If Walls Could Talk...

The Holladay House has been owned by, lived in, and visited by regionally and internationally famous people.

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The red Davidson clay found in Orange County can be excellent soil for growing plants. It should come as no surprise, then, that Orange County has been prime real estate for thousands of years.

When John Smith sailed up the Rappahannock in 1608, he learned that this area was inhabited by natives called the Manahoacs. One of the westernmost points on his map was a native community named Stegara, on what we now call the Rapidan River.

Located near the Rapidan Mound, Stegara was likely about 10 miles west of the Holladay House.

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Detail from above Nova Virginiae Tabula, one of numerous 17th century copies of John Smith's 1612 map of Virginia

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By the time Governor Alexander Spotswood and men who became known as the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe explored this area for European settlement (and for fun) in 1716, internecine fighting, disease, and intermarriage had erased Manahoac culture.

European settlement in this area continued, and in 1734, Orange County was created by the Virginia House of Burgesses and named after Prince William IV of Orange, who was about to marry Anne, daughter of King George II.

Until the creation of Augusta County in 1738, Orange County extended to the Mississippi River.

​Fast forward to 1799, when Paul Verdier, a Revolutionary War veteran and son of French immigrants, bought from William Bell a farm located along present-day West Main Street.

At the time, Orange had been the county seat for 50 years, but there were few buildings in town.

Verdier divided the land into lots for development and one was eventually bought by merchant Hugh Stephens, who, around 1830, built the original solid brick portion of the Holladay House.

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From Finley's 1827 map of Virginia, before Greene County was split from Orange

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As built, there would have been living and retail spaces in the two ground-floor rooms, with a bedroom above each.

 

The original staircase to the second floor ascended on the west side of the main hallway. It was removed probably when the northern additions were made and the larger staircase installed on the east side of the main hallway.

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Though it was once believed that the Holladay House was built for Dinkle & Rumbough Mercantile, research in the Orange County property records office performed by Hugh McAloon revealed that Dinkle & Rumbough would have been on the south side of W. Main St.

Only four years later, Stephens sold the home to Mann A. Page of the Virginia Pages, and his wife, Mary Champe Willis Page, of the Virginia Willis'.

 

Mary's mother, Lucy, was from another FFV, the Taliaferros, and Mary's great-grandfather, Colonel John Champe, was a wealthy landowner whose neighbor in King George County was Charles Carter of the Virginia Carters.

By the end of the 1830's, Mann Page's two businesses had failed, leaving him deeply in debt. According to the 1840 US census, there appear to have been four slaves living at the house then:  Rebecca, Nancy, Betsy, and Hugh.  By 1842, when Page sold the house, only Rebecca and Nancy remained. Page sold the house to his father-in-law, William C. Willis, and his brothers-in-law, Robert T. and Richard H. Willis.

The Willis' kept the house until 1849, when they sold it to another local leader, John M. Chapman. For decades, this house was known as The Chapman House.

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Mann A Page's grave in Richmond

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From Some Notable Families of America

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Mitchell's 1859 Railroad Map of the US

The "M" in John M. Chapman stood for "Madison": he was President James Madison's grand nephew.

By 1849, the owners of this house represent a who's who of Virginia aristocratic families.

John Chapman and his wife Susannah Digges Cole owned this house from 1849 to 1883, a period that included the arrival of the first railroad in Orange, the Civil War, and Chapman's tenure as mayor of Orange.

In 1854, the Orange & Alexandria Railroad built through Orange on its way to a connection with the east-west Virginia Central Railroad in Gordonsville.

 

With the 1860 extension of the O&A to additional connections in Lynchburg, Orange was, at the beginning of the Civil War, on a key rail line, and home to the handsome 1859 Italianate county courthouse still used today.

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Photo taken before the Civil War statue was erected in 1900

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Civil War reenactors in Gettysburg/Chuck Myers Tribune News Service

The Civil War physically came to the Town of Orange on July 16, 1862, when cavalry of the 1st Michigan, 5th New York, 1st [West] Virginia, and 1st Vermont under Brig. Gen. John P. Hatch skirmished with the town's defenders. The Union troops spent two nights in Orange before returning to Rapidan Ford, having failed in their mission to destroy railroad property in Gordonsville.

