Neoclassical Revival Architecture
in Historic Chatham, Virginia

By Henry Mitchell.
335 South Main

335 South Main Street, pictured ca. 1920.

The 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago featured an exhibition of classical buildings which came to be known as the “White City” and sparked a revival of interest in classical architecture. It paralleled the Neo-Colonial styling, which involved classical and early American appliques to Victorian buildings, but the Neoclassical Revival styles were, in comparison, far grander in scale and effect. They can be thought of as a revival of the Greek Revival, but often more exaggerated even than those noteworthy structures.

Serious professional innovation regarding the Neoclassical Revival is said to have ended by 1920, but its popularity continues with great strength even today. That David O. Selznick chose in the 1939 movie Gone With the Wind to (implausibly) represent fictional north Georgia plantations Tara and Twelve Oaks as Greek Revivals created a new rush of interest in the classical facade. Numerous re-releases of the film keep the style front-and-center. Southern icon Elvis Presley chose Graceland as his home, and Americans are often reminded of the classical charm of our White House. The Neoclassical Revival can't help but continue!

In Chatham, most Neoclassical Revival residential architecture occurred as facelifts to existing houses. Some of Chatham's examples are shown below.

(See also architectural pattern books from the period, containing Neoclassical examples.)

335 South Main

335 South Main was built by John Richard Whitehead and his wife Sallie Hunt Graves Whitehead around 1884 in the Italianate style. A few years later the Whitehead family extensively reworked the building in the Neoclassical style. The renovation originally included a two formal galleries as well as the columns (see above, plus a more detailed article). The galleries were removed during the 1960's, leaving the present more restrained appearance.

This may have been Chatham's first Neoclassical construction.

750 South Main

750 South Main Street was another Whitehead family early Neoclassical. It was the home of John Richard and Sallie Whitehead's son Richard Douglas Whitehead and his wife Minnie Gatewood Whitehead.


Just south of town, at 1004 Cherrystone Road, is Briarwood, yet another Whitehead family Neoclassical. Briarwood was built by John Richard and Sallie Whitehead's son, Congressman Joseph Whitehead, and his wife Ruth Tredway Whitehead. (See also another article about the house.)

Tunstall-Hargrave House

During the late 1930's, Gladys Hargrave Nenon had the Tunstall-Hargrave house (see article) renovated from the Queen Anne style to Neoclassical. The work was designed by Webster Thompson, architect (at that time associated with J. Bryant Heard, architect, of Danville), and constructed by P. L. Anderson, contractor.

135 Reid Street

During the 1960's Judge and Mrs. Samuel Hairston added a Neoclassical portico to their home at 135 Reid Street.

Oak Hall

Oak Hall, designed and built by James Poindexter around 1837, originally had a Greek Revival two-story columned portico. The house's portico eventually was removed, and it was given a Victorian restyling. During the 1960's, Lt. Cmdr. and Mrs. Richard Arey determined to restore the house to an appearance more appropriate to its late Federal / Greek Revival form. Considering the above proliferation of Neoclassicals with two-story porticos in Chatham, the Areys decided upon a more restrained single-story pedimented and columned entrance.

Plantation Revival

In the same tradition as Neoclassical Revivals, but on a smaller scale, are the columned Plantation Revival homes, related in underlying form to Colonial Revival and similar houses.

108 Peach Street

108 Peach Street, was designed by John L. Beaver, its first owner, and built by contractor Arnie Taylor in 1966 (see further details). Its interior was based on John Beaver's wife Reba Jones' early home, Sunny Hill, an English Cottage Revival house on U.S. 29 South at the Dry Fork intersection.

102 Military Drive

102 Military Drive was built in the 1970's by Carlton and Linda Ramsey.


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