Friday, August 7, 2009

Historic Linden Row Inn in Richmond recently completed a full renovation of its largest parlor suite that is named after Richmond preservationist Mary Wingfield Scott. The renovation was managed by Richmond based historic restoration specialist Gable Painter and included a complete restoration of the original wooden floors and crown molding in the suite, along with the installation of new furnishings. It is documented on next week's 30 minute episode of "Restorer Guy" on the TLC channel at 7 pm.

Architectural history buffs will remember that Linden Row, built in the mid nineteenth century, is located in the heart of downtown Richmond. Linden Row represents just one of the many properties in Richmond that Miss Scott saved from the wrecking ball or, in her words, the "bulldozing brotherhood." Local lore has it that Edgar Allan Poe spent time in a garden on the site as a child, and that this inspired his "enchanted garden."

More on Poe can be seen and experienced at the Library of Virginia's outstanding new exhibition, Poe: Man, Myth, or Monster? that runs through December 5, 2009; check out the special site
The land on which Linden Row Inn sits was originally part of a 100 acre tract owned by Thomas Rutherfoord, who amassed a fortune in tobacco, milling and real estate. In 1816, Charles Ellis acquired the eastern end, across from his home on Franklin Street. Ellis used the land as a garden which was known for its beautiful roses, jasmine, and lindens.
In 1811, Elizabeth Poe, an actress performing in a traveling company at the Richmond Theater, became ill and died, leaving two young children orphaned. Mr. and Mrs. John Allan, who raised Edgar Poe, gave him Allan for his middle name. On their return from a five year trip to England, they lived with Mr. Allan's business partner, Charles Ellis. It was in the gardens that Edgar Poe played with the Ellis children. Local legend has it that this was the "enchanted garden" that Poe mentions in his famous poem, "To Helen."
Between 1847 and 1853, the land was purchased by Fleming James, and Samuel and Alexander Rutherfoord, and a row of 10 houses were built. It was named Linden Square after the lindens that adorned the Ellis garden.
Just before and during the Civil War (1853 - 1865), the two most western houses were occupied by D. Lee Powell's school, the Southern Female Institute. From this location, Mrs. Dickinson, one of the pupils, remembered seeing President Davis riding horseback in the morning. A second famous girls school, Mrs. Pegram's school, was operated here from 1856 - 1866 by Virginia Pegram, a widow of General James Pegram, the famous Mexican war hero. From 1895 - 1906, the highly respected school of Miss Virginia Randolph Ellet, now known as St. Catherine's School, was located here. Among the early pupils were Irene Gibson, the Gibson Girl, Irene Langhorn, and Lady Astor, the first female member of British Parliament.
In 1922, two of the original buildings were razed in order to make way for the Medical Arts Building. Mary Wingfield Scott, noted local architectural historian, saved the eight remaining houses from being raised in 1950. In 1980, she later gave them to the Historic Richmond Foundation. At this time, the houses contained a number of offices and apartments.
After acquiring the property, the trustees of Historic Richmond came to the conclusion that both financial and preservation interests would be best served if Linden Row were redeveloped by the private sector with Historic Richmond Foundation guidelines. The proposal for the present Linden Row Inn was accepted since it ensured the retention of original interior features. Some modifications (such as bathrooms) were made to accommodate the 20th century traveler only enhancing its original charm.

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