On August 2, a force of cavalry from the 5th New York and 1st Vermont, now under new leadership, returned to Orange. This time, Virginia cavalry was present in some force, resulting in a serious clash right on Main St.

Though victorious, the Union troops returned to Rapidan that night. One week later, they would lose the battle of Cedar Mountain, just south of Culpeper.

The war again came to Orange in November 1863, when General Robert E. Lee made it his army's winter encampment following their loss at Gettysburg. The army remained here until May 5th, 1864, when they marched east and met advancing Union troops at the Battle of the Wilderness.

While encamped in and around Orange that winter, the Confederate army was low on warmth, food, and morale. As Jesse Miller of the 53rd North Carolina wrote to his parents on January 3, 1864:

We have a grate manny that is sick in our briggade and some ar dieing. John Wodey died at Orange the 15 of December. harrison Brown was sent off to the horse pittle yester Day. Barnet Owens was sent this morning. Boath was verry sick men. I have no thout that Owens will live . We have bin so exposed I feer that we shal have a grate Deal of sickness. Orders came round last nite to furlow one man for evry twenty men in camp that some of them will be coming home constantly.

We have a close time here at this time. Tha have cut our rashions down to a quarter of a pound of bacon and one pound of flower and every thirde day we dont get that. We drew to day one spoonful of shooger and not so much coffee and no bacon. We have close living.

During that trying winter, Gen. Lee worshipped regularly at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, on Caroline St., opposite the Holladay House. The tree to which Gen. Lee hitched his horse, Traveller, during services, can still be seen.

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St. Thomas Episcopal is behind the tree; the Holladay House is behind the camera, to the left.

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Not Mr. & Mrs. Robert Boykin... or are they? No one knows...

On February 25, 1864, there was some cause for celebration - for the officers, at least - when John and Susannah Chapman's daughter, Emma, married Capt. Robert Virginius Boykin, chief clerk of the Confederate State Navy Yard in Portsmouth.

Following the service at St. Thomas Episcopal Church across the street - where Gen. Lee worshiped during that winter - a reception was held here at the house among whose guests included,  with position at time of wedding:

In 1883, the Chapmans sold the house to John MacDonald and his wife. They sold the house in 1899 to Doctor Lewis Holladay, beginning 101 years of Holladay family ownership.

The Holladays are also an old Virginia family, with Holladays and Hollidays (spelling was not standardized then) arriving in Virginia starting in 1637. Dr. Lewis Holladay is likely a direct descendant of John Marshall Holladay, who was granted the Spotsylvania County land on which he built Bellefonte Plantation in 1702.

In addition to being the town physician, Doctor Holladay held the posts of Chesapeake & Ohio Railway company surgeon, member of the State Board of Medical Examiners, Dean of Physicians for Orange County, Orange County Coroner, Director of the National Bank of Orange, and ruling elder of the Orange Presbyterian Church.

In the 1930's, daughters Helen and Aubrey Holladay, like Emma Chapman the previous century, celebrated their marriages in the house.

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Dr. Lewis and Helen Holladay

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Aubrey Holladay Hamilton

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The Holladay House in the 1930's

Doctor Holladay died in 1946, after which the house went to children Louise and Lewis Holladay, Jr.

Louise lived in the house while renting rooms to boarders and local businesses, including one of the town dentists. There are people in town who remember visiting the dentist... in the room where the inn hosts now sleep!  Word has it that the dentist was the last one in Orange to adopt the use of Novocaine...

In 1988, Lewis "Pete" Holladay III inherited the house and turned it into the Holladay House Bed & Breakfast. Pete and his wife, Phebe, offered breakfasts that were so unforgettable that a former guest from the 1990's returned in the summer of 2021 to see if the apple muffins were still being baked!

In 2006, Sam and Sharon Elswick bought the Holladay House and continued operating it as a bed and breakfast. When they sold it in 2021, it was the longest continuously-operated bed and breakfast in Orange.

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Picking up the mantle of Holladay House stewardship from the Elswicks, husband-and-wife team Pat McAloon and Monica Xia look forward to hosting you in this grand home!