Governor Swanson's Retreat

1037 Chalk Level Road
By Henry H. Mitchell.


“Eldon,” one mile east of the town of Chatham, was built in the 1830's by James Whittle, who made Eldon his home for the remainder of his long life (see Historical Details). After the turn of the century the property was purchased and renovated in the Neoclassical architectural style by Claude A. Swanson, who served as Governor of Virginia, U. S. Senator, and Secretary of the Navy.

For over 35 years Governor Swanson maintained Eldon as a working farm and source of home-grown food to suit his well-known Southern culinary preferences. For Swanson and his wife Lizzie, Chatham was easily accessible from Washington by rail, and the Swansons' residential presence at Eldon caused Chalk Level Road to become the first paved thoroughfare in Pittsylvania County. The Swansons utilized Eldon as a “summer home” and getaway from Washington, and entertained frequently on the premises. (See 1936 photograph.)

Other owners of Eldon have included J. Hurt Whitehead and his daughters Elizabeth Whitehead and Katie Elliott, Robert and Joy Lemm, and Wayne and Alice Wilson.

For further information, see:

Related Book

(Available from the sponsor.)

Pittsylvania: Homes and People of the Past

Fitzgerald: Pittsylvania: Homes and People of the Past

This webpage is provided as a courtesy by Mitchells Publications and the Sims-Mitchell House, Chatham, VA.