Halifax County is rich in historic homes. In accordance with the Society Mission Statement to preserve historical information for dissemination to the public, the Society may assist homeowners through the arduous process of documenting and helping to obtain the national recognition deserved of these homes.
Currently there are twenty-seven county properties that have been listed on either or both the Virginia Historic Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places as well as five groups of homes and public buildings designated as “Historic Districts” in Virginia.
For additional information on the houses, please see An Architectural History of Halifax County, Virginia, published by the Halifax County Historical Society.
One home will be added each month and will include a detailed description and photographs of the exterior and interior, if available.
Richard Thornton House
North Halifax area
Dr. Richard Thornton’s house, located at the intersection of Tobacco Road and Golden Leaf Road, is a Federal dwelling with a unique floorplan. This two-and-a-half-story structure on a stone and brick foundation is sheathed in weatherboard with a boxed cornice embellished with decorative millwork trim. A single-shouldered brick chimney with a corbeled top stands at each gable end. Although the house has four bays, the placement of windows and the door are asymmetrical, which reflects the unusual interior design. A single-leaf, six-panel door framed by fluted pilasters and topped by a glazed fanlight marks the entrance. Many of the windows, which are nine-over-nine-pane doublesash on the first floor and sixovernine on the second, retain their shutters and shutter hooks. A crawl space beneath the structure has small openings containing vertical square bars.
Front and rear entrances open into a hallway lined with paneled wainscoting. Downstairs rooms have similar wainscoting. The only surviving mantel has Tuscan pilasters and a plain horizontal panel.
The second floor and the garret are divided into two sections. Separate dogleg stairs lead from two different rooms on the first floor and access separate sections on the second. In the same manner, separate stairs lead from two rooms on the second floor each ending in a single garret room. It is likely the house was constructed in this manner to facilitate the operation of a house of private entertainment. A license allowed Thornton to offer lodging to guests for not more than one week at a time. An additional stipulation of the license was that no alcohol be served on the grounds. Thornton held this license for twenty-five years. Although not confirmed, it is possible that a section of the house may have been used as a doctor’s office, since Thornton was a physician.
There is some disagreement as to when the house was actually constructed. The license to operate a house of private entertainment in “his house” was issued in 1819, which has led some to surmise that the house was standing at this time. However, it was not until 1834 that county tax records show improvements were made on the property. Tax records list additional improvements in 1850, raising the value again.
A circa-1850 tobacco barn, complete with tier poles for hanging tobacco, is located about 430 feet from the house. The roof has collapsed, but it is evident that the barn sitting on a stone foundation was constructed of V-notched hewn logs. A circa-1890 shed located near the main house is sheathed in vertical sawn boards and sits on fieldstone piers. At the rear of the house, a collapsed chimney and several large stones are the remains of a kitchen identified on an 1892 plat. Nearby is a cemetery enclosed with an iron fence, and three of the six graves are box tombs. The earliest grave is that of Rebecca W. Peters (1816–1846), wife of Don T. C. Peters and daughter of Dr. Thornton and his first wife Sally Sterling Smith Thornton. Several graves, marked by fieldstones, lie outside the enclosure. Dr. Thornton, who died in 1860, is said to be buried on the property; however, his grave has not been located. This house, owned by Stewart Smith, is listed in the Virginia Landmarks Register and in the National Register of Historic Places.