Countryside Mansion

This home was designed as an Italianate villa, built in 1912 by a famous millionaire and208 philanthropist above Rockfish Gap in Virginia.

Rockfish Gap is the southern end of the Skyline Drive through the Shenandoah National Park and the northern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s located on the crest of the Blue Ridge mountains, and overlooks both Shenandoah and Rockfish valleys.

Originally it was build and Intended to be a “summer place” for his wife. It’s been reported that it took more than 300 artisans and over eight years to build the structure, complete with Georgian marble, Tiffany windows, gold plumbing fixtures, and terraced gardens. The estate was built as a symbol of his love to his wife.

Tiffany stained glass window
Tiffany stained glass window

The centerpiece is represented in the 4,000 piece Tiffany stained-glass window and a domed ceiling bearing the likeness of his wife. Despite the lavish expenditure, it was occupied only for a few years following completion in 1912.

When the property was built it had state-of-the-art fixtures for the time period. Electricity and plumbing was installed in the house. It was the first house that had electricity in the county and to accomplish this it had its own power plant on the property. There also was a built in elevator. Like Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s house 27 miles away, it had a dumbwaiter to bring food up from the basement kitchen to the dining room on the first floor.

The sisters sold (name redacted) in 1926 to the Valley Corporation, a Richmond corporation, who became the second owners of (name redacted). They planned and opened a country club in 1929 and closed in 1932. During that time they built the stone building on the property rumored to house the region’s best moonshine distillery and was the favored supplier for government officials during Prohibition. The golf course was an 18-hole course.

The United States Navy considered purchasing and renovating the property in 1942, for the purpose of establishing a secret facility to interrogate prisoners of war. The military rejected it in favor of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in Fort Hunt, Virginia, code named P. O. Box 1142, because it seemed unlikely that Congress would approve the purchase of such a palatial structure for the purpose. The mansion stood empty through the Great Depression and World War II until it was leased in 1949 to Walter Russell for his University of Science and Philosophy. During this period, the retreat took in a series of female acolytes who, to help support the institute, gave tours of the mansion and grounds.

Today the property owner has been attempting to sell tours of the first floor, all the while letting the property fall into disrepair. Currently small group tours, open houses and weddings are being held on the property and there are plans for a bed-and-breakfast in the future.

*taken and edited from Wikipedia
*Name redacted in a slight attempt to help preserve the stained glass, even though it’s a public place



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