-in ready and all yours for $650,000.

With 5,200 square feet, the price works out to $124 per square foot, modest by mansion standards, especially for one that appears to be in such great shape. Rivermont has 5 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms and 2 half-baths. The address is 351 W. Meadow Road. The property comprises 15 acres on the Smith River in the Leaksville section of Eden (you know about Eden, right? Leaksville, Spray and Draper were three small towns that grew together and merged in 1967 to become the town of Eden).

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Rivermont was used by its last previous owners as an event and performance venue (Facebook page, last updated more than a year ago). The current owners bought the house in March 2019 for $400,000. They’ve made some renovations, secured designation for it as a local landmark in June 2019 and now have it for sale again (at a 62 percent mark-up).

Early in the 20th century, the land belonged to B. Frank Mebane, a grandson-in-law of Gov. John Motley Morehead. Mebane built a “log clubhouse” there in the 1920s. The property was bought by Frank Letcher Eggleston (1897-1980), who owned a tire store, and his wife, Mattie Sue Parker Eggleston (1904-1998). They hired prominent Danville architect J. Bryant Heard to design their home.

“The property is locally significant  as a largely intact example of a large, stately Colonial Revival style home,” the landmark ordinance states. “The house is well set back of the road and is accessed by a long circular driveway lined with mature boxwoods. Originally, there was a large riding ring for horses that were kept in stables on the property (no longer standing). The grounds were landscaped with 1,500 English boxwoods as well as native shrubs and large trees.

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“The house is an elegant, painted brick, Colonial Revival style house with a two-story gable roofed center main block with flanking one-story wings. The five-bay wide main block has a full-height porch topped by a balustrade, with six large columns which were imported from England. The front entrance has a paneled door with leaded glass sidelights. The main block has an exterior chimney on either end. The right wing houses the kitchen and servants area as well as a garage and has a recessed arched loggia with smaller columns which were also imported from England. There is a two-car garage addition on the rear of this wing. The left side wing contains the family room and features a conservatory with a bellcast roof. The house is lit by eight-over-eight casement windows. The third floor once served as an enormous playroom. The house has gabled and hip roofs covered with slate shingles. Slate is also used for the walkways and patios.

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“The main block of the house contains the living areas on the first floor and bedrooms on the second floor. the living and dining rooms feature handmade Williamsburg-style cornices. the entry hall features arched doorways and an elegant flying staircase. There are several fireplaces with original details. the family room has a wall of built-in bookcases.”

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Rivermont was built just after colored bathroom fixtures were developed.

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Sold: The 1900 Isaac Dunlap House in Bonlee, a $70,000 Bargain with Much Original Detail Intact

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There’s a lot of work to be done on the Isaac Dunlap House in Bonlee, but there’s also much in the house that couldn’t be replaced and is still intact. The house “has retained nearly every piece of trim, hardware, stunning multicolored glass sashes & original doors … deep baseboards, 5 panel doors, lacy brackets & elaborate sawn balistrades,” the listing said.

The house is in western Chatham County, 1875 Elmer Moore Road. It was bought for $70,000 last week. It has 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and 3,770 square feet (just $19 per square foot). The lot is 9 acres. It was built around 1900. It’s an amazing house with connections to an interesting time in the history of the area.

While the house is in poor condition, just look at what has survived all these years.

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Note that the roof and the foundation look relatively new. They’re the best investments previous owners could have made, and that’s much of the reason the house has held up so well for so long despite not getting much in the way of other maintenance.

The interior is just as promising.

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The kitchen looks to have received more updating than the rest of the house, which is sad for the kitchen but good for all the other rooms. It’s about what you might expect, though, and there appears to be plenty of room to work with.

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It’s a big old rambling place. Outside, there are a number of outbuildings and a pond.

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The house was built by Isaac Dunlap, timber entrepreneur and a co-founder of the Bonlee community. He also was a founder of the Bonlee and Western short-line railroad, which he and his brother built to haul their timber. Dunlap’s timber salesmen rode around the country free through a customary reciprocal agreement with other railroads. When the head of a much bigger line discovered the Bonlee and Western was just 10 miles long, he wanted to cancel the arrangement. Dunlap reportedly told him his line might be short, but it was just as wide as any other.

Rosemont, 506 W. Hunter Street in Madison: A Grand Old 1911 Mansion, $429,000

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Rockingham County has more than its share of great old houses, and Rosemont in Madison is one of the grandest. The imposing Queen Anne is set well back from a quiet side street on an acre of land at 506 W. Hunter Street. It’s for sale at $429,000.

