1733 – Keswick, VA

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Added to OHD on 2/26/18   -   Last OHD Update: 11/3/19   -   50 Comments

728 Campbell Rd, Keswick, VA 22947

  • $895,000
  • 4 Bed
  • 1734 Sq Ft
  • 150 Ac.
"Findowrie" - Considered to be the earliest, unaltered house in Albemarle County. The house has many interesting architectural features including a chimney pent with shelves between the chimneys. The house sits on 150+/- acres, which are completely private.
Contact Information
Justin Wiley, Frank Hardy Realtors,
434-296-0134
OHD Notes
According to The Architecture of Jefferson Country..., this home was "allegedly built for Thomas Darsie before the mid-eighteenth century. More likely it was built for either John Clark or Joseph Brand about 1778. Regardless of the date, it is one of the oldest virtually unaltered houses in the area...Six generations of Campbell descendants owned Findowrie until it was sold out of the family in 1991."


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50 Comments on 1733 – Keswick, VA

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  1. Robt. W. says: 437 comments

    Superb.

    I’d want to buy it and restore it with the absolute least modern intrusion, and install only minimal, period furnishings — and build a larger house to live in nearby.

    Other houses of the sort survive, but nearly all have been subject to multiple campaigns of alteration and restoration. This one is a splinter of the true cross of period houses that evoke a time a place.

    (The later manor house on the adjoining parcel doesn’t do it for me: it’s large and imposing, but also cold and a bit institutional, with institutional charm.)

    23
    • Jim says: 4750 comments

      I agree in every respect. I’d buy it with as much land as possible, drag in a trailer just to annoy the locals, and blast the fox hunt parties with rock salt as they came through.

      38
      • peeweebcpeeweebc says: 1010 comments
        OHD Supporter

        1885 Italianate.
        MI

        hahahahah!!!! that’s great lol !

        6
      • James says: 1 comments

        No animals are harmed in “fox hunting” The hounds follow the scent trail, and the riders follow the hounds. It requires great skill to compete in this sport. You may want to attend an event some time. And leave your rock salt at home. Beautiful piece of property for sure!

        16
        • Karen says: 750 comments

          Yeah, friends of mine go on these hunts. They would never go on a REAL fox hunt. But the bit about the salt…ya gotta admit, that’s a good touch!

    • Steve M. says: 38 comments

      I remember in the 1980s driving off the paved road down a dirt path for ¾ mile through thick, atmospheric woods and emerging upon an opening in which sat this house of exquisite proportions in an absolutely extraordinary state of historic preservation, not well-maintained to be sure, but fully intact. Memory is blurry, but I do not believe it had any “modern amenities” such as plumbing or electricity. I have some sense the interior was packed so full with old books and magazines, clothing, etc., and was so dark it was nearly impossible to see. It seems from my notes I may have written to a Eudora Bolling, possibly the owner of the house at that time, but I have no record of a correspondence.

      When we speak of a house so important and so well-preserved in terms of the historical information it embodies that it should not be altered in any way other than to stabilize and protect it, this is that house.

      K. Edward Lay of the University of VA in his Fredericksburg Road Survey (typed entries, p. 18) notes in 1978 that the condition of this house and its grounds was “poor.” He speculates, and I would tend to agree, that it began as a hall-parlor plan with central stair and just the two taller chimneys at either gable end, centered roughly on the ridge, with the second pile of rooms to the rear added after with their own chimneys, united with the original chimneys via brick pent (seen in the photos on this site). I have some recollection that there were shelves on the interior of this pent. He speculates the house was built shortly after 1733 when Thomas Darsie patented 2000 acres that included the land on which this house sits.

      Other information can be found in Meade’s Historic Homes of the Southwest Mountains of Virginia (pp. 249-51).

      Similar houses are the Sycamore Tavern, Montpelier (p. 195 of 3rd Ed. Of VA Landmarks Register) and Enos House, Surry vicinity (p. 454 of same) although we do not see the rare pent between chimneys in either of these. Sycamore Tavern may share a single pile-to-double pile evolution with Findowrie whereas Enos House, probably of later date, appears to have been built as a double-pile house from the start.

