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The New, the old, and the Lost

Before the pandemic hit, we visited two wonderful couples in western Virginia who showcase how to live comfortably in the past, one couple in an old stone house bursting with choice antiques, the other couple in a period-style plan they designed and furnished with their enviable handiwork. We also catch a rare glimpse into the lives of the oft-forgotten working class as we explore the reconstructed London Town, which had virtually disappeared after a century.

Lifelong antiques collectors Jeff and Beverley Evans knew they wanted to live in an old house after they married, but it took time to find the right property in their native Virginia—and even more time before the people who owned the 1811 stone house, though they didn’t live in it, were willing to sell it.

Since 1987, when the Evans purchased the Sites house—built by a German immigrant who had migrated south of Pennsylvania to settle in the Shenandoah Valley and expanded by a later owner—they have undertaken a careful restoration and fine-tuned their myriad collections to reflect the craftsmanship of regional furniture makers, potters, and weavers.

Their decorating blends case pieces and ceramics with colorful woven baskets and rugs, beautifully pieced quilts, quirky tramp art, and a museum-worthy collection of American-made pressed glass displayed atop mantels and in cupboards throughout the house.

Born and raised in New England, Jim and Laurel Pritchard embraced the can-do attitude of their practical Yankee roots, deciding to build a log cabin when they married. Though neither had been—nor been taught by—do-it- yourselfers, they learned quickly out of necessity and eventually made a career of building and selling houses. As they worked, they gained an appreciation for old houses and longed to build one final home as a retirement project, though somewhere warmer and with a view. They choose the Blue Ridge Mountains and built the house frame based on John Hancock’s two-storey childhood home with a gambrel addition.

Inside, their compromise design melds Laurel’s desire for an open floor plan (and closets) with formal rooms to indulge Jim’s love of making paneling. They furnished the house with finely crafted reproductions of carved, painted, and veneered case pieces, floorcloths, paintings, and signs.

In stark contrast, the reconstructed buildings at London Town along Maryland’s South River illustrate how working-class colonists started life in the 17th Century, in rudimentary plank buildings with sparse furnishings and even fewer luxury goods. After the state bypassed the town in favor of Annapolis (4 miles away) for its capital, the village had all but disappeared by the Revolution, with only William Brown’s brick tavern/boardinghouse still standing.

In the 1970s, archaeologists uncovered London Town as well as similar lost towns in the Chesapeake region. Since then, those findings and period documents have guided reconstruction and interpretation to give visitors a more rounded picture of common life.

We hope you enjoy these variations on re-creating the past.

Jeanmarie Andrews

Executive Editor

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