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March 10, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Snowden: A Plantation in Buckingham County, Part VI

Need to catch up? Click here: Snowden: A Plantation in Buckingham County, Part I

The Dwelling House at Snowden

In 1937, Mrs. Elizabeth McCraw wrote the entry for Snowden for the Virginia Historical Inventory. Her description reads as follows:

This is a very large white house situated on an elevation above the highway. The large lawn surrounding the house is well-kept in the flower beds and borders are an added beauty to the place. A flight of very wide steps lead to the one-story porch. The railing to the porch has been removed in recent years. A wide hall extends through the house and there are four rooms on each floor. The parlor is a beautiful room with the original imported wallpaper still on the walls and the blue water scenes of the paper are still bright in color. There is a large fireplace and a carved mantel in each room. The first floor rooms on the left of the hall have folding doors between them and they can be made into one very large room. This was the banquet hall on many occasions. The white stairway which leads from the front door to the second floor is noticeable, on entering the hall. At each end of the upstairs hall there is a French window. There are two large windows in each room. The basement contains four well finished rooms.

Approximately seventy years after Elizabeth McCraw wrote her inventory, I toured the house with University of Virginia Emeritus Professor of Architecture K. Edward Lay, who enthusiastically expounded on details about the house’s construction and design.

Professor Lay noted that the house’s strict exterior symmetry was carried throughout the design, particularly in the window placement and the distinctive four chimneys. The two-leaf front door, as well as the “flat four-light rectangular transom on the first floor and a flat three-light one on the second floor over what had been a one-story coupled column portico” repeated the symmetrical straight lines.

This was an extremely orderly house!

Examining the interior of the basement, Lay observed, “The exposed joists in the cellar have both reciprocating and pit sawn marks and could have been reused from an earlier building.” This feature has led to the speculation that the Harris house was built on top of the burned Randolph Jefferson dwelling, however, Professor Lay doubts that the cellar preexisted Harris’s construction.

Whether or not Harris’s house sits on the remains of Randolph Jefferson’s dwelling remains a subject of debate.


To learn more about John L. Harris’s house, consult my article “The Dwelling at Snowden: A Virginia Historical Inventory Case Study” (Central Virginia Heritage, Summer 2020).

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