Middlecourt and Penshurst on Historic Homes Tour

August 19, 2013

Two historic Hampden-Sydney homes are included in Journey Through Virginia's Historic Homes Statewide Promotional Weekend, Saturday, September 14 and Sunday, September 15. The event celebrates the Virginia Executive Mansion's 200th Anniversary.  Governor Bob McDonnell and First Lady Maureen McDonnell have declared 2013 the "Year of the Historic Home." "There are over 120 sites scattered across Virginia classified as Historic Homes that span from pre-Colonial times through the Modern era, all of which provide an abundance of cultural, historical, and architectural information and promote an understanding of, as well as an interest in, Virginia's story."  The two Hampden-Sydney homes included are Middlecourt and Penshurst.

Both Hampden-Sydney houses were originally built for the Union Theological Seminary, the campus of which adjoined that of Hampden-Sydney College.  When the Seminary moved to Richmond in 1898, Hampden-Sydney acquired the Seminary property.

Middlecourt StairwayMiddlecourt was completed in 1829 as the home of John Holt Rice, founder and first president of Union Theological Seminary.  It was originally named Boston House because the funds for its construction came from Presbyterians of that city.  The house has the tall, narrow look of the American Federal style, evident in the tall chimneys and panels between the windows.  It is speculated that the Bostonians sent both the money and the plans by which the house was built.  The most striking feature of the house is the  graceful spiral stairway, shown decorated for Christmas.  Middlecourt became the President's House in 1939 when President Edgar G. Gammon took up occupancy.  Formerly the College president resided in Penshurst.  The current occupants of Middlecourt are President Christopher B. Howard and Mrs. Barbara Howard.

Penshurst, built in 1830, is in design a more typical Southern house.  The house was originally named North Carolina House because Presbyterians in North Carolina provide the funds for its construction.  In one of the chimneys that face College Road is "North Carolina" and in the other the constuction date. The house is now named after the historic home of the Sidney family in England.  It was used as the President's House from 1904 through the administration of Dr. Joseph D. Eggleston (1919-1939).  Many Hampden-Sydney alumni remember Penshurst as the home of Dr. and Mrs. Graves H. Thompson.  Dr. Thompson was the long-time professor of Latin at the College.  The house has been for some years the official home of the Dean of the Faculty.  The current occupants are the Provost & Dean of the Faculty, Dr. Dennis G. Stevens, and Mrs. Bonnie Stevens.

Promotional Weekend Hours:
Saturday 10am-3pm, Sunday 11am-3pm (guided walking tours)

The Atkinson Museum of Hampden-Sydney College will provide walking tours of the old seminary campus, which includes exterior tours of two historic homes.  
The tours will last about thirty minutes and are free of charge.  Historic passport holders will receive a special gift commemorating the historic cupolas of the 235-year-old campus.
All tours begin at the Atkinson Museum on the Campus of Hampden-Sydney College at the intersection of College Road and Via Sacra, four miles south of Farmville.


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