RVA must see! – Plantation Bellgrade

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  • Alias ​​Belvidere, Bellgrade, Alandale, Allandale, Ruth’s Chris Steak House
  • 11500 Chemin Huguenot Ouest
  • Built, 1732, 1824

The centerpiece of one of Chesterfield’s most notorious murders. PG-13!

(Chesterfield County Public Library) – Jeffrey O’Dell Research Paper Collection – 1978

Belgrade, known at the end of the 19th century as “Belvidere” and renamed “Alandale” at the beginning of this century, presents an unusual layout and a unique mix of roof types. Located off Robious Road southwest of Bon Air, the house occupies a large open lot surrounded by a growing residential and commercial development.

February 2020

February 2020

Originally a one- or one-and-a-half-storey house and salon, Belgrade was extended to its present form in 1824. In that year, Edward Cox handed over the property to Edward O. Friend, and the value of the appraised buildings increased from $ 482 to $ 1,939. This increase reflects a complete transformation of the original dwelling from a hall-lounge structure to a large dwelling consisting of a two-story main block with a side passage plan flanked by matching wings from floor to floor. a play.

(Chesterfield County Public Library) - Jeffrey O'Dell Research Paper Collection - 1978

(Chesterfield County Public Library) – Jeffrey O’Dell Research Paper Collection – 1978

The hipped hipped roof covering each of the two wings is unusual, and Belgrade provides the last recorded example in Virginia of this rare roof type. Another unusual feature is the apparently original one-story lean-to at the west end of the building. The main purpose of this eight-foot-wide unit appears to have been to house a staircase (similar in shape and contemporary to that of the main block) allowing separate interior and exterior access to the upper chamber of the south wing.

February 2020

February 2020

The current interior trim, which varies only slightly between the different rooms on the two floors, dates entirely from approx. 1824. The mantle of the main block consists of a simple architrave frame topped by a molded shelf with perforated and serrated band. The coats of each of the wings are nearly identical, with a raised paneled perimeter topped with a molded shelf. The upstairs coats date from the same period and feature simple architrave frames with simple molded shelves.

February 2020 - showing the end of the original construction on the center right and the start of the new construction on the far right

February 2020 – showing the end of the original construction on the center right and the start of the new construction on the far right

Two contemporary staircases lead to the house; both are of a closed, straight string shape with rectangular balusters, a square post with a molded cap, and a molded rail. The staircase of the main block is of an unusual configuration: it divides into a narrow landing against the rear wall, where short flights lead to the rooms above the main block and the north wing, respectively. The lean-to staircase, which turns around three-quarters of the way, barely leaves a clear height on the upper landing.

(Chesterfield County Public Library) - Jeffrey O'Dell Research Paper Collection - 1978

(Chesterfield County Public Library) – Jeffrey O’Dell Research Paper Collection – 1978

Originally, matching outbuildings flanked the house. A one-story, two-room kitchen with a central fireplace stood seventy feet south of the house, while a similarly shaped office was equidistant from the north end of the dwelling. Both were in deteriorated condition in the 1920s and were demolished. The only old outbuilding that remains is a gabled roof frame smokehouse located a few meters southwest of the house.

February 2020 - showing the original construction in the center, the new construction on the far left

February 2020 – showing the original construction in the center, the new construction on the far left

The first found owner of the property was Edward Cox, who in 1824 sold the house and 515 acres to Edward O. Friend for $ 5,000. Friend, son of Joseph Friend and grandson of Edward Friend (d.1806), lived there until his death in 1838, when the property passed to his widow, Matilda E. Burfoot Friend. She remarried and sold the farm two years later to Anthony T. Robiou, who remained there until his death in 1851.

(Old shares) - Share certificate of 100 shares of Richmond and Danville Railroad Company

(Old actions) – Share certificate of 100 shares of Richmond and Danville Railroad Company

Robious Crossing, where the new Richmond and Danville railway line crossed Huguenot Road, was named in honor of the current owner of the farm. However, in Chesterfield County history, Robiou is best remembered as the man whose murder precipitated one of Virginia’s most high-profile trials of the 19th century.