      I agree with those here who say that the price on this 150-acre property, particularly since the owner has placed no-development easements on the property, seems nonsensical. My concern is that it is so absurd it effectively condemns this extraordinary survival to decomposition to the point that it loses its educational value and that would be a historical crime.

      40
    • Christopher Weakley says: 7 comments

      “This one is a splinter of the true cross of period houses that evoke a time a place.” That, sir, is an uncommonly fine turn of phrase.

      18
  2. BobH says: 108 comments

    that price is for the land–Keswick is super expensive. Interesting house but requires deep pockets.

    5
    • Jim says: 4750 comments

      The price of land in Keswick is very high, but what is it worth if there are no development rights? Records show the owners of the Airslie Farm gifted all the development rights to this property for a $10MM writeoff, then sold the property in 2009 (500+ acres with the manor house, tenant houses and this old place) for $11.9MM. The realtor is now talking about wonderful building sites, but it’s not clear that you would be allowed to build anything at all. I agree with Robt. that it makes most sense to preserve this place as a relic rather than a modernized residence, but can it even be done? It amazes (and angers) me that folks spend millions to buy a place like this, build new stables for their horses, create nice tax deals for themselves and have absolutely no concern or responsibility for the historic treasure that they own, except to tell us how wonderful it would be for the new owner to do something with it after they cash out.

      26
  3. James P. says: 7 comments

    Man I LOVE this house. I would so like to live there. But would take some deep pockets. My place is about 1770, but only have a little over an acre here. But at least its rural with no houses in site.

    5
  4. Ryan says: 565 comments

    If these pics were in black and white, they’d look like about 95% of the pics on the HABS/HAER website, which means this house is in remarkably original condition, I guess. Personally, I think whoever buys it should remove all the chimneys & dormers, put in drop ceilings, faux wood paneling and wall to wall shag carpeting…a 1970s theme. Nah, actually I’d like to see Robert’s idea put into practice. I’d do it myself (and live in the Manor House 99% of the time) but I’m not entirely sure I could get a nearly twelve million dollar mortgage, especially if they found out about that greedy optician that I stiffed three years ago.

    4
  5. RitaB says: 122 comments

    I don’t know as much about architecture as many of you who post here. The shape of this house with the sloping roof lines down front and back to the porches does not remind me of the houses I’m used to seeing from the 18th century in VA. Am I wrong, or are they mostly more box shaped or rectangles with nary a porch unless it was added later. The ones in my head seem very plain and basic if I’m remembering correctly. This shape reminds me much more of farm houses from later periods.
    Also, James P., you said your place is 18th century; what state are you in? How wonderful to have that history in your house. One of the reasons I would love an old home would be to find where they dumped their garbage on the place and dig into the past.

    4
  6. James P says: 7 comments

    Rita, my place is in North Carolina, a few counties south of the Virginia line. This place on here looks like a lot of the houses you see in Williamsburg. Looks like a lot of the story and a half places you see there. The thing about this house is that chimney. The pent between the two chimneys is a VERY rare feature and absolutely an 18th century feature. Don’t think I have ever seen that on a house built after the 18th century, at least not till they did some of the 20th century Williamsburg reproduction places.
    This is a nicer house than mine tho, its definitely bigger, by several hundred square feet. Plus it has more chimneys. Mine does have a much rarely gambrel roof tho.

    5
  7. James P says: 7 comments

    I would love to see a floor plan of this place. Its big enough it really only needs a couple of baths added, if they could be done without messing it up to much. Lord only knows what the chimney restoration would cost. Tho if you can afford 1.5 million, it probably would not be a problem.

    2
    • Robt. W. says: 437 comments

      It’s not a well known place, and there is very little published on the house — for all the ink spilled on Virginia architecture. I’d love to see this one, and own it as well, though more interior photos and good floor plans would satisfy some of the curiosity.

      I assume it would be a hall-parlor plan, with an early addition across the back accounting for the handsome catslide roof; though how the two-parts fits together (and when) is the question. The two interior photos appear to show the front room with the pent chimney: to the back, you can see a step-down to a room with once exterior weatherboarding; to the the front, there’s some sort of jog accounting for an L-shaped room — I wonder if this was a partition to accommodate a (later?) center/stair hall of a sort.