The 1911 house has four bedrooms and three bathrooms. With 4,800 spacious square feet, Rosemont’s price comes out to a remarkably reasonable $89 per square foot.

The exterior, including the clay-tile roof, could use a little cosmetic work, but the interior is immaculate. A grand porte-cochere stands at the left end of the house, and a large solarium is on the right.  In between are nine fireplaces, hand-laid parquet floors, leaded-glass windows and pocket doors. The property also includes a detached apartment and two-car garage.

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As you might expect, Rosemont’s builder was quite the prosperous fellow. Nathaniel Macon Pickett owned the Madison Building Supply Company and was a co-owner of the first car dealership in town. His collection of more than 300 books was used to establish the first public library in Madison. Pickett was born in 1871 and died at age 58 in 1929. He was originally from Chatham County.

His wife, Cora Johnson Pickett, was born in Sewanee, Tennessee, in 1874. She was a school teacher and a charter member of the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She outlived her husband by almost 40 years, dying at age 93 in 1968.

Listing for 506 N. Hunter Street, Madison

Historic House of the Week: The Twitchell-Gallaway House, an 1824 Federal-Greek Revival Mansion in Madison, $259,900

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Calling the Twitchell-Gallaway House a “mansion” may not completely do it justice. It has the pedigree of an antebellum mansion, but it’s smaller and less formal than a true, sprawling exemplar of the type. It’s more comfortable, affordable and comes with a lot less overhead.

Located at 107 W. Academy Street in Madison, the house has 3,465 square feet and a 0.4-acre lot, both figures quite at the low end of the mansion scale. At the current price of $259,900, that comes out to $75 per square foot, modest even by the standards of the Piedmont’s smaller towns. Surprisingly, it has been for sale for a year and a half.

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There’s wavy old glass in the windows, a feature a smartphone’s camera doesn’t quite capture.

The house is a highlight of the National Register’s Academy Street Historic District. The district’s nomination classes it as a “pivotal” structure: “Buildings or properties that are individually outstanding, historically and/or architecturally, and stand as a visual or historic landmark in the community.”

From the outside, it’s an imposing home, an austere structure in the Federal style sitting on a rise above the road. “The oldest house in the district, the 1824 Twitchell-Gallaway House in the Federal-Greek Revival style, constitutes on the exterior the only representative in the district of the Federal style; at the entrance and throughout the interior is some of Madison’s finest detailing in the Greek Revival style,” the district’s nomination states. (Note: Other sources give 1832 as the date of the house.)

“This dwelling, commissioned by town founder Randall Duke Scales for his daughter Elizabeth upon her marriage to Joseph Twitchell, commands a prominent site at the crest of the Academy Street hill. The house is the only nineteenth-century brick structure in the district and one of only two such structures in all of Madison …”

107 w. academy street light-ceiling.jpgGiving the house further historic stature is woodwork is attributed to the legendary Thomas Day (although the 1980 National Register nomination for the district doesn’t mention him). “In contrast to the exterior, Greek Revival is the sole distinguishing style of the interior,” the nomination says. “Molding with deep channels and corner blocks inscribed with circles embellish all of the doors and windows. The molding of the surrounds is most plastic in the west parlor where they also are decorated with carved anthemion motifs; these motifs also appear on the mantelpiece and in panels beneath the windows in the parlor. Elsewhere the molding of the surrounds is shallower and the mantles simpler in design, except for the delicate east parlor mantlepiece with Ionic columns.”

The house has four bedrooms and two baths. The rooms aren’t remarkably large. The dining room easily holds a table for 10, and the bedrooms are roomy. But everything about the house is on a pretty normal scale, with one exception. The doorway from the dining room to the kitchen appears to have been designed for hobbits. It’s about six feet high at best. The kitchen and a breakfast nook are in a modest 1995 addition at the back of the house.

The most striking room in the house may be the basement. Originally the dining room and kitchen, it now serves as a family room. With exposed floor joists above and a brick floor, it’s a particularly informal, comfortable room. It opens out to a patio. The basement also has a full bathroom and a semi-enclosed bar area.

Madison is a small town (population 2,246 in the last census) in western Rockingham County. U.S. highways 220 and 311 run through it, making the town about 30 minutes by car from downtown Greensboro and about 40 to downtown Winston-Salem. It’s a reasonable commute if you’re looking for the quiet of a small town and home with real historic stature at a relatively affordable price.

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One of the two bathrooms is at the end of the front hallway.
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The front parlor has a seating area and work space for one of the owners.
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Watch your head going into the kitchen. The dining room’s interior window looks into the breakfast nook.
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The dining room fireplace

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The microwave and dishwasher are neatly tucked in on the left.

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The spacious basement bathroom

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