Historic Homes
Halifax County, Virginia

'Bellevue', Edmunds Home, Built About 1825, Historians Estimate


Bellevue, Halifax County
From Collection of
Robert A. Lancaster, Jr.
"Bellevue", beautiful home of Mr. and Mrs. Paul C. Edmunds Sr., is one of the oldest houses in Halifax County, with a rich and colorful heritage. There is some dispute as to the actual date the house was built, but historians place it around 1825.

Robert Lancaster, author of "Old Homes and Churches in Virginia." a rare book long out of print, says in his book that the house was built in 1825 by John Bonaparte Carrington, an ancestor of the late Secretary of State, Edward Stettinius.

However, the research of Jack Reeves, VMI professor and historian, who lived at Bellevue as a child, and of Dr. Nathaniel Wooding, whose relatives owned the land, and perhaps the house as well, contend that the place is probably older than that.

Anyhow, the Carringtons never owned it until 1841, according to the deed, which conflicts Lancaster's theory that the house was built in 1825 by Carrington.

A romantic tale about the first established owner of the house, Robert Stevens, a slave trader, is filled with tragedy in the true Southern manner.

Stevens left on a trip to Texas, ostensibly to get slaves for trade, and never returned. No trace of him was ever found, and his wife, Nancy Terry, died of grief and a broken heart, according to the tale.

Dr. Wooding's research of Bellevue's history is a bit more reliable, if not quite as romantic, and is well-documented.

According to Dr. Wooding, John Stevens, the oldest son of James Stevens, left land on the south side of the Banister River to his son, John Jr., who left it to his sister, Susan, and to Robert Stevens.

Robert bought from Susan her half-interest on July 12, 1834, and on July 5, 1841, Robert and his wife, Anne Stevens, sold it to J. B. Carrington.

Carrington bought the 562-1/2 acre tract for a mere $8,000.

Dr. Wooding believes that the house was built between 1834 and 1841, since the property had more than doubled in value according to tax books.

Robert Stevens was a first cousin of Thomas Townes Carter, grandfather of Dr. Wooding, and family tradition is that a Stevens relative built Bellevue, and had a place on the stairs for a London Clock.

Wooding contends that Mrs. Robert Stevens was probably from Pittsylvania County. Mrs. Stevens' name is given as both Anne R. and Anne K. in deed books, never with her surname.

John B. Carrington's son, Henry, lived at Bellevue also. His widow, Nellie Carrington, sold it for $8,000 on April 15, 1901, then having 549.39 acres, to the Reeves family, who lived there many years.

The Reeves sold the house to Mr. and Mrs. Paul C. Edmunds Sr., who restored the house to its former beauty. The wide spacious halls and the big rooms with crystal chandeliers transport visitors to the past, and you expect to see a counter part of Scarlett O'Hara, with a Rhett Butler in careful attendance strolling the halls.

Before it was restored, many people saw the possibilities in the beautiful house. The late Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, often a guest at "Berry Hill," admired it enthusiastically.

John Jay, owner of "Ashland" in Charlottesville, took time in the hurried schedule of the Third National Tobacco Festival in 1938 to visit it twice in one day, enthusiastic over its possibilities.

Mary Pickford, famous movie star and Queen of the festival, declared that she was going to tell people in Hollywood about its potential, if bridle paths were cleared through the woods for riders, and if the house and grounds were restored.

The late John Booth, who was president of the Third National Tobacco Festival, made this telling remark about Bellevue at a party some years ago, "I used to think that if I could see it fixed up, I would see something. Now that I have seen it not only fixed up, and lighted for a beautiful party at night, I think I have seen everything."

Kenneth Cook's Bellevue Tour News Story
Date unknown

Bellevue, the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Carrington Edmunds, Jr., has long been regarded as one of the most beautiful homes in our county. Standing in a grove of ancient trees, it is representative of an era of gracious living to which we all, at one,time or another, long to return.

The date of construction of the mansion is not known for certain. Most sources have usually given it as 1825, but Dr. N. H. Wooding thinks it was built later, between 1834 and 1841, as the land more than doubled in value then. Built by the Stevens family, it was sold to John Bonaparte Carrington in 1841, and is best known as the Carrington home.

