Daniels Hill Historic District
The Daniel's Hill Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
The Daniel's Hill Historic District takes in the prow of a narrow, elongated hill bordered by the James River on the east and Blackwater Creek on the west. This hill has very steeply sloped sides and is located immediately to the northeast of the Lynchburg central business district which is clearly visible from many points of the district. Daniel's Hill is one of seven hills surrounding the original core of downtown which were built up as residential areas in the 19th century. The district incorporates some twenty-one blocks or fractions thereof, generally following a grid plan, in which are located approximately 180 buildings, virtually all houses. The architecture of the district ranges in date from the early 19th century through the early 20th century with few buildings dating from the last four decades. Styles range from the Federal to the Georgian Revival with a large quantity of urban vernacular dwellings. Stretched out along Cabell Street, the district's only thoroughfare, is a series of outstanding, architecturally sophisticated mansions mostly dating from the last half of the 19th century. The cross streets and the two parallel streets, Norwood and Hancock streets, generally contain late-19th- and early-20th-century vernacular dwellings built for housing workers for the factories at the bottom of the hill and the servants for the large houses on Cabell Street. The neighborhood is currently almost completely a working class one; most of the mansions are deteriorated and are either vacant or divided into rental units. Efforts towards the rehabilitation of the neighborhood are underway through both the city and the local redevelopment and housing authority. The district's principal architectural landmark is Point of Honor, a Federal plantation house at the southern end of the hill which had its property subdivided to make the neighborhood.
The Daniel's Hill Historic District takes in the spine of the south-facing prow of Daniel's Hill, a long ridge bordered by the James River on the east and Blackwater Creek on the west. The district includes all of the area that has been given historic district zoning by the city, as well as those properties on the east side of Norwood Street and properties at the foot of Cabell Street. The three buildings at the foot of Cabell Street are commercial buildings that have been included because they define the historic entrance to the hill and because two of them are significant early tobacco warehouses associated with an important facet of Lynchburg's 19th-century economy. Except for these properties, the district is almost wholly residential and is fairly tightly built up. The only large open spaces include the block on which is located Point of Honor, a large, Federal plantation house situated on a high point at the southern end of the district. Point of Honor (National Register, 1970) is the district's chief historic landmark, and it was its land that was subdivided to make the present neighborhood. The blocks immediately to the east and south of Point of Honor are clear of buildings as well and are included in the district as they protect important scenic views of and from the house. An excellent view of Point of Honor and indeed of most of Daniel's Hill can be seen from the bridge across the James River leading into the central business district.
Entering at the south tip of the district, at the foot of the hill, is Cabell Street (named after the original owners of Point of Honor), the district's only through street which ascends straight up the hill's spine at a steady grade. Lining Cabell Street is a series of architecturally outstanding mansions beginning with Point of Honor at the south end and extending to F Street two blocks before the northern end of the district. As on the other hills of Lynchburg, the Cabell Street mansions are unusually sophisticated and varied in style. Included among the most impressive on the west side of the street are the Italianate, Y-shaped Burkholder House (203 Cabell Street), the Queen Anne mansion at 211 Cabell Street, a large Greek Revival house at 315 Cabell Street, the Greek Revival Dabney-Scott-Adams House (405 Cabell Street), and the Eastlake-style house at 509 Cabell Street. On the east side of the street are Point of Honor at the southern end, the Picturesque-style Adams House (210 Cabell Street), the Queen Anne-style McWane House (214 Cabell Street), the Queen Anne McDaniel House (314 Cabell Street), the Villa-style Stephen Hurt House (314 Cabell Street), and the Italianate Watts House (440 Cabell Street). Another individual house of note is Rivermont, a large Greek Revival frame house north of F Street between Cabell and Norwood streets. Rivermont's property was carved from Point of Honor's and subsequently subdivided. The house is currently rental property and is in deteriorated condition. Cabell Street's remaining houses are pleasant but relatively unassuming mid-19th- to early-20th-century dwellings which provide visual links between the larger houses. One commercial property of interest on Cabell Street is a Georgian Revival store connected to a dwelling at the corner Cabell and F streets. The larger houses are set off by relatively spacious yards, some extending through the block. The only serious gaps on the street are a parking lot in the 400 block, next to the Dabney-Scott-Adams House, and a vacant lot at the southwest corner of Cabell and E streets.
The district generally follows a grid plan, is two and a half blocks wide and eight blocks long. Its border at the north end, at H Street, was chosen because virtually all the houses beyond that point are of only minor or no architectural interest even though the grid plan continues. In the district, some of the old, stone-paved sidewalks, as well as brick sidewalks, remain. The streets are not lined with trees but the large trees in many of the front yards overhang the streets, particularly Cabell Street, and give the district a leafy appearance. A number of the yards are enclosed with handsome iron fences. The decorative cast-iron fence of the Dabney-Scott-Adams House is a particularly fine example.
