The Sunday porch: Danville, Virginia

Danville, Virginia farmhouse, 1935, Library of CongressFarmhouse on Michaux Plantation, Danville area, Virginia, 1935, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. (There are two more views here.)

I could not find out when this simple house* was built or if it still exists. It is somewhat similar to this house in the same area, which Johnston’s notes say was built between 1776 and 1850.

Michaux was one of eleven plantations in southern Virginia owned by the Hairston family, one of the largest slaveholders in the South. Its name probably indicates that the land was also once owned by a member (this one?) of the local branch of the Michaux family.

This is the kingdom that you find
When the brave eye-holes stare
impartially against the air. . .

Joy Davidman, from “Stark Lines-Resurrection”

*It reminds me of the old house or schoolhouse quilt block pattern.

The Sunday porch: Pleasant Hill, N.C.

Pleasant Hill, N.C. F.B. Johnston, Library of Congress

Pleasant Hill, Vance County, North Carolina, 1938, by Frances Benjamin Johnston for the Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Pleasant Hill,cropped, N.C. F.B. Johnston, Library of Congress
Detail of photo above.

The plantation house, later known as Rivenoak, was built sometime between 1750 and 1780 by Philemon Hawkins, Jr.

A 2011 view of the house is here.  Unfortunately the stone columns are gone.

Fields of grass

I love these two pictures of a well-cared-for antebellum mansion in 1939 Alabama with a tall grass lawn — early no-mow or at least seldom-mow.

Above and below is the W.P. Welch Mansion in Selma, Alabama. It was built in 1858.

Years ago, we had neighbors who tore down their house and built another on the same spot, in the style of a Victorian farmhouse. While the contractors were finishing the interior, the small bare front yard was covered with straw. Tall grass soon grew up through it, and the effect was something like the above. It was beautiful — remnants of beige straw, wavy green grass, and one old peegee hydrangea limbed up into a small tree.

Of course, as soon as they could, they tilled it up and put down sod and foundation shrubs. I always thought it was too bad. Before, it had actually evoked some real ideas and emotion about real farms.

Long Lane Farm (above), St. Mary’s County, Maryland.

A lot of the houses I’ve looked at in the Carnegie Survey of the South collection are decrepit or abandoned. They have “lawns” of tall grass, weeds, and a some remaining flowers. But they are beautiful resting in their wavy, ragged negative space. Their foundations aren’t obscured by shrubs; their porches float.

Beauregard House (above), Chalmette, Louisiana.

Cabin (above), St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana.

(above) Moccasin, Louisiana.

Uncle Sam Plantation (above), St. James Parish, Louisiana.

Prospect Hill (above), Airlie, North Carolina.

Driscoll Farm (above), St. Mary’s County, Maryland.

Greenway, aka Marlee (above), Charles City County, Virginia.

(above) New Roads, Louisiana.

Elizabeth Hill (above), St. Mary’s County, Maryland.

Woodlawn Plantation (above), Napoleonville, Louisiana.

All photos by Frances Benjamin Johnston, taken in the late 1930s for the Carnegie Survey of the South, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Old Dunbar Quarters

I think these early spring photos of an old house and farm near Falmouth in Stafford County, Virginia, are charming. (Click them to see larger versions.)

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find out anything about the property, which was called Old Dunbar Quarters when the photos were taken in the late 1920s.

The photos were taken by Frances Benjamin Johnston as part of the Carnegie Survey of the South (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division).

Chatham Manor

I’m still traveling, so most of my next posts will be of vintage photos that have caught my interest in the last month. They are from the Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South (at the Library of Congress).

Thanks to all who have commented on posts lately. I’m sorry that I can’t answer everyone individually right now.

In 1927, photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston was commissioned by Helen Devore to photograph her estate, Chatham Manor, which she had restored.

Documenting the house and its gardens led Johnston to undertake the Carnegie Survey of the South during the late 1920s and all of the 1930s.

Chatham was built between 1768 and 1771 and overlooks the Rappahanock River near Fredericksburg, Virginia. It has the distinction of having hosted both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln for overnight stays.

After a nearby civil war battle in 1862, it was used as a hospital, and Walt Whitman and Clara Barton nursed wounded soldiers there.

December 1862 photo via and The National Archives.

It is now owned by the National Park Service and is open to the public.

Click on any thumbnail below to scroll through 23 enlarged photos of Chatham. Excepted where otherwise captioned, all are by Frances Benjamin Johnston via the Carnegie Survey of the South collection of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.