Philip Craft House

Philip Craft House

Anyone with a penchant for early 19th-century architecture and Pittsylvania County history would be interested in this gem situated in a secluded spot northwest of Chatham in a settlement known as Red Eye. One of only a handful of surviving early brick structures in the county, this house is representative of the influence in western Virginia from the movement of immigrants from Pennsylvania southward through the Shenandoah Valley into Virginia and North Carolina. In this case, the immigrants were two German brothers whose grandparents (Martin Krafft and Dorothy Rosch) had crossed the Atlantic around 1750 and settled in Reading, Pennsylvania. Land prices in Virginia were appreciatively cheaper than in Pennsylvania and Maryland. That fact and a 1789 inheritance from their grandfather may have enticed the brothers, Philip and George Craft, to head south into Pittsylvania County around 1790. There they met and married the Parker sisters (Nancy and Millie) and settled down on land acquired from their father-in-law, William Parker, who was a big landowner and had moved to Pittsylvania County around 1768 to “grow tobacco and get away from the Indians in Fauquier County.” Each brother began to acquire slaves and to raise tobacco; and, in time, each brother also built a brick home in the Red Eye community which he operated as a tavern.

In 1904 when Pegram Haden bought the property, a frame addition was attached to the back of the brick home to accommodate his large family. In 1983 Henry Hurt, a writer, bought the property, situated in a tranquil spot amid tall walnut trees and beside a shaded pond, to use as an office where he could write undisturbed. In 1992 the Hurt family began its project of extensive restoration.

The home was called “Reiseziel” in German, or “End of the Way,” which perhaps reflects the happiness and relief which Philip Craft felt when he settled in Pittsylvania County with his wife, after having come a very long way, and they built their home.

The one-and-a half-story house, built by Philip Craft between 1801 and 1819, is unique not only for its brick construction but for the fact that its German builders were clearly influenced by the English tradition of construction. The house is a hall-parlor design with all four walls (which are 12 inches thick) laid in Flemish bond with scattered glazed headers. An unusual feature found in Virginia is the rarely used half-round bricks in both the water table and the chimney haunches. The window casings and frames, interior woodwork (including doors, chair rails and baseboards) and large fireplace mantels, all made of heart pine, are handsome; and they, along with the masonry, have been fully restored following the ghosts of the original woodwork and brickwork.

The house was placed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Hurt are owners.

This webpage is sponsored by Mitchells Publications and the Sims-Mitchell House, Chatham, Virginia.