Norwood Street presents a marked contrast to Cabell Street but has a valid character all its own. Instead of mansions in spacious yards, it is lined with small, tightly spaced houses, mostly of frame, and in a late-19th-century-urban vernacular style. The majority have simple, modified Eastlake front porches of one story. The only break on Norwood is the modern community recreational center in the 300 block in the rear of the Stephen Hurt House noted above.
Hancock Street parallels Cabell Street on the west and has virtually no buildings on its east side except for some minor vernacular houses at the north end. The district does not take in the west side of the street since the scattering of houses lining it are of little interest. Each of the side streets, B, C, D, E, F, and G, has a handful of vernacular dwellings, also mostly of frame construction with one-story front porches. A row of more of these houses stands on the north side of Stonewall Street, between Cabell and B streets, and forms the southeast border of the district. Virtually all of these dwellings, modest though they are, contribute to the character of the Daniel's Hill Historic District which consists of an interesting intermingling of very elaborate with very unassuming residential architecture, one type setting off the other and forming a dramatic contrast.
The district is at present in a relatively poor state economically. Most of the vernacular houses are occupied, as they have always been, by working-class families; however, one out of every two of the houses in this category is maintained in good condition. The mansions on Cabell Street, except for Point of Honor, are a different case. Virtually all are deteriorated and some of the most important ones are unoccupied. The rest, with two or three exceptions, are divided up into rental units and are not well maintained. No patterns of racial occupation appear to exist at present, (blacks and whites are intermingled) although most of Norwood Street is black. The district seems to have halted its decline in the past few years, especially since it and much of the rest of the Daniel's Hill neighborhood have been designated a conservation area by the local redevelopment and housing authority. A few houses have been acquired by the authority to prevent demolition and others have actually been rehabilitated. The authority has undertaken some spot demolition of insignificant or hopelessly deteriorated houses but the demolitions thus far have not significantly damaged the overall integrity of the district. Further protection of the district has come with the establishment of historic district zoning by the city. Public interest has been drawn to Daniel's Hill since the completion of a very thorough restoration of Point of Honor by the city to serve as a house museum. A local preservation foundation has also undertaken the rehabilitation of the Dabney-Scott-Adams House.
Statement Of Significance
This downtown residential neighborhood, prominently sited along a steep hill between Lynchburg's central business district and the James River, is distinguished by a rich variety of architectural styles and housing types dating from the early 19th century through the early 20th century. Concentrated building activity began in the 1840s following the subdivision of the plantation established in the late 18th century by Dr. George Cabell whose famous Federal mansion, Point of Honor, forms the focal point of the district. The district's only thoroughfare, Cabell Street, is lined with an impressive progression of mid- and late-19th-century mansions, all excellent examples of their respective styles and most associated with prominent local families. Providing an interesting contrast to these architecturally sophisticated buildings and adding to the district's variety is a large quantity of vernacular workers' houses scattered along the streets adjacent to Cabell Street. Most of these simpler dwellings were erected around the turn of the century to accommodate laborers in the factories lining the James below the hill. The district has suffered some demolition in recent years but has acquired virtually no modern intrusions over its past half century of decline. Daniel's Hill, along with similar neighborhoods atop the hills of downtown Lynchburg, has become the target of preservation activity in the past decade and is now protected with local historic zoning.
The neighborhood known as Daniel's Hill was originally part of a 900-acre tract owned by Dr. George Cabell in the 18th century. The manor house for this sizable plantation was Point of Honor (National Register, 1970) which still stands at the southern end of the district. The large tract passed to Dr. George Cabell's son, William Lewis Cabell, and in the 1830s came into the ownership of William Cabell's father-in-law, William Daniel. William Daniel, a prominent Lynchburg judge, died in 1839 and the property was inherited by his son, William Daniel, Jr. It was not until the mid-1840s that William Daniel advertised in the Lynchburg Virginian to subdivide part of the large estate. "The tract admits of being divided into three or four tracts...the place will be sold entire or in two or more tracts or it will be divided into small parcels or lots.. ." By the 1850s, the area began to acquire a more suburban appearance. The main road leading through the area became known as Cabell Street and today remains the main artery for the Daniel's Hill neighborhood.
Among the houses constructed in the 1850s was the Dabney-Scott-Adams House, built by Albert Gallatin Dabney in 1852-53. The stately Greek Revival mansion at 405 Cabell Street stands on land purchased by Dabney from Daniel in 1848. It later was known as "Dabney's Folly" since the builder overextended himself financially and was forced to sell it in 1856. The fence around the property was probably cast in Albert Dabney's nearby foundry. Later enlargements and alterations are credited to the Adams family who purchased the property in 1882.
