The Little Plantation
(Fourqurean House)

Historic Sites Nomination Form
Kenneth Cook News Story

The Little Plantation (Fourqurean House), South Boston vicinity. In the early 19th century numerous small plantations growing tobacco as the principal cash crop were established in south central Virginia. Each plantation was normally served by an unpretentious frame dwelling house surrounded by a cluster of outbuildings. The design and layout of these complexes was completely ulitarian, the buildings having little or no reference current architectural fashions.

Such modest regional units are exemplified by the Little Plantation, established in 1830 by Daniel Fourqurean and consisting of a compact vernacular dwelling where the only elegance is a marbleized stair. Its original outbuildings include a stone kitchen and a log office. In an effort to restore a picture of the area's early rural lifestyle, the present owner has added early outbuildings, salvaged from nearby farms, to replace missing ones.

(41-37) VLR: 9/1/76: NRHP:5/6/80

The following is taken from the National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form dated September 21, 1976

The early nineteenth-century settlement of south central Virginia was 'characterized by the establishment of numerous small plantationswhich raised tobacco as their principal cash crop. The typical plantation possessed an unpretentious dwelling house, almost always of frame, surrounded by a cluster of outbuildings. The design and layout of these complexes was completely utilitarian; little attempt was made at architectual elaboration or landscaping such as found on the large plantations of eastern and northern Virginia. Such elegant seats as Staunton Hill and Berry Hill, were very much the exception.

The Little Plantation near South Boston survives as a well-preserved example of this regional unit. The house in particular is a fine specimen of its type, a compact, pleasingly proportioned dwelling,. Its only attempt at "elegance" is its marbleized stair, a fine example of this provincial art form. Although several of the out buildings, including the stone kitchen and the log office, are original to the site, several other early outbuildings typical of the region have been moved there by the present owner to replace missing ones. The whole now provides an illuminating picture of the region's rural life in the early nineteenth century.

In the eighteenth century, the land which now comprises Little Plantation was held successively by the England, Watts, Manson, and Gresham families. In 1828, Daniel W. Fourqurean (1788-1854) purchased 60 1/4 acres of the land from Benoy Gresham. Fourqurean is reputed to have built the office in 1828 as a temporary residence, but this seems unlikely, since he already owned land with buildings on it near the Little Plantation. However, the construction of the office indicates that it is probably contemporary with the main house, which Fourqurean built in 1830. The inscription on the west chimney--"D. W. F. D.C. (December) 1830"--is confirmed in the land records. Fourqurean's assessment was raised from $132.60 in 1830 to $500.00 in 1831, with the notation "Improvements increased."

Fourqurean sold the property to Thomas E. Puckett in 1842. Combined with Puckett's own holdings, the tract was increased to 375 acres, its present size. William L. Owen, a merchant and financier, bought the Little Plantation in 1844 and held it until 1849. David L. Irvine succeeded Owen in the ownership of the property. It continued in the possession of Irvine's descendants, the Cray family, until 1968, when it was purchased by R. L. Gilliam, the current owner. It was he who gave the farm its name and who assembled the collection of early outbuildings it now possesses. The present owner exhibits the plantation as a museum of early regional life.

The Little Plantation is situated on a large tract of land near the Dan River in Halifax County. Its handsome, little-altered dwelling house sits at the fore of a court of early outbuildings, some of which are original to the plantation and some of which have been moved from nearby farms.

The dwelling house is a one-story, three-bay frame structure clad with beaded weatherboards and set upon a high five-course American-bond basement. Tall brick chimneys, also laid in five-course American bond and having stepped weatherings, stand at each gable end. The windows have early nine-over-nine sash and louvred blinds. The present front and side porches and their attendant stairs, are reproductions of the original's which were found in a ruinous condition by thepresent owner.

A single-cell ell is connected by a hyphen to the rear of the main house. This ell was built early in the nineteenth century as part of a nearby house and was moved to its present site in 1970.

