Recently, I was lucky enough to stumble upon an article written about Boscobel Farm. It appeared in the 1901 publication of The Country Gentleman. The Country Gentleman, an agricultural magazine, was founded in 1831. The cover of each issue looks strikingly similar the The Saturday Evening Post.
The inspiring article, details the plans of the late Charles Hurkamp for his then (nearly) 600 acre farm. The article describes his vision for a model livestock farm and gives us a glimpse into the landscape of appurtenances and improvements on the farm in the early 1900's. You can read the full article on the "About Us" page. Here are a few excerpts that I found notable.
"The old homestead has been lately improved and beautified. A wind mill furnishes water for the bath rooms, the dwelling has been repainted and the beautiful lawn and old fashioned garden and grounds comprise one the most picturesque spots to be seen anywhere in this part of Virginia. "
In my time looking at this photograph from the early days of Boscobel, I have scanned every inch. Looking for clues as to when the photograph might have been taken. To the left of the tree that appears at the right middle-ground of the image, you can clearly see an angular shape. Since angular shapes do not appear in nature, I was stumped. After reading this article, it was immediately clear to me that this shape is of the windmill rising above the well. The well still exists here, and so I now know that this image is of the back of Boscobel. It gives me some insight as to where the house sits in relation to the well. Our current, nearly 70 year old house, sits on the foundation of this historic plantation house. The well sits just off the garden room and library.
the splendid stone curbed well
..."There are 522 acres now remaining with the old homestead, and comprising Boscobel as it stands today, about 30 acres being woodland. The mansion was considerably enlarged by the late William A. Little, and now has twelve rooms in the dwelling proper, including bath rooms, water being supplied in abundance for all purposes from the splendid stone curbed well in the yard, a wind-mill doing the pumping."
When we first contracted to purchase Boscobel last Spring, we had a home inspection. We have never been to the house and so the home inspector was to be our eyes and ears on the ground. When we received the report, we were surprised to learn that inside the well house, there was cavernous hole in the ground, leading down approximately 40 feet. Being the mother of a four year old at the time, it haunted my nightmares for the next few months.
When we arrived and finally saw the house, the night before closing, my husband ventured into the well house. He looked down the hole and went about his business. The next day we purchased a padlock and locked it up tight, telling our daughter to never, ever, go in.
After reading this article, I asked my husband if there were stones lining the hole. He said YES! Sure enough, this was the historic well, whose stones were imported from England by Thomas Fitzhugh in the late 1600's. The same well in which the windmill was situated that pumped water to the bathrooms long before indoor plumbing! A hidden treasure!
..."There is at one side of the lawn a cottage of three rooms, with old-fashioned chimney and wood fire-place, the main room being celled(?) throughout, and constituting one of the most delightful dens imaginable."
This was especially interesting to me. We have planned, since the beginning, to build a guest house near the Secret Garden (which is set atop the foundation of the plantation kitchen). My hope has been that we can erect this guest house in a style closely fitting what may have stood before it. The article tells us that the cottage was three rooms with an old fashioned chimney! This at least gives us a place to start!
So many more mysteries remain here, which is why I love this place so much. I'll be digging and figuring things out for years.