Middlecourt


Middlecourt

1829
Via Sacra
Hampden-Sydney, VA 23943



Completed in 1829, Middlecourt's first occupant was Dr. John Holt Rice, founder and first president of Union Theological Seminary. It was named Boston House because it was built with funds raised by Presbyterian Bostonians. It has served as the home of presidents of Hampden-Sydney since 1939. Dr. Edgar G. Gammon was the first Hampden-Sydney president to occupy Middlecourt. Before that time Penshurst had served as the president's home.

Middlecourt is a masterpiece of Reuben and John Perry, the builder-architects of the three seminary buildings (with the exception of the Staggar Inn section of Venable, which was built by Dabney Cosby - Cosby was also the builder-architect of many private houses and public buildings in Southside Virginia and North Carolina). Cosby and the Perrys had worked with Mr. Jefferson in Charlottesville during the building of the University of Virginia and in Bedford County during the building of Poplar Forest, Jefferson's summer home.

Middlecourt is noted for its fine expression of the native American Federal style, evident in the slender chimneys and panels between the windows. Perhaps the most striking feature of the house is a graceful spiral stairway with its unusual curved and hand-polished mahogany rail. It is backed with painted panels trimmed with applied scroll work.

Behind Middlecourt, Coleman Cottage, named in memory of Carol Owen Coleman, was once the kitchen and servants' quarters for Middlecourt. The original structure was expanded before the Civil War. It is presently furnished with 19th-century antiques, such as a student desk bearing initials of 18th-century students and original cast-iron cooking pots. There is also a collection of the 19th-century patent medicine bottles discovered beneath the floor during restoration.

The courtyard between Coleman Cottage and Middlecourt contains an herb garden and a gnarled Osage orange tree that is almost as old as Middlecourt. The nineteenth-century Carriage House assigned to Middlecourt has been converted to quarters for the student-run radio station WWHS-FM.