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Pear Valley, located in Wilsonia Neck, is one of the most studied buildings in Virginia. On October 21st, Dr. Bernie Herman, noted author and the George B. Tindall Professor of Southern Studies at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill gave his unique perspective about its construction and the culture of the people who lived there. Recent dating methods indicate Pear Valley was built around 1740. The 20-by-16-foot structure is a one-room, open or hall-plan house with a loft that was eventually subdivided into two rooms. The descendants of the original owner lived in Pear Valley for almost 200 years. Pear Valley was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969 and became a National Historic Landmark in 2013. When designated as a National Historic Landmark it became one of only 2,596 landmarks in the entire U.S., 121 in Virginia, and two in Northampton County.
Dr. Bernie Herman’s
books include Architecture and Rural Life in Central Delaware
1700-1900, The Stolen House, and Town House: Architecture and Material
Life in the Early American City, 1760-1830 — each awarded the Abbott Lowell
Cummings Award as the best book on North American vernacular architecture. Dr. Herman specializes in historical architecture and material
culture. In the early part of his career, he studied many of the historic
homes of The Eastern Shore.
Lebanon - Lecture on the Lawn on September 23rd
September 23rd, NHPS received a warm welcome by the owner to the Northampton historical
home named "Lebanon". The oldest section of
the house was
built by the owner's great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Thomas
circa 1787. The smaller section was added by her great-great
Thomas J. L. L. Nottingham in the mid 1800's, using salvaged lumber from
off Cobb Island.
The cemetery has headstones dating back to the late 18th century. Nottingham’s oldest son served in Lee's Army of Virginia and was captured by the Union Army during the retreat from Richmond. In 1828 William Nottingham gave 1/4th acre to the Methodist Church for the construction of Salem Methodist Church. The lovely water view and learning about the many connections to Northampton families through the years provided a great afternoon.
Johnsontown Tavern - Lecture on the Lawn on June 10th
The lecture series opened June 10th at Johnsontown Tavern located immediately south of Bridgetown. The owners and Dr. David Scott presented the evolution of the tavern/house built by Johannes Johnson, who purchased 35 acres just south of Hungars Church in 1787.
Johnson, believed to have been one of the Occohannock Neck
Johnsons, built the Tavern, Johnson's Methodist Church (1790) and a store (1820s) on this property. Johnson ran the tavern, which served
people who were traveling north and south between Eastville and Bridgetown, for
a number of years. Many Northampton families owned or lived in “Johnson’s Town."
View the NHPS 2018 Summer Newsletter online at: Summer Newsletter 2018
View the NHPS 2017 Spring Newsletter online at: Spring Newsletter 2017
View the NHPS 2016 Summer Newsletter online at: Summer Newsletter 2016
View the NHPS 2016 Winter Newsletter online at : Winter Newletter 2016
View the NHPS 2015 Summer Newsletter online at:
Pear Valley Presentation Introducing the NHPS Video
Pear Valley: A 1740 Yeoman’s Cottage
Featuring Dr. Garrison Brown
Held March 25th ~ Cape Charles Civic Center
Sunday, March 25th, NHPS held a Pear Valley presentation and 23-minute
video featuring Dr. Garrison Brown, Board Member and Pear Valley Overseer. In
the video, Dr. Brown took us on a tour of the historic Pear Valley
property indoors at the Cape Charles Civic Center at 500 Tazewell Ave.
After the video, Dr. Brown was available for a question and answer session.
Pear Valley represents what was once a common building in the rural landscape of the Chesapeake region. The yeoman planter’s cottage has been dated to 1740. In 2013, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark and became one of only 2,596 landmarks in the entire U.S., 121 Virginia, and two in Northampton County. This places Pear Valley in the company of Virginia’s Monticello, Montpelier, and Bacon’s Castle as a property officially recognized by the U.S. government for its national historic significance.
The 20-by-16-foot structure is a one-room, open or hall-plan house with a loft that was eventually subdivided into two rooms. Its survival as a 2nd generation Chesapeake house was due in part to its construction on a brick frame foundation instead of the “earth fast” or post in the ground homes used by early settlers. Another factor in retaining its historical integrity was that it was used by one family, and Nottingham/Widgeon’s for 200 years.
The quality of craftsmanship at Pear Valley can be seen by its architectural elements. These include the Flemish bond chimney that features glazed headers in a Chevron pattern, a treatment employed in well-crafted buildings through the first half of the 18th century. A false plate was used to carry the rafters and the interior exposed beams showcase chamfered edges and hand-wrought nails. Learn how Pear Valley has survived for almost three centuries and see the architectural elements that make it important to historians and scholars. (No cost for this program.)
