Historic Mount Bleak House
The gorgeous views at Sky Meadows were not the only attraction we soaked in yesterday. On the grounds of the park stood the historic Mount Bleak House. Aaron and I were lucky to find Bud, our tour guide, alone and ready to give us a private tour of this home that was built in 1843, and still had all its original fittings, down to the yellow pine wood floors that creaked just it probably did in its heyday. If only those walls could talk!
The back of the house had a spectacular view of the rolling hills and tree-covered mountains. In 1731, Lord Fairfax sold a 7,883-acre tract of land just south of Ashby's Gap to James Ball. The eastern side of the Blue Ridge mountains boasts such scenic vistas that had me immediately wishing I lived there.
After the land had been bought and sold within the family several times, Abner Settle built Mount Bleak House. Bud, our guide, recounted to us the story of Amanda Edmonds, the cousin of Abner Settle, who lived in the large estate house named Belle Grove. Lewis Edmonds had sold the land to Abner, who later built the house. Amanda and Abner were fairly close in age, and she spent a lot of time at Mount Bleak.
The thing that was most fascinating about Amanda was that she was a devoted journal keeper, and kept a detailed journal for 10 years. In it, she chronicled what the Mount Bleak House looked like, how many rooms it had, what colors of paint were used, what items were in each room, and many other things that enabled the recreation of those very rooms in the house as it stands today! It made me recommit myself to return to the ardent journal keeper I once was.
Amanda was also a very brave and strong-willed girl. She records a story of an officer in the army trying to wrest her horse from her while in battle, and she fought hard, lost the horse, but kept her saddle. At the time, the troops were commanded to take over the mountainside where she lived, and that meant they would leave the houses alone, but would burn the crops, take the horses, and destroy the fields. Amanda did her best to fight off these unjust intruders and wrote about it.
Bud opened the door to the house and we entered into the dining room. Neatly appointed, two large windows, and a great use of space. They built shelves recessed into the walls as the walls were so thick and they didn't want to crowd the rooms with extra furniture. So, the shelves held all the china.
They even built little drawers right into the windowsill to hold all the cutlery! How ingenious!
The parlor was the next on the list. It was richly appointed with an impressive grand piano! It also had a table for playing cards, another for checkers, a couch to read in while gazing out the two large windows of the room.
This is Bud. When asked if he lived nearby, he told us that he lived five miles from the park "as the crow flies." I must say this was the first time I had heard anyone actually use that phrase. It endeared me to Bud immediately :)
This is the journal of Amanda Virginia Edmonds from which they derived all the details for the restoration of the house furnishings. This book is now out of print. :( I would have loved to have read it.
The house contained some very old books. You can imagine my excitement! I am standing in a house built in 1843, and of all the things to be excited about, I am thrilled that I saw and touched two books with pages so yellowed with age, and brittle that I thought they might break off in my fingers!
This book, The Analytical Speller, was published in 1846, and taught one how to spell and pronounce correctly. The book underneath this one was a very old bible! Superb!
The original wood floors whose creaking made me immediately welcome into the home.
The beds in the home were made of ropes. The bedding consisted of three layers. The white one at the bottom was filled with hay. This is where the term 'hit the hay' or 'hit the sack' came from. The second one was filled with feathers or some kind of down, and the top layer was a quilt. The instrument on the top of the quilt was used to tighten the ropes on the bed if they got loose. This is also where there the phrase 'Sleep tight' came into being.
We loved touring this old home and exploring its treasures, imagining the lives and the people who inhabited its rooms. Bud was splendid and we appreciated the private tour. Hope you enjoyed yourself on your private tour of the Mount Bleak House at Sky Meadows!