      I love the dry old dark gray-green-black paint of the woodwork with its many hued efflorescence. No paint should ever touch that, except as infill for any necessary repairs of rotted of water damaged elements, and then only to blend seamlessly with the existing paint.

      At 1700 sq.ft., there are smaller houses, certainly, and that back range of rooms may offer some flexibility in squeezing in some necessary modern conveniences, though I think it would be a great shame. At $720/sq.ft., it’s an expensive pile with a lot of restrictions on luxury of accommodation, a fairly pricey house to have to make do with pokey little kitchen and baths tucked in in inconvenient places. I’m hoping that its buyer will want it as a small gem of a trophy, an aim for a perfect –not perfectly overdone– restoration and take up permanent lodging elsewhere. Hopefully there’s latitude in the conservation easements to allow that; certainly I think a strong case could be made for making a modest exception for the benefit of preserving so great a house.

      At the asking price, it’s going to be a very hard sell to find a hermit who lives alone and in the countryside, has deep pockets, a fine –but not too large– collection of 18thC Virginia furniture, and who doesn’t mind forsaking conveniences to worship at the altar of the unspoiled fabric of an amazingly unspoiled house (in need of much, invisible work.) Violate any of those things and the balance starts very quickly to tip in the wrong direction.

      10
      • I’m sure you are right about the central hall plan and a single line of rooms as originally built and then the second line of rooms were added with a low sloping shed roof on the back. Or that’s what I recall from a course on American architecture. This house is a classic.

    • Jim says: 4750 comments

      There is a plan of the house in Lay’s The Architecture of Jefferson Country. I would guess that 1700 sf is a generous figure. The house is called unaltered, but the condition of the siding and roof suggests the exterior at least was restored mid 20C. The property is part of the NHRP Southwest Mountains Rural Historic District, and I imagine there’s a file at UVa or somewhere. Robt., I’m just the hermit you’re looking for, if you can find the deep pockets and the furniture.

      5
  8. James P says: 7 comments

    Will have to see if I can get me a copy of that book. I don’t have the deep pockets, but I do have the furniture, tho most of mine is North Carolina and not Virginia, but do have one or two Virginia pieces.
    I have spent the last 10 years in one that is 1200 square feet, with a “pokey” little 9 x 9 kitchen, one bath and six foot four inch upstairs ceilings and no back porch(thats where they put the kitchen and bath), so this place would seem like a real step up. But then I paid less than a tenth of the price of this place too, considerably less. I think this is one I could live in full time.

    4
  9. James P says: 7 comments

    I have ordered the book used off of Amazon, should be here in a few days, so will get to see the floor plan. Odd how some of the best houses are almost totally unknown. My place is the arguably the oldeest house in a pretty old county of one of the original states, but it is not listed in any of the books on North Carolina architecture. Not even the one on Eastern North Carolina that came out a few years ago. They have never done a book on this particular county, tho if they do get around do doing that it should be included in that. Every county adjoining us has been done in the last 30 years, but not us yet.
    There are inventories being done on each county in the state and I have the ones on all the local counties, so one day they should get around to us. But the money has been tight lately so the process has slowed down.

    3
    • Jim says: 4750 comments

      I’m not surprised that some significant old houses are under the radar. With the NRHP, folks must apply for recognition, and if a house is within a recognized Historic District, folks figure it’s been covered. My family owned a house for 100 years in NY state probably built in the late 1600’s that has never been properly assessed and the local history blurbs on it are complete nonsense. This is an area that prides itself on its history, but it’s more about tourism and real estate values than historical research or preservation. Unfortunately it was sold before dendrochronology was available. Also unfortunate was that a subsequent owner ripped out or refinished the ancient woodwork, hardware and plaster to make it more livable.
      http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/25-Main-St_Hurley_NY_12443_M32235-43538
      Just another old house now, which is the same fate the Keswick house faces.

      5
      • Sadly, that sounds like another typical preservation tragedy. It’s amazing to me how so many people are content to destroy something rather ancient, even just bulldoze an entire old house like this one, and are unapologetic. The idea that something needs to be “updated” is overdone. But some people just don’t understand the value of authenticity.

