House History

Red Hill Farm, Alton, Virginia.

May 14, 2018

Most will recognize this farm as my mom’s farm. In honor of Mother’s Day I thought it would be appropriate to show off all of the work she has done on the farm!! She has owned Red Hill for a decade now. My stepfather’s dream was to have a large plantation with the double porches. They looked for awhile, and then settled on this one. I was at the farm yesterday so some of the exterior pictures are new. The interior pictures usually cause a stir online whenever I show them. My mom has a unique decorating style. And some might recognize her love of MacKenzie Childs.

The history. It was built around 1900 by Josephus Percy Wilkins. He built it for his new bride, Sudie Bruce. She came from a very well to do family in Culpeper, Virginia. He felt she should have a home befitting her social status. Percy’s father, William J. Wilkins, gave him the choice of several plots of land. Percy chose this spot because it was the highest point all around. Percy was born in 1873 and died in 1944. He is buried in Culpeper beside his wife.

Percy and Sudie did not have any children, but they had two very loyal employees that they considered family, Aunt Vennie and Uncle Effe. In the 1930’s Sudie died. At that time Percy moved into the Dormitory beside the Turbeville school. There he was able to have a lot of contact with other people and was given three meals a day. He lived there until his death. Rather sad when you think about it.

After that time the house changed hands a few times. From the South of the Dan Driving Tour:


During those years, several families lived at Red Hill, the first of whom were Marshall and Katherine Slayton, the parents of Juvenile Court Judge Frank M. Slayton. Dub and Margaret Wilkins moved into Red Hill following their marriage in February 1941 and lived there until Dub left to serve in World War II. Neighbor T. C. Howell visited Dub and Margaret often at Red Hill and would always comment that the young couple “fit loose” in the large house. Next to live at Red Hill were Mr. & Mrs. John Myers, Mr. Myers being the agriculture instructor at Turbeville High School.

At the death of Mr. Wilkins, Red Hill was purchased by Mr. & Mrs. T. A. Adams. The Adams were the parents of Carol Foster, who lives at Red Hill today. During its almost 100-year history, Red Hill has been owned by only two families – the Wilkins and the Adams. Carol and Mark bought Red Hill from her mother, Sallie Bradshaw Adams, in 1967. Mr. Adams had died in 1961 and Carol felt that her mother, who was only several years older than Carol is today, was too old to live there alone! Mrs. Adams later moved to Westminster Canterbury in Lynchburg and lived there until her death at the age of 94.

The Fosters lived at Red Hill for two years – from 1967 until 1969. In 1969 Mark was transferred to Mississippi. During the sixteen years they lived in Mississippi, Red Hill changed hands twice. The Fosters sold the house to Carol’s nephew, Ted Ratcliff, who, in time, sold it to his mother and Carol’s sister, Polly Adams Ratcliff. In 1996, the Fosters bought the house again – from Polly; and Mark was overheard to say at the real estate closing, “I believe I’ve done this before!”

After my mom and stepfather bought it they started having issues with the house. Cracks started appearing in the plaster, pipes started cracking, uh oh!! The foundation was ravaged by termites. (yes, they did TWO inspections before purchasing the house, and one was an insect inspection) At that point it became, how can we SAVE this house?!

The house had to be lifted up off of the foundation, all of the old had to be pulled out and replaced with new foundation. It was not cheap!! When they purchased this farm my mom wanted it to be a place where the grandkids never wanted to leave. They don’t!

She had electric gates installed, a four car garaged built, a barn with a very large apartment over it. The biggest grandkid draw though is the pool. She had a saltwater pool installed. She wanted her pool to be different though. So she had 2,000 tons of sand hauled in from Virginia and South Carolina beaches.

As a lover of old houses, I admire them for how they saved it. I’ve heard of others that thought a house was a goner after getting word that the foundation has to be ripped out. Thankfully my mom and stepfather became the new stewards of the house so it can stand another century!

Sadly, my sister and my stepfather have passed since they took over ownership of the house. Both were able to enjoy the farm. Ron LOVED to sit on the front porch with his trusty German Shepherd by his side and watch his Arabian horses running in the pasture. That was the life he wanted.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, Sarah Garwood, and to all mom’s out there.