The NHPS Annual Membership Meeting and Holiday Dinner was held on December 6th at The Oyster Farm at Kings Creek. An annual meeting highlight was guest speaker Dr. Bill Kelso, the world renowned Director of Archaeology at Historic
Jamestowne. Dr. Kelso’s
well known archaeological projects at Jamestown, Monticello, and his earlier work at Pear Valley and
Arlington Plantation, have made him a popular figure in Northampton County and Virginia. In 1993, he was named
Director of Archaeology for Preservation Virginia’s Jamestown Rediscovery
Project where he set to work immediately to find the exact location of the
original fort of the Jamestown colonists on the James River.
By the end of 1996, he had uncovered evidence of palisades and the foundations of other structures that confirmed the identity of the fort. Since then, Dr. Kelso’s work has continued in Jamestown with the excavations of numerous additional buildings, including the settlement’s first church and the burial place of four Jamestown leaders, and the governor’s rowhouse during the term of Samuel Argall. Over two million objects have been found and catalogued. These objects reflect the lives and trials of the early English settlers. They reveal stories of hope, determination, desperation, and sometimes cruelty. Dr. Kelso is the author of numerous books on American archaeological projects, including his latest book, Jamestown, The Truth Revealed (May 2017).
WINNER OF 2017 VIRGINIA SHERMAN AWARD - COUNCIL OF VIRGINIA ARCHAEOLOGISTS
In late October, Dr. Garrison “Doc” Brown was awarded the Council of Virginia Archaeologists “Virginia Sherman Award” for his significant contributions both above and below ground to historic preservation in the Commonwealth of Virginia. “Doc” was nominated for this award because of his above and beyond efforts in supporting historic preservation.
In receiving this award, Brown’s active membership in the Northampton, Virginia Historic Preservation Society and role as caretaker of Pear Valley, an 18th century yeoman’s cottage which is significantly unique to this region was highlighted. His nomination specifically recognized his involvement in the current excavations at Newport House/Eyreville where a second/third quarter 17th century dwelling was discovered.
Last winter, Dr. Brown identified the research value of the site when a Northampton county land owner removed a tree stump which in turn lead to a recovery of a casting counter, Irish farthings and yellow Dutch bricks. He immediately notified the DHR and the site remains under study to this day. His quick and thoughtful action will uncover many precious artifacts to tell our regions history.
NHPS Walking Tour of Historic Accomac - October 26, 2017
Great day in Accomack and Onancock. Enjoyed a visit to the Saint James Episcopal Church in Accomac with tour guide Drummond Ayres. Followed by a tour of the Accomac Historic District - significant for its well preserved architecture and rich history as a government center for over 300 years.
Roman Revival style of the Francis Makemie Presbyterian Church, built in 1837,
was next on the tour. The history and furnishings of the Church was
highlighted by Fitzhugh Godwin, Chairman of The Francis Makemie Society. He also addressed the recent archeological dig at the Makemie Monument Park.
Francis Makemie founded the organization. Then the group went on to lunch at Onancock's Charlotte Hotel & Restaurant.
Lecture on the Lawn at Coventon
Sunday, October 22nd, 2017
Lecture on the Lawn at Selma
Held September 17th, 2017 at 2:00 PM
Selma in Eastville is a beautiful example of a
mid-eighteenth century two story house with outstanding architectural
details. Home to numerous influential Northampton families over
the centuries, the house evolved into the “big house, little house,
kitchen” form particular to the Eastern Shore. The owners/speakers shared with the audience the history of this amazing property at this well-received event.
NHPS Guided Walking Tour of Historic Eastville - June 25th, 2017
On June 25th, in the 2nd year of the well-received NHPS Guided Walking Tour
of Historic Eastville, town historian and NHPS board member David Scott
continued to add new material to his informative presentation. In
addition, new research pertaining to the "forgotten" history of
the Eastville Court Green jails during the 1800’s and 1900’s, was featured in a
presentation by Joyce Kappeler.
Looking at the Court Green, one of the oldest in Virginia, you
can imagine how it looked at various times during its 300+ year history.
Eastville features commercial and residential architecture within the historic
district which showcases a significant collection of high-style and vernacular
buildings. Picture Eastville as the bustling city it was while in the midst of
an economic, agricultural, and transportation boon and Courthouse Road was a
major thoroughfare in the county. In fact, did you know that by 1921,
Northampton and Accomack were considered the richest agricultural counties in
the United States?
