Major Events in the History of the Foundation
Searing Flames Ruin Patrick Henry Home
Many Relics Left by Historic Orator of Revolutionary Days Are Rescued by Quick Work of Neighbors Aroused by Boy
[Richmond Times Dispatch, February 19, 1919]
In the destruction last week of "Red Hill," the home of Patrick Henry, one more of the old Colonial homesteads around which clusters so much tradition of all that was high and noble in the early history of the State has fallen prey to the ravages of time. Fire, with licking tongue and searing flame, has taken its toll. Now only charred timbers and ruin mark the spot where once stood the beautiful home restored by the loving hands of Mrs. Matthew Bland Harrison, great-granddaughter of Patrick Henry.
It was at "Red Hill" that the famous orator of Revolutionary days spent the last years of his life. It was in his big chair in the living room there that he died, and his grave is in the garden adjoining the house. When Mrs. Harrison bought the old home place and 1,000 acres surrounding it, from the other heirs, she had extensive improvements made under the direction of Charles Barton Keen, of Philadelphia, famous for his restoration of Southern homes, but the room in which her grandfather died was left unaltered out of respect to his memory.
The fire which destroyed the house was discovered about 8 o'clock last Thursday morning by a colored boy who was driving cows to the lowlands at the time. He gave the alarm. Neighbors and tenants were unable to save anything but the furniture on the first floor and articles of clothing on the second floor. Among the many portraits destroyed was one of Governor Spottswood and one of his wife.
Had not the wind been low at the time, the outbuildings would undoubtedly have caught from burning embers. One of the outbuildings is the historic law office of Patrick Henry. Years ago the office of his grandson, William Wirt Henry, which was in the front yard, was moved and joined with Patrick Henry's old office. In the five rooms of the two small buildings is now gathered all the rescued furniture from the house. The precious paintings and the relics around which so much sentiment gathers are now temporarily stored until rebuilding is completed or other arrangements are made.
Probably the most valuable of the works of art saved from the fire was Valentine's bust of William Wirt Henry. It is generally considered the best bust Valentine ever made.
With the exception of Mount Vernon, the location of "Red Hill" is the best in the state. It is at the junction of Halifax, Campbell, and Charlotte Counties, looking out over the broad, rolling slopes leading down to the Staunton River. In the distance are rugged uplands on which thousands of head of cattle graze. Lynchburg is the nearest city, thirty miles distant. This isolation accounts for the fact that "Red Hill" has been so little visited in spite of its historical appeal.
Mrs. Harrison will continue to live at "Red Hill." She will have the building used as the law office of Patrick Henry fitted up as her residence. At present she is at the home of a neighbor. It is understood that the loss on the residence is covered by insurance.