        10
    • Deborah says: 1 comments

      Looking for very early houses in Southern States for a book on Southern architecture. Would love to get information about some that have not been photographed before. Would also be very interested in information about houses in Eastern North Carolina in part because my mother’s family arrived there from Virginia in the 1660’s and I can’t seem to find anything built before 1740. Would appreciate information.

      • Anne Hamilton says: 210 comments

        contact Preservation South Carolina in Prosperty SC, and rhe Camden Archives, in Camden along with the State archives in Columbia, maybe those resources will help you. Many if not most of the homes in the Mid to low,county have been catalogued at some point.The Up country still has uncatalogued gems. Best is to just drive around all the old roads through the ag/cotton towns to discover them. there are a lot out there,still.
        Also, a lot of the counties in SC have done historical architectural surveys and those can be found online. However a lot of the info in them is incorret.
        Best.
        Anne

    • david terry says: 1 comments

      Oh, there are worse (if more amusing) things than NOT being mentioned in the architectural history books. My house (the core of which is a 2-story log cabin (circa 1790-95), built for the first governor’s daughter to teach school in) had east and west wings built and dormers added in 1800. additions to the back were made in 1830.

      I was amused to read a snooty description of the house (which has been well-known since it was built, and completely restored about 15 years ago) as “historically significant, but of little, true architectural interest.”

      I love that description.

      Sincerely,

      David Terry
      The Webb House
      Hillsborough, NC

      5
    • Laura Thornton says: 73 comments

      I love how enthusiastic and knowledgeable you all are about antique homes. I’m in the midst of selling mine because I just can’t afford the upkeep anymore and it’s too large for me. But it’s going to be hard to part with because it’s so beautiful. Jim, I’d love to see your furniture!

      2
  10. Candace says: 3 comments

    This house is on part of my family’s original land grant from Col Nicholas Lewis. My grandmother, Mildred Nelson Page Lewis, was born and raised in the manor house called Airslie and is nearby towards Louisa Rd. All of her extended family lived in Cloverfields, which looks a lot like this house Findowrie. My grandmother’s grandfather, Robert Walker Lewis lived across the road from Airslie in Castalia…where her father Thomas Walker Lewis was born and raised….etc. Needless to say, I am very sensitive to what will be done with this property. I wish they’d just leave it alone. I have wanted to purchase all the 500+ acres just to put it back in our family. I really wish I could. I wish more that there was a law that estates must be handed down, or at least sold to family members only . If I ever win that lottery….

    8
    • Laws that require an estate to be handed down are called “primogeniture” and “entail.” An entail can be a legally binding trust that specifies how a property must be inherited.

      If you have been watching Downton Abbey the last few years you might recall that the entail blocked Lord Grantham from passing his estate to his eldest daughter, so distant 3rd cousin Matthew became next in line to inherit the estate and the title of Earl of Grantham. Such laws preserve the wealth of the aristocracy but they also preserve great country houses.

      I don’t believe America has ever had such laws…not even in pre-revolution Virginia and they are being repealed in Europe.

      7
      • ThePark says: 25 comments

        The USA has something like that. My great grandfather put something in his will and on his property deed to the family farm where his children could not sell the farm. The farm could only be taken by the county for unpaid taxes or sold by a 3rd generation. Needless to say one of the three brothers “bought out” the other 2. The farm is still in the family of my uncle. My cousins are the first generation able to legally sell the property. (They’ve leased the farm land for decades to other farmers.)

        1
      • DianeEG says: 525 comments

        My father asked his attorney to draw up his will to force certain portions of his farm land to never be sold outside family. His attorney informed him he could draw this up but once a property legally belongs to another, that person will be able do as they wish because they are now the owner and legally permitted to manage their land as they see fit. This was Indiana and the attorney was knowledgable and well-respect. There was no historic or preservation regulations involved.

        1
  11. Mark Anthony Phair says: 1 comments

    Boy, I would sure love to receive that partly photographed rectangular piano and have a crack at restoring it! Simply magnificent when it was new, I’m sure!

    5
  12. branded says: 2 comments

    As far as I know “Findowrie” was the home of my ancestors Joseph Brand and Fanny Whitlock Brand. I descend from their son James Walker Brand. I so hope this home can be preserved. I wish I could buy it!

