History


The following is an excerpt from the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form prepared by G. Alan Morledge, Architect, dated December 1995, which he based to a large extent on a research report prepared by Martha W. McCartney, The History of Riverview Plantation, James City County, Virginia. Williamsburg: 1991.  Also, see "Keystone of the Commonwealth," below.

Plantation House

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND - Section 8


The parcel on which Riverview house and dependencies sit has been the site of a dwelling since at least 1670 (Herrman Map, 1673). At the end of the revolution the French cartographer Berthier (map, 1783) depicted a modest-sized farm development at the site consisting of two buildings and a fenced yard served by a road from the major James-York Peninsula thoroughfare. In all likelihood, this and other nearby farms supplied both British and Allied armies with agricultural products and livestock during area military campaigns. By 1783, after the property passed down by his fore-bearers  was acquired by William Hankins I, the property was taxed at 786 acres. Hankin also paid taxes on two White males, 27 slaves, four horses, 56 cattle and a quantity of taxable personal property.


After his death and by 1802, his son and namesake, William Hankins II of nearby Cherry Hall in York County, held title to 727 of Riverview acres including the domestic site. The balance was held by the widow and other heirs of Hankins I. Hankins II continued to acquire nearby property in James City County including in l828 the Shellfield tract of 366 acres and its dwelling valued at $l00. Rather than relocate to any of his James City County holdings, tax records show that Hankins II continued to live at Cherry Hall and was taxed in James City County only for slaves and livestock at the Riverview site. The operation of Riverview farm was entrusted to his son, Albert W, Hankins in 1830, which status continued until the death of Hankins II in 1836 or 1837. Taxable holdings of Albert were modest until the year before his father’s death when they increased to six slaves over the age of 16, and two horses/asses/mules. The first written reference to Riverview by name appeared in the will of Hankins II of March 10, 1835. This will also bestowed the property to Albert. Albert married Zelica K. Whitaker in November of 1838.


While it is tempting to believe that the earliest section of the present: Riverview house was completed in the late 1830's because of its architectural treatment, the James City tax records suggest a later date. At the tine of his death William Hankins II had just replaced his Cherry Hall dwelling with a new stately brick mansion that still stands. At the Riverview tract, when the James City County tax assessor in 1820 began recording values for building improvements and until 1839, the assessed value was $250. In 1840 this increased to $300 which remained constant through 1847. This seems hardly enough for completing the original block of the gentry house although construction may have been underway for the new replacement dwelling.


After the assessor’s visit in 1850, the total value of Riverview improvements increased to $500 in spite of destruction by fire of the concurrently assessed nearby Shellfield improvements, then values at $100. Then, in 1850 the assessor recorded a dramatic increase in land to 1,045 acres and early three-fold increase in Riverview building improvements to $1,400, more appropriate for a 2 ½ story house. The customary practice at: the time was to attribute most of the value of improvements to the principal dwelling. By 1857 the assessed improvements by Albert W. Hankins increased further to $1,800, which included replacement of a tenant dwelling at nearby Shellfield. Thereafter and until the death of Hankins in 1865, no assessment changes are reported in acreage nor building improvements.


The 1850 census reveals that Albert Hankins and his wife Zelica were childless. Living with then were the nine-year old son of Hankins' sister and an overseer. Hankins was in possession of eighteen slaves, had 150 acres under cultivation and farm equipment valued at $225. The fair market value of Riverview was given as $10,000. The livestock was worth $950 and included six horses, two asses and mules, five milk cows, six working oxen, twenty other cattle, and thirty swine. The crops raised in 1885 included 400 bushels of wheat, 1,500 bushels of corn, 100 bushels of oats, twelve bushels of peas and beans, forty bushels of Irish potatoes, and thirty bushels of sweet potatoes. One or more members of the household produced $18 worth of homemade manufactures. An estimated $120 worth of animals had been slaughtered and an unknown number of sheep had produced forty pounds of wool. 


Albert W. Hankins, like his father and grandfather, obviously was a man of affluence. Near the end of the fifth decade of the nineteenth century, a map (Bache 1557-58) shows large cleared fields overlooking the river, the manor house situated within a fenced yard, two smaller flanking structures to the north and one to the south, and three others to the southwest. An orchard was located on the river side of the house, an area  hat still has contoured terraces. 


Confederate maps (Gilmer 1863) show by name both Albert Hankins and Riverview, and access roads at a location about midway between Ferry point to the south (south bank of Skimino Creek) and Moody's Wharf to the north.


By 1860 Albert Hankins suffered personal losses. His wife died in 1857, as did several slaves. He died on February 21, 1865. He does not seem to hew been a wartime casualty nor does it appear that his real property sustained damage during the war as judged by the constancy of assessed tax values. However, local legend reports that the top of the south chimney of the house was struck by union gunboat fire. In any case, the upper several feet of this chimney have been rebuilt; the condition is detectable in a 1910 photograph (to be described later) and can be seen today.


The property passed collaterally to Albert W. Hankins II and Mary Hankins. In 1885 they sold the 1,045_acre Riverview farm to Oscar House of Rockford, Michigan. The deed noted that the conveyed land embraced bath Riverview proper and the Shellfield tract, before fully paying for the property Oscar House died. In 1897 his widow, Mary E. House, and other heirs divided the farm into several lesser parcels. The 200 acres which included the Riverview domestic complex were sold to Christopher S. Moller, of Milan, Minnesota.