Another historically as well as architecturally significant house on Daniel's Hill is Rivermont, a Greek Revival mansion, ca. 1857, built by Judge William Daniel, Jr. at the time of his second marriage to Elizabeth Cabell. It stands on a block bounded by Norwood, Cabell, F and G streets. Elizabeth Cabell has been credited with naming the property, so called because of its elevated site overlooking the James River valley. A valuable drawing of Rivermont done in 1857 by Alfred B. Peticolas shows the pre-eminence of the house. In 1873, Rivermont was purchased by Edward S. Hutter, a civil engineer, who parceled and sold lots in the area northeast of the house for worker housing, calling it Danielstown. Mr. Hutter was also an organizer of the Rivermont Company, one of the boom land development companies of the 1890s in Lynchburg. The Rivermont Park area to the northwest of Daniel's Hill was named for the mansion.
With the exception of the Edward R. Maps House at 218 Cabell Street which was built in 1867, the next substantial building period on Daniel's Hill came in the 1870s. Christ Church, sponsored by Grace Episcopal Church, was erected in 1876 at 217 Cabell Street. This small brick building was sold in 1900 and with the addition of a two-story facade was converted into a neighborhood grocery store. A small brick chapel which became the Third Presbyterian Church located at Cabell and D streets was built in 1875; the First Christian Church has its modest beginnings in the home of Mr. and Mrs. John C. Roberts at 305 Cabell Street in 1874. A number of stylish houses also were built on Daniel's Hill during this period. Of particular interest is the Robert Calhoun Burkholder House (1875), a Y-shaped building designed by the owner, a prominent local architect, at 203 Cabell Street. Daniel's Hill had been included in a large expansion of Lynchburg approved by the Virginia General Assembly in 1870. Gray's New Map of Lynchburg dated 1877 shows the houses on Daniel's Hill concentrated along Cabell Street. Daniel's Hill property owners met in that year to approve new names for the streets in their neighborhood. A new bridge was erected across Blackwater Creek, which improved access to Daniel's Hill from the older part of the city. The Lynchburg News of June 29, 1875 applauded the activity of the neighborhood:
Buildings are going up in every direction on Daniel's Hill. The handsome residence of I. Holcombe Adams is now receiving the finishing touches of the workmen ...On top of the hill just above Mr. Hurt's, the foundation is being dug out for a splendid residence of brick already contracted for by Colonel Thomas Watts. These two handsome houses, together with many other of less pretensions exhibit a spirit of improvement in this part of the city most gratifying in these dull times.
While few outstanding houses were constructed on Daniel's Hill in the 1880s, many of the more modest dwellings for laborers and workmen along Wither (now Norwood), Stonewall, and Hancock streets date from this period. The Lynchburg Directory of 1887-88 indicates that most of the residents on Hancock Street were black laborers. Along the cross streets, Norwood and Stonewall, most residents were white and worked as carpenters, clerks, printers, policemen, mail agents, or rail workers. Cabell Street remained the address of managers, accountants, and professionals. At the south end of Cabell Street stood the Lynchburg Tobacco Works and a tin and sheet iron factory employing many of the neighborhood residents.
One of the area's most interesting and best documented houses dating from the 1890s is the Queen Anne residence of Henry Edward McWane designed by local architect Carrington Hubbard at 214 Cabell Street. President of Glamorgan Factory Ironworks, Mr. McWane was typical of many successful Lynchburg entrepreneurs of the 1890s, having grown up in southwest Virginia where he learned iron foundry work and then moved on to the city to pursue a successful career as an industrialist. His house displays various types of exterior wood detailing, including German siding and wooden shingles.
By the 1920s, the houses on Daniel's Hill had few vacancies. Cabell Street continued to be the home of the more wealthy managers and professionals while the houses on Hancock Street, Withers (Norwood) Street, lettered streets and Stonewall Street sheltered a more modest society, both black and white. Commercial buildings remained few, the city directories showing only a pharmacy and several grocery stores.
With the decline of the central city following World War II, many of the houses on Daniel's Hill deteriorated, although they still provided housing for lower-middle-income working families. Efforts for rehabilitation have been spurred by both local preservation group surveys and the formulation of a master plan for the city which envisions the area as a major target for restoration activity. Much of the credit for such efforts goes to the HUD-sponsored Daniel's Hill Community Development Project. Rather than choosing the option of massive demolition and investment in the construction of new housing, the city of Lynchburg has slated Daniel's Hill for preservation through the rehabilitation of existing structures. Daniel's Hill is expected to continue to provide housing for mixed economic classes as it has done throughout its long and venerable history.
Major Bibliographical Reference
Chataigne's Lynchburg City Directory, 1920. J.H. Chataigne Publisher and Compiler, 1920. "Gray's New Map of Lynchburg," Philadelphia: W.O. Gray and Son, 1877.
† Staff, Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission, Daniel's Hill Historic District, Lynchburg VA, nomination document, 1982, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.