    3
    • Timi Parsons says: 2 comments

      I too descend from Joseph and Fannie Brand through their son James Walker Brand and his wife Mary Smith. It is now 2018 and I wonder what has happened to the home.

      4
  13. Candace says: 3 comments

    Could be. My family is also Walker

  14. Candace says: 3 comments

    Carol Brand,
    Thank you for the information. So meet to know.
    The house is listed on my family’s Airslie acreage. Perhaps more recent owners bought it up later on.

  15. Susannah says: 1 comments

    I visited this weekend and can vouch for the treasure it is. Amazing, lovely place. Definitely still able to be saved. Am exploring options of making it a teaching site for early building trades, then as a house museum. In my opinion, modernizing it would be vandalism. It has survived so well, and has much to teach those who want to learn.

    7
  16. Velia says: 1 comments

    This place is not fit to ever live in. Best to just clean it up w/minimal remodeling, duplicate real historic elements, and leave it for show and tell and build somewhere else. The reason this is so expensive is because of the area. Keswick is an extremely picturesque area. Most of the housing here is expensive, even a shack. Lots of well to do horse people in the area and they most certainly keep it very well and preserved, they’re charitable, too. It’s breathtaking to drive through the small town.

  17. Kelly, OHDKelly, OHD says: 11463 comments
    Admin

    1901 Folk Victorian
    Chestatee, GA

    This one is from 2012, moved to front page (I’m doing some house cleaning, years old post will be moved up, over time not all at once.)

    I think one of the more important homes on the site that needs saved and restored, you don’t see this style much.

    14
  18. RosewaterRosewater says: 5322 comments
    OHD Supporter

    1875 Italianate cottage
    Noblesville, IN

    Hope they put some boards on the doorway to keep the cows out. Looks like they’ve been enjoying the place for awhile. That can do major damage fast.

    1
  19. George says: 1 comments

    I was wondering if anyone else noticed the square grand piano?

    4
  20. Nikita Eileen Krupoderov says: 31 comments

    I would go retire that house for sure…but the purchase price of this historical home is so excessive that it becomes prohibitive…I would retire and have period furniture…and love the house…The style is so Awesome….

    1
  21. Michael H says: 14 comments

    If my education from This Old House is correct, this house looks similar to very early Dutch Colonial examples in the states.

  22. Laura Thornton says: 73 comments

    I had to look up the term pent chimney and when I did Google images shows photos of this house.

    2
  23. MW says: 800 comments

    Sadly, it doesn’t look like any owners in the last couple decades at least have gone much out of their way to help preserve this beauty, that’s for sure. But at least it hasn’t burned down or just demolished, so I guess that is on the plus side. Might help to board up those windows and doors though, might save those if they still can be, or at least slow down the process. A quick cheap coat of protective paint might not be a bad idea either. Might help with the marketing too.

    I’m guessing most of the cost is the land. Maybe they should separate the house from the land so that someone interested in just the house can just focus time and money on that, and someone else wanting the land can focus on that not have to worry about the house. Maybe put or transfer easements on both so neither can be substantially altered so that it is essentially preserved as is, just by 2 different legal owners, not just one. Finding someone wanting both and being able to afford it has got to be a lot harder. Probably the biggest reason it hasn’t sold, besides the price of course.

    1
  24. Ramon Unseitig says: 196 comments

    chimney pent
    A small structure, set flush between two exterior brick chimneys located on an end wall of a house; covered by a small narrow sloping roof at the level of the ground floor ceiling, buttressing the chimneys.

    2
  25. etzkornetzkorn says: 27 comments
    1981 split level w/rock
    Lenoir, NC

    In reading an article about “punkahs,” I was lead to this page by following links: https://research.bowdoin.edu/punka-project/punkahs/findowrie/
    Behold here is an old home many of us Old House Dreams subscribers have admired. Wanted to share with all fyi. It was new to me anyhow and I will be on the lookout for this fixtures from the ceiling in future views of these grand ladies.
    First was this article: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/punkah-project-fans-antebellum-south
    I haven’t followed all links but will likely see more Old House Dreams houses included.

    1

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