(Wikipedia) - Black heather

(Wikipedia) – Black heather

The episode began when Robiou filed a divorce complaint against his young wife (who was only fourteen at the time of her marriage) accusing him of infidelity. [CCO]

Apparently it wasn’t a “maybe it is” situation. Robiou grabbed them in the middle of the schtupp, still cracking the plaster, and took offense.

John S. Wormley, the girl’s father, as well as John Reid, her alleged adulterous suitor, attacked Robiou on the road to Black Heath Pits (now Robious Road) and shot him dead. [CCO]

(Fineart America) - Infidelity, 18th century print by Granger

(Fineart America) – Infidelity, 18th century print by Granger

Imagine Robiou’s last moments contemplating the injustice of it all. “My wife Emily is cheating on me and I get caught complaining?” “Of course the Wormley family was old and established, so it must have been a matter of honor perhaps to have (rightly) slandered the last name. At least he has a street named after him.

Both men were taken into custody soon after, and Wormley, a successful planter and lawyer, was convicted in a trial held at Chesterfield Court House in October 1851. A trial was later declared, however, on the grounds that jurors had been treated to drinks in advance by the deputy sheriff and the county clerk. [CCO]

* hic… innnoshent, yer Honor…

(Executed today) - scene of a 19th century hanging

(Executed today) – scene of a 19th century hanging

More than a year later, a jury summoned to Richmond and Petersburg because of the local notoriety of the case sentenced Wormley to death. A week later, a crowd of 4,000 watched the 42-year-old hanged at the Chesterfield courthouse. Reid, meanwhile, had been tried and acquitted, and before the hanging he had married the young widow whose husband he had been accused of killing. [CCO]

(Chesterfield County Public Library) - Jeffrey O'Dell Research Papers Collection - Belgrade Foyer, 1978

(Chesterfield County Public Library) – Jeffrey O’Dell Research Paper Collection – Belgrade Home, 1978

Of course, this all ends well. Two weeks after her father was hanged, Mrs. Emily Reid tumbled down the front steps and perished. Poetic justice.

There are two accounts of his death. It is said that she fell on a sewing basket and that scissors broke her heart. The other story is that she broke her neck. Since that tragedy, there have been hundreds of stories of sightings of the ghosts of Robiou and his young wife roaming the boxwood gardens behind the house. (Chris from Ruth)

(Library of Congress) - Map of Chesterfield County, Virginia - JE LaPrade, 1888 - Belgrade identified as Belvidere, just at the intersection of Robious and the Richmond and Danville railway

(Library of Congress) – Map of Chesterfield County, Virginia – JE LaPrade, 1888 – Belgrade identified as Belvidere, just at the intersection of Robious and the Richmond and Danville Railway

In 1851, the year of the first trial, Randolph Ammonett purchased the property from the trustees of Robiou’s estate for $ 2,025. Ammonett lived in Belgrade until his death in 1889. In his will, he ordered that “an iron railing of about 10 square feet be erected around the graves of myself and my late wife, JJ Ammonett. “. This fence still stands in the back yard, although there are no carved stones to identify the graves of Amonett or his wife. [CCO]

Since then the place has been called Belvidere, Alandale, Allandale and Bellgrade, the pen name Ruth’s Chris prefers. Jeff O’Dell calls it Belgrade, and who are we to talk to an architectural historian?

Mary Wingfield Scott would not have approved of Ruth’s Chris’ modifications, but the steak house ended up preserving the original structure, so even though it is not on the historical register, the spirit of the plantation house has been preserved.

(Belgrade is part of Atlas RVA! Project)


Print sources

  • [CCO] Chesterfield County, Ancient Architecture and Historic Sites Jeffrey M. O’Dell. 1983.

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