Category Archives: Classic Old Houses

The Mitchell House in Bedford County, aka “Oakland”

I have driven by this stately old home near Bedford countless times over the past several decades and always found it fascinating.  It’s probably the oldest house along Rt. 460 between Lynchburg and Roanoke, and back in the 1980’s, I would frequently see its apparent lone occupant sitting on the side porch.   After many years, I never saw the old man again, and it soon became obvious that the house was abandoned.

The Mitchell House in 2004 in a drive-by photo…

In November of 2012, I finally paid a visit to the house and shot several photos, including of the family cemetery around back.  I also at the time learned through Facebook friend and local history “detective” W. Scott Smith that this house was built in 1826 by Dr. Thomas Mitchell.   It turns out that the old man on the side porch was Dr Mitchell’s descendant, a Mr. Grayson Mitchell, who passed away in 1994, and whose grave is among those in the family cemetery.  Dr. Mitchell and his wife Ann are also buried in the cemetery.  Ann’s small gravestone is still legible, but only Dr. Mitchell’s first name (Thomas) is visible on his stone.    (Correction 1/9/15:   The Thomas and Ann Mitchell buried in the family cemetery on the property are actually children of Dr. Thomas Mitchell’s son John Saunders Mitchell)

Dr. Mitchell’s office also sat on the property, in a small building along the roadside in the right corner of the front yard, which has now collapsed.    Demolished structures included a separate kitchen, slave/servant quarters, an ice house and a stable.  A small smokehouse still stands in the back yard.

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From a DHR submission (which also cites Bedford Villages Lost and Found, Vol. I):
Oakland was built in 1826 by Dr. Thomas Mitchell for his bride, Ann Dandridge Saunders, daughter of Col. David Saunders of ‘Pleasant Grove’.  The doctors’ office was a small one-story, one-room, side-gable frame building with beaded weatherboarding, brick foundation, and brick exterior end chimney. It stood in the ‘right corner of the front yard’.Dr. Mitchell received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania and began practice in 1820. His son, John Saunders Mitchell also became a physician, graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1852, and father and son practiced medicine during the Civil War. “Mrs. Mitchell had the most beautiful flower garden in Bedford County.” … Reportedly, all brick used in the construction of the house and buildings was made on the place.”

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roof of former doctor’s office (foreground) in the front yard
family cemetery
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grave of John Saunders Mitchell, son of the original owner of the house, and who also became a doctor

In 1974, the house lost a considerable amount of its front yard with the 4-lane expansion of Rt. 460.

view of the house from across Rt. 460

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Sadly, the historic home was destroyed by fire on New Year’s Eve of 2012, and it sits in ruins along the highway today.

The Mitchell House burns on December 31, 2012 (news media photo)
The Mitchell House burns on December 31, 2012 (news media photo)
post-fire view of central wreath and circle on ceiling of east room on main floor
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The Mitchell House in ruins, post-fire (Jan. 4, 2013):

UPDATE:   The remains of the Mitchell House were razed today, January 14, 2015.

the one that started it all…

After having passed by this eerie abandoned house for many years, I paid a visit to the location one afternoon in March of 2008 with camera in hand and shot several photos, not realizing that such outings would become a habit for me, and that five years later, I would launch a page devoted to abandoned structures in Virginia…a page that would immediately go viral (see below)…

The Tyler House on the former Duckbill Farm in Madison Heights, Virginia

Built circa 1826, and sold to the Tyler family in the mid-1880’s.   Descendants of the Tylers owned the house and its surrounding 250 acres for generations, until at least the 1960s.   (info from the Amherst New Era Progress).

Abandoned in Virginia on Facebook was launched on March 3, 2014, and the page took off like wildfire.  Two days later, WNBC in Richmond posted this story:

http://www.nbc12.com/story/24895052/abandoned-in-virginia-facebook-page-goes-viral

Since its launch, thousands have posted their own photos to the page, which now has over 126,000 Likes.   Here on this blog and as time permits, I will feature some of my best personal photos posted on the Facebook page, and perhaps some of the best photos contributed by others.

Below are more photos of the house that “started it all”…the Tyler House:

The Tyler House on the former Duckbill Farm in Madison Heights, Virginia

“Was a beautiful place at one time. Went in it for yrs. Mr Steven Tyler lived there, started in 1825 finish 1828. The English boxwoods came from England. It once was known as Duckbill Plantation, land was pat.by Chas Clark 1761, 1804- to Mundy, house built by James Lampkin , several owners last was Mrs Slaughter to Tyler’s . 250’s acres . Named Duckbill because of the creek behind the house. Tyler’s one room school house was where Dollar store is [today], another 2 room school was on the right of the house w/ a slate roof, a slave house back of the main house, even a early kitchen in basement old fireplace and a dumbwaiter.”  – from Facebook user “Tad Pole”

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The Tyler House in December, 2011, following the collapse of the double front porch
retaining wall for the Dollar General Store, which now blocks the view of the Tyler House from Rt. 29 Business through Madison Heights