The house has a two-room, hall-and-parlor plan. An enclosed stair built against the partition in the parlor (dining room) is entered from the hall adjacent to the front door. Several risers and the mopboard of this stair retain handsome original marbleizing of a highly abstract sort with a silver-grey base and veins of red, blue and green.

The hall is decorated with recessed-panel wainscoting and with a mantel consisting of reeded entablature blocks and a central tablet resting on the architrave surround and supporting an unmolded shelf. Similar wainscoting is used in the dining room, and the mantel there consists of a molded shelf surmounting two plain entablature blocks which rest upon a reeded architrave surround.

The original outbuildings include the kitchen, a square, one-story gable-roofed building with a stone exterior end chimney and a brick-and-stone paved floor and the office, a square, story-and-a-half V-notched log structure presently covered with twentieth-century weatherboards and having a stone end chimney with a brick stack. (A V-notched log slave house stands about one-quarter of a mile north of the main house.)

Among the outbuildings moved to the site are two smokehouses, a loom house, and a carriage house. All are frame structures, and all date from about the time of the dwelling's construction.

Little Plantation by Kenneth Cook

When Mr. and Mrs. Robert Gilliam of South Boston purchased the old Gray farm, located several miles southwest of South Boston, they had a vision of creating on it an authentic picture of life as it was before the Civil War on a small Halifax County plantation. Renaming it "Little Plantation," they set about on a restoration project that was to take several years to complete, with they themselves doing most of the work.

How successful they were in their project is evidenced by the fact that the farm complex, designated a Virginia Historic Landmark several years ago, has now been named to the prestigious National Register of Historic Places. This is the next to highest honor that an historic property like Little Plantation can receive.

"Nearly all of what has been preserved in Virginia and elsewhere are the homes of the rich," Mr. Gilliam stated, "where the owner never toiled with his hands." Most Virginians, however, lived simply on small farms, working right along with their slaves--if they were lucky enough to own any--and it was this facet of life that he sought to preserve.

"I wanted to show how the small, ordinary man and woman, like most of us sprang from, lived," he said. From plantations of this type, nearly self-sufficient in every way, came doctors, lawyers, ministers, teachers, farmers, merchants and other leaders of the community. The great majority of Southerners today trace their heritage back to a home like Little Plantation.

The dwelling house, which sits at the front of a court of early outbuildings, several of which are original to the site, was in poor condition but little altered when the Gilliams purchased it. The high English basement and chimneys with stepped weatherings are constructed of brick laid in five-course American bond. The house is of beaded weatherboarding, with front and side porches carefully reproduced from the originals which had to be replaced.

For the sake of modern living, since they do live in the house part of the time, the Gilliams added a wing at the back that was carefully planned to blend in with the original front part. It is built of materials from his great-grandfather's house that are actually older than Little Plantation itself.

Inside the original house there are two rooms on each floor, with the master bedroom and family dining room in the basement, the formal parlor and dining room on the main floor and two bedrooms on the second floor. Food was prepared in the stone kitchen situated to the side of the house and connected with it by a stone walk, part of which remains.

Original details which remain inside the house are the recessed-panel wainscoting, carved mantels in parlor and dining room and original marbleizing on several steps of the main staircase. This is highly abstract in form, with a silver-gray base and veining of red, blue and green.

In addition to the rock kitchen, the office is also original. This story-and-a-half structure is of log construction that has been weatherboarded over. It has a stone and brick chimney. Some of the family may once have used this as their bedroom.

The outbuildings which were moved to the site are the carriage house, smoke house, loom house, blacksmith's shop and the carpenter's-and-cabinet shop. All are frame structures that date from about the time of the construction of the main house.

The spring house is on a path in the woods back of the house. Traces of the old ice house remain, as does the ice pond, with most of its dam intact.

The yard immediately around the house is enclosed with a white picket fence, as is a small garden to the left. Within both are very old boxwoods, survivors of an earlier day. The house and outbuildings are furnished in keeping with their period of construction.

This information is provided by TheVirginia Department of Historic Resources
and is being republished here with the consent of
the Gazette-Virginian & the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee.

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This page was last updated on December 4, 2003 .