Excavations in Northampton at Pear Valley
and Newport House/Eyreville
From May 9-21, 2017, the Department of Agriculture/Forest
Service sponsored a George Washington and Jefferson National Forest -
Passport in Time excavation project in Northampton Virginia. In
conjunction with the Archaeological Society of Virginia, Chesapeake Bay
Archaeological Consortium, Department of Historic Resources, this field school,
will test and document two important sites in Northampton County - Pear Valley
and Newport House/Eyreville.
Pear Valley, owned by the Northampton Historic
Preservation Society, is the earliest surviving, single-room-plan house in
Virginia. The site was a small Yeoman’s Cottage, dating to ca. 1740, once
occupied by a gentleman farmer raising crops for market. The field school undertook to test excavations in an attempt to locate the foundations of
the structure’s outbuildings, which will aid in site management and
On December 14th, the membership of the NHPS met at the yearly meeting portion of the Holiday Dinner at the Historic Eastville Inn in Eastville, VA. At this meeting, the slate of Officers and Board Members were elected for 2017.
Not a member of NHPS yet? Consider becoming a member to be the first to learn about NHPS programs and receive newsletters about interesting preservation activities in Northampton County, VA.
An interactive exhibition of Eastern Shore artifacts with local archaeologist David Duer was held on October 23rd. He shared his insights and personal collection which illuminates thousands of years of Eastern Shore history. Mr. Duer has been exploring the Shore for over 30 years. His discoveries comprise a fascinating and diverse collection of artifacts and treasures which reveal much about life in the region. It was an exciting journey that helped participants to connect to the early peoples of the Shore and the factors that contributed to the "amazing" artifacts that can be found.
Since the discovery of the original James Fort walls by Dr.
William Kelso in 1995 Historic Jamestowne has attracted world attention
by continuing to unearth the lost remains of America's first permanent English
settlement. Last year, Archaeology magazine once again named them for one
of the Top Ten discoveries of 2015 for their landmark excavation efforts and
identification of four early burials. In 2016, they began focusing on the
excavation of the historic church of 1617 where the first elected assembly met
in a landmark step toward the founding of the United States. On Tuesday,
October 11, 2016 the Northampton Historic Preservation Society visited the
recently excavated site of the oldest successful settlement in the New World.
The morning included a guided tour by Joe Burkart with the Tidewater Virginia Historical Society and remarks from Dr. Kelso, now the Director of Jamestowne Rediscovery, about his remarkable path to unearthing the south palisade of the original fort. An exclusive guided tour of the 7500 square foot Archaearium, which houses over 4,000 artifacts, was also included. The building itself was carefully placed over the original site of the Jamestown Statehouse and the 17th-century structural features are visible through glass sections in the floor.
Following lunch, the group headed to Colonial Williamsburg to visit two connected museums, the first being the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. A guide was on hand to help navigate and answer questions regarding the special exhibit: "We Are One: Mapping America's Road from Revolution to Independence. On loan from the Boston Public Library this 90 map exhibit traces America?s story from the French and Indian War all the way to the creation of our great nation. At the second, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, a guide interpreted the "American Ship Paintings" exhibit. In the mid-19th century, ship captains and owners commissioned artists to depict their sea-going vessels in all their glory.
While the Court House and many supporting structures have been lovingly preserved over the years, it is the uncertain future of the two old jails. State and local historians and preservationists are concerned about the two structures, and in turn, the integrity and continuity of the court green complex.
Lack of funding and threat of demolition by neglect have dominated the conversation recently as county and town officials struggle to come to some viable agreement about the future of the buildings. Northampton Historic Preservation Society remains an integral part of these conversations as an advocate of protection, stewardship, and feasible solutions. The 1914 Jail, a four-square brick, currently sits vacant. In use until 2000, it was shut down in 2009 after the conclusion of lead and asbestos abatement. In its time, it was considered a large, modern facility "worth a dozen of the dinky little hovels" now in use as a jail. And one which "could handle a good portion of the speak-easy crowd even if they are numerous." The smaller 1907 jail, which sits behind the 1914 building, is a one-story brick structure needing repair though it still retains many of its original architectural elements.
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In 2013, the Northampton Historic Preservation Society was granted 501 (c) (3) status. The mission of the NHPS is to preserve the historic heritage of properties primarily in Northampton County, Virginia through education, advocacy, and restoration activities. The NHPS is dedicated to continuing its century long historic preservation mission (previously known as the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, Northampton Branch, and later as the Northampton Branch, Preservation Virginia).
Northampton Historic Preservation Society
P.O. Box 501
Eastville, VA 23347
email address: email@example.com