Dan's Hill

By Mrs. Rorer James, 1923.
Dan's Hill

Dan's Hill, Pittsylvania County [Virginia]

Dan's Hill, situated in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, about five miles from Danville, on the Dan River, covering an area of about sixteen hundred acres, is the ancestral home of the Wilson family, the present owner, Robert Wilson James, being the fifth generation in direct descent to have lived here.

The first member of the family, John Wilson, settled here during the Revolutionary period, and the present house, with the numerous outbuildings, consisting of stables, carriage-house, in which the old four-horse coach was kept, the weaving-house, where expert weavers in former days made the homespun worn by the house servants and farm hands, a laundry room, dairy, smokehouse, icehouses, kitchen with huge fireplace in which a person could easily stand, and the several log cabins for servants' quarters were built by Robert Wilson. These were in course of construction about eight years and were completed in 1833. All of the bricks used in these buildings were made on the estate and the timber was cut from the native forest; both are still in a good state of preservation.

The residence is a spacious three-story brick structure of the Colonial type, containing twenty rooms, and furnished with the original mahogany furniture placed there years ago. The present owners, Robert Wilson James and his wife, who was Miss Irene Dwyer, of Ohio, have recently installed in this home all the modern conveniences, consisting of heat, electric lights, bathrooms, and an up-to-date refrigerating plant, making it, in addition to its traditional charms and general beauty, one of the most comfortable homes possible.

A fireside grouping in the drawing-room shows the beautiful old imported marble mantel and the brass fender and andirons. The oil painting above the fireplace is a portrait of Robert Wilson, the builder of the present home, and it is interesting to know that this portrait was painted in the very room in which it hangs. The antique porcelain jars on either end of the mantel complete the picture.

The house is surrounded by extensive lawns and terraced gardens, covering about three acres, which extend to the river. The walks are bordered by wonderful old boxwood hedges which were planted when the house was built. In the gardens are some very rare old bulbs, put there when the gardens were originally laid out, and which the Department of Agriculture at Washington listed some time ago as practically extinct.

Dan's Hill

The Box Hedged Walk to the Summer House at Dan's Hill

At the intersection of four walks stands an octagonal summer-house, with massive brick columns, in a perfect state of preservation, having already withstood the storms of nearly a hundred years — a delightful spot, overlooking the river, to sit and muse on the romances of the crinoline days. Near the summer-house is the old flower-house, known in former days as the greenhouse, where rare and beautiful flowers bloomed the entire winter.

On the hills and fields surrounding the house is a beautiful growth known as Scotch broom, which in the late spring is covered with a golden bloom. There is an interesting old legend about this plant. It is said that the seed were brought to this country by the English during the Revolutionary War in the feed for their horses, and that wherever they camped, this Scotch broom sprung up after they moved on.

On this estate is also a very fine mineral spring — the water having been analyzed some years ago and found to contain medicinal qualities rivaling some of the springs of the most famous health resorts.

All in all, Dan's Hill is a charming home, combining the dignity of Colonial days with every comfort of the most modern establishment, and where true Southern hospitality is graciously dispensed by Robert Wilson James and his lovely wife.


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