Major Events in the History of the Foundation
"Red Hill" Restoration Made Possible By Contribution From Anonymous Donor
Patrick Henry Home Work To Start Soon
By Martha Rivers Adams
[The News, Lynchburg, VA Tuesday Morning, March 2, 1954]
Complete restoration of "Red Hill," Charlotte County estate, last home and the burial place of Patrick Henry, a founder of American liberty, is in immediate prospect due to the voluntary offer of an anonymous benefactor.
James S. Easley of Halifax, president of the Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation, making known yesterday the promised benefaction, said that the donor is motivated by admiration of the patriot and the principles for which he stood in making possible the completion of the historic shrine.
Stipulating that Stanhope S. Johnson, Lynchburg architect, be retained for the restoration work, the patron of the project is to make possible the landscaping of the grounds and the rebuilding of the manor house, the office and the various out-buildings, President Easley said. An approximate amount of $50,000 is estimated as necessary.
Trustees of the Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation will meet in Richmond March 22 to work out details of the undertaking, the president said. Other officials are Henry E. McWane, Lynchburg, and Major John D. Guthrie, Charlotte County, vice presidents; Mrs. William Page Williams, Brookneal, secretary; and James R. Gilliam Jr., Lynchburg, treasurer. In addition to 35 Virginians on the board of trustees, representatives from nine other states are among the men and women of distinction forming the governing body of the Foundation. Robert C. Atherholt and Susan Dabney, the latter a great-great-granddaughter of Patrick Henry, are other Lynchburg members of the board of trustees. Miss Dabney's sister, Mrs. Barksdale Penick of Montclair, N. J., also is a member.
Stanhope S. Johnson, Lynchburg architect already busy on plans for the reconstruction, Easley said yesterday, by good fortune has in his possession the exact measurements of the original Henry mansion. In the 155 years since Patrick Henry's death, the houses and grounds have changed considerably. Mrs. Matthew Bland Harrison, a great-granddaughter of the statesman, in the early years of this century, had erected a colonial-style residence in which the original simple home of Patrick Henry was incorporated. In 1918, this building was destroyed by fire, as were nearby cottages. After that the garden was obliterated by neglect, and the place left desolate until, in 1945, the property was acquired by the FOundation and step-by-step improvements were started.
Associated with the firm which built the home of Mrs. Harrison, who is no longer living, Stanhope Johnson came into ownership of the house-plans, with descriptions of the out-door appearance. These will enable the restoration to be exact, it was said yesterday. Plans to restore the place in such manner that its original atmosphere will be preserved are in compliance with the objectives of the FOundation, Easley indicated.
Attempts to establish a national shrine at "Red Hill" have been made for the last quarter-century. The late United States Senator Carter Glass was among those who led an attempt in 1935 and for the next few years. Senator Harry F. Byrd, former President Herbert Hoover, Mrs. Alfred I. du Pont, David K. E. Bruce, former Governor William M. Tuck, J. Edgar Hoover--these and other national figures make up the more than fifty trustees of the Foundation.
Organized in 1944
Organized in 1944, with James S. Easley of Halifax, well-known attorney, as president, the Foundation acquired the site of the mansion and something less than 900 acres of land from their heirs. The law office of the patriot still stands, with an attached studio built later by William Wirt Henry Jr. According to restoration plans, the office will be returned to its original state.
Funds have been raised through the years fro various phases of improvements, and with the establishment there of the Patrick Henry Boys' Plantation, gifts have been made for erection of homes for the boys who will be accepted there. Already two of the ten proposed cottages are assured. Rebuilding of the house and out-houses will benefit the plantation project, Mr. Easley said yesterday, adding that it is highly probable that the Rev. Ralph Bellwood, founder of the "Youth Community" will occupy the main structure until his home, one of the several envisioned for the plantation, is constructed.
Nearest Living Kin
Patrick Henry's nearest living relative is Miss Elvira Henry Miller--Lynchburg's "Miss Ella"--of 314 Harrison St. She has kept the reconstruction of their great-grandfather's estate in constant remembrance, missing no opportunity to work for its success.
Patrick Henry's stormy career in the cause of liberty ended after 10 years of plantation living at his Staunton River estate. Born in Hanover county in 1736, he died in 1799. He and his second wife, who was Dorothea Dandridge, are buried at "Red Hill."
The restoration of the house is not to be as easy as it sounds, with measurements at hand and the building notable chiefly for its simplicity. Materials of the period will be sought, and nothing not in harmony will be used by the architect, the official of the Foundation state. Throughout the long distance interview from the Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, where he is staying, Mr. Easley repeatedly referred to the great happiness and satisfaction the donor of the funds has brought to those who have labored for the last decade and prior to the land's purchase, to set up a permanent memorial to the apostle of American Liberty.