In 1906 Moller (conveyed his farm to Samuel Swenson of Mt. Vernon, New York, who resided at Riverview until 1913. Swenson was among the Norwegian immigrants who founded Our Savior's Lutheran Church in nearby Norge, Virginia. During his occupation the first farmers association in the Norge area held its initial meeting at Riverview. The earliest known photograph of Riverview house (1910) was taken of members of the Swenson family standing near the land side porch which then had a shed roof. The photo also shows a shed-roofed extension on the south end of the house and a south porch, both removed when the 1913-14 additions were made.


In 1913 Samuel and Annie Swenson sold the 200-acre Riverview farm to Louis C. Phillips, a lawyer from Newport News, Virginia. Phillips was the brother-in-law of John Garland Pollard, attorney general of Virginia from 1914_17. Pollard's family occupied part of the house and he added the north office-bedroom wing while Phillips contemporaneously added the south kitchen wing with servant’s room. At that time  Riverview continued as a working farm. The domestic complex included a small tenant house, necessaries, feed storage building, large and small barns, duck house, an electric generator, well, kitchen garden, and orchard on the river side terraces. The orchard contained apple, pear, plum, cherry and fig trees.


Phillips predeceased his wife, and in 1935 his remarried widow, Maude Gregory Phillips Lowery, sold the 200_acre farm to Boxley Vauqhan of Hanover County, Virginia, He retained the property until 1937 when it was sold to Herbert L. Bloomberg who subsequently purchased 133 additional acres of former Riverview land along the York River to the southeast.


In 1942 Bloomberg sold the enlarged farm to Harold G. and Frances H. McCartney. The McCartneys later purchased additional acreage but in 1943 were obliged to deed to the federal government the Shellfield portion for wartime purposes to establish Camp Peary, a Seabee training base. The property still operates as an armed forces training facility. The McCartneys improvements included a concrete block smoke house to the south and west of the house, a tenant house to the west of it (both still stand), and. a metal granary and open shed for storage of construction and agricultural equipment (both new gone).


To the house itself tire McCartneys added a central heating system, a guest bath compartment beneath the main stair, two ornamental windows adjacent to the landside entrance doorway, a transom light above this doorway, and replaced the west entrance porch shed roof with one of a gabled type, They also removed the original cellar stair but installed another from the kitchen, improved the kitchen, added a closed-in breakfast porch (removed in 1983), and improved existing bathrooms. Harold McCartney died in 1958 and his widow continued to live at Riverview until1961 when she sold 252 acres with the domestic complex to developers Magee and Goodrich. A successor development company called Riverview Plantation subsequently subdivided the property into home sites around Riverview manor house and established a property owners association called Riverview Plantation Club, Ltd. 


In 1982 the Plantation Club, Ltd., sold the manor house with two acres of land to Robert C, and Helen S. Cooney who began stabilization and renovation of the derelict house. The Cooneys employed Williamsburg architect G. Alan Morledge to assist. The principal work included structural repairs, new roofing, removal of the second floor bathroom (which intruded into both the stair passage and north bed chamber), removal of another intrusive bathroom on the third floor; they also added new bathroom and closet areas in each half-story end, new access passages from the adjacent bed chambers in the main block, a new bath and two mechanical equipment compartments on the third floor, replaced basement windows, renovated the two entrance porches, repaired brickwork and installed new mechanical equipment in the cellar. Subsequently the owner did general interior redecorating. in 1994 the Cooneys purchased the adjacent 3.457 acre parcel from the plantation Club, Ltd., increasing the size of their holdings to 5.457 acres. Now preserved are the 1850s main block of the house, the 1913_14 additions, portions of the1940s improvements, and the two surviving 1940s dependencies. Robert C. Cooney was deceased on May 21, 1994. The current owner is his widow, Helen S. Cooney.


G. Alan Morledge, AIA


Plantation House


ENDNOTES


1. To a large extent Section 8 is based on a research report prepared by Martha W. McCartney, The History of Riverview Plantation, James City County, Virginia. Williamsburg: 1991. Unpublished although a copy is filed in the Earl Gregg Swem Library, The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg. The writer owes a debt of gratitude to Ms. McCartney for liberal use of the report, especially portions dealing with Hankins family history and tax assessment records.


2. Augustine Herrmann, 1673 map. Virginia and Maryland. 1670. Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Richmond. Map indicates a dwelling in the general vicinity of the present site and another near the mouth of Skimino Creek.


3. A. Berthier, 1781 map. Untitled map of York and Gloucester, Virginia. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Research Archives, Williamsburg.


4, A. D, Bache, 1857_58 map. York River, Virginia, from Clay Bank to Mount Folly. Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Richmond.


5. J. F. Gilmer, 1863 map. Vicinity of Richmond and Part of the Peninsula. Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Richmond.


6. Photo of Riverview, about 1910. Published in Vilkomen Til Norge, compiled by Nancy Smith Bradshaw and Frances Huckstep Hamilton. Norge, Virginia: 1989. Shows Mr. and Mrs. Oney Swensen, their daughter, Lydia Tysson, and granddaughter, Mabel Tysson Smith, standing in front.


7. Charles P. Pollard, interview May 31, 1982, by G. Alan Morledge. Unpublished private papers, Williamsburg. Charles Pollard, son of John Garland Pollard, recounts boyhood experiences and observations about Riverview at the time that his father and uncle, Louis C. Phillips, then owner of Riverview, made additions to the house, Charles Pollard also supplied a plan depicting the domestic complex and fence lines during the 1913_18 period.


8. Frances H. McCartney, interview May 18, 1982, by G. Alan Morledge. Unpublished private papers, Williamsburg. Frances McCartney recounts chiefly the improvements and changes made to Riverview in the early 1940s. 

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