Mountain Road Walking Tour
471 Mountain Road,
Woodland - the James Easley House

471 Mountain Road, Woodland

Woodland is a modern Greek Revival home built on the site of a Queen Anne - Victorian home which burned in 1974. The original house known as "Woodland" was built on 12 acres of land sold to Mr. Edmund Shaeffer of Lynchburg by Robert Holt Easley. Mr. Easley was president of the Bank of Halifax and mayor of the town, circa 1905. The property was part of a 19 acre parcel owned by Mr. Easley and the Shaeffers built it as a summer home. As one of the stipulations of the sale, Mr. Shaeffer promised to sell the property back to Mr. Easley or his heirs if he should decide to leave Halifax.

The original house was completed in 1901. The Virginia Historical Society was very much interested in the stained glass windows, citing them as one of the best examples of Victorian-Queen Ann windows in the state.

The ceilings were 12 feet tall with beautifully ornate 14 inch pressed tin cornices. The staircase in the entrance hall led to a landing between the first and second floors and continued from the second floor to the full attic. There was a back staircase that was used by servants which also led to the landing.

On the north side of the house there was a two story annex which housed the original kitchen and servants quarters. The extensive yard contains what is considered one of the last stands of virgin timber in the area.

In 1912 Mr. Shaeffer sold the property to James Stone Easley, the son of Robert Holt Easley, and grandson of James S. Easley, Sr. of Magnolia Hill, and his wife, Margaret Kyle Easley. James was the son of Robert Holt Easley. James was a 1904 graduate of Virginia Military Institute and he taught school in Toana, Virginia for one year before going to the University of Virginia to get his law degree. Upon graduation he returned to Halifax.

During his long and illustrious career, he was a member of the House of Delegates, a State Senator, president of the Virginia Bar Association, president of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, president of the Virginia Military Institute Board of Visitors, one of the founders and secretary of the Halifax County Hospital, Halifax County Commonwealth's Attorney, 1920-29 and again 1960-63, a founder and president of the Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation, Halifax County Man-of-the-Year for 1955, a member and chairman of the Virginia Constitution Convention in 1956, and received the State of Virginia's Outstanding Citizen award in 1957.

The Easleys were parents of two daughters, Bertha Glen and Louise Gilmer. Bertha married Samuel Jackson Dunavant of Charlotte, North Carolina and they had two sons, Samuel Jackson, Jr. and James Easley Dunavant. In 1968 Jack and his family bought Woodland.

On November 21, 1974, during the early morning hours, the old home caught fire from a faulty interior chimney and burned to the ground. The family got out unscathed but most of the furnishings and family treasures went up in flames.

During the long years of its existence, Woodland was the scene of many happy times. The Easleys entertained many distinguished guests. During the National Tobacco Festivals they hosted the Friday night dinners for 100 people. Guests have included film actresses Mary Pickford and Martha Scott, Ambassador David Bruce, Postmaster General James Farley, Senators Harry Byrd and Carter Glass, Governors James Price and Bill Tuck, General George C. Marshall and composer and pianist, John Powell.

In 1968, Mr. Easley's grandson, Jack Dunavant, who had grown up in the house, purchased it. While the original residence burned about 1974, the grounds continue to maintain their late 19th century atmosphere. Its tall trees planted randomly in the front yard, provided a park-like setting for the original Queen Anne-styled residence.

In the new home one of the rooms is paneled with 27" wide Southern pine boards from a 300-year-old tree, which fell in the yard. Jack custom-made these raised panel boards and preserved the 38 slugs in the wood that were apparently shot into the tree many years ago. Notice the shiny gray specs in the photo.

The driveway in front of the house is lined with huge old English boxwoods. To the rear of the house stand the orignal carriage house and stable.

On the west side of the house is a patio laid in a circular pattern made from the brick chimneys of the original house.

Also on the property is a small log cabin built by Mr. Easley for the 20th century poet, Craddock Edmunds.

The next stop - 484 Mountain Road, Episcopal Rectory

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