They occupied it until 1901, when the widow of Henry Paul Carrington sold it to the Reeves family. It was from the Reeves that Paul C. Edmunds, Sr., H. H. Edmunds and Hugh G. Edmunds purchased it in 1946. The mansion had fallen into advanced disrepair before the Edmunds restored it about 25 years ago.

Bellevue is a substantial house, with solid brick walls inside and out. From the gracious portico one enters a broad hall that runs the depth of the interior. Here is a sofa which came from Redfield, the home of John R. Edmunds, the great-great-grandfather of Mr. Edmunds, Jr. The three tables are from Magnolia Hill, the Halifax home of his parents.

To the left is the parlor, with its exquisite plaster ceiling in the "wedding ring" design. The room, dominated by Mrs. Edmunds' piano, holds many interesting pieces. The sofas and chairs in front of the fireplace are French, as is the mirror over the 18th century Hepplewhite chest. The mirror is very fine, and features urns, gargoyles, flags and a bust portrait of Napoleon.

Over the mantel is one of Mrs. Edmunds' most prized possessions, a rare portrait of Flora MacDonald (1722-1790), the famous British patriot. Another prized possession is a very old Spanish jewel chest.

The dining room has old furniture and a very handsome portrait of an unknown gentleman. One will probably never see a kitchen as large as that at Bellevue, situated adjacent to the dining room.

In the main floor guest room the twin tester beds were copied from some at Mt. Vernon by a Mr. Good. Using walnut from trees cut at Bellevue, he made each post a little different so one would know they were handmade.

Upstairs, there are four large bedrooms and two bathrooms that were added by the Edmunds. The hall is used as a family sitting area. A porch opens off the hall.

The grounds at Bellevue are, of course, dominated by the trees, one of which was lost just last year. There are several large holly trees and an abundance of magnificent boxwood.

To the right of the circular drive is the plantation office, which has not been restored and will not be open. It may be older than Bellevue itself. Behind the mansion, the original kitchen still stands.

Click for larger image.
Click for larger image.
In the field to the left the boxwood outline of the gardens can still be seen. Among the finest in the state in the last century, they were described by Robert A. Lancaster, Jr., in the 1923 James River Garden Club book, HISTORIC GARDENS OF VIRGINIA. The Carrington family cemetery alone remains.

One of the most interesting aspects of living at Bellevue, Mrs. Edmunds says, is meeting the many Carrington descendants who come every year to see the mansion. Just a week ago, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Wreath of Philadelphia were visitors. His grandmother, a daughter of John B. Carrington, was born there.

Before it was restored, many saw Bellevue's possibilities. The late John R. Booth, while at a party there, said of the mansion: "I used to think that if I could see it fixed up, I would see something. Now that I have seen it not only fixed up, but lighted up for a beautiful party at night, I think I have seen everything."
Bellevue will be opened for the St. John's Episcopal Church tour on Saturday, May 18, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Other tour sites are Tarover, Redfield, the home of Mrs. Frank Booker, St. John's Church and the River Road Tavern. Proceeds will go to the St. John's Restoration Fund. Box lunches will be available.

The following was contributed by Bob Reeves - Febuary 12, 2004:

John Henry Reeves purchased the plantation in 1901. He and his wife Nell along with daughters Isabell and Nell and son Jack Reeves made Bellevue their home until 1946 when his descendents sold it to Paul Edmonds. Col Jack Reeves graduated from UVA and had a long career as professor at VMI. Lt Col (Ret) Robert R. “Bob” Reeves, a cousin, recalls he and his brother, Ned Reeves, playing on the grounds as children. One form of entertainment was lining matches up against the homes brick walls and striking them with air rifles(BBs). He also remembers stories that his uncle Henry saved a man’s life when a combine machine fell on him while working on it from underneath. Henry single handedly lifted the combine while someone pulled the man to safety. Bob recalls his uncle Henry as a large, robust, strong man whom everyone admired and respected.

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