Three grand Stanleytown estates opened their doors Wednesday for the Garden Club of Virginia’s Historic Garden Week tour.
A total of 497 people took part in the tour.
One of the estates on the tour was Stoneleigh, which was purchased by Tonya and Sanders Cockman Sr. of Greensboro, N.C., and is used to host events. It was the home of former Virginia Gov. and Stanley Furniture founder Thomas Stanley.
Dudley Parcell and Kenny Edmonds of Bassett just wanted to see Stoneleigh, they said. Parcell said he had been there in 1983 for a fundraiser for Ferrum College.
The area has “long been my favorite neighborhood,” he said.
“It is THE place,” Edmonds added.
“You feel like you’re going back in time when you step inside” Stoneleigh, Edmonds said.
“It’s a landmark for us up here,” Parcell added.
Pat Christenbury, a new member of the Garden Study Club, was a hostess in the garden dining room at Stoneleigh. It was her first tour as a hostess, she said. Her husband, Dwight, was the pastor at First Presbyterian Church for 16 years. The couple moved away in 2000 but returned to live in King’s Grant two years ago.
“The people have been just marvelous, real troopers considering the weather. We thought the weather would be just awful, but it’s been wonderful,” she said.
Severe rain had been forecast for Wednesday, but the area saw only some sprinkles.
Christenbury added that it was a pleasure to hear a piano being played all day in the next room.
The formal gardens behind the house feature mature boxwoods that define the shapes, brick walkways and white flowers. The design of the flowers was done by Chip Calloway and Witherspoon Rose of Durham, N.C.
Across the road, Garden Study Club member Sally Jordan was taking tickets at Edgewood Manor. “The flow (of visitors) has been wonderful because of the buses,” which brought people from their parking spots to the houses, she said.
The Georgian Revival house is owned by Dr. J. Edward Eller Jr. It was completed in 1966. A wing was added by Mr. and Mrs. William Bassett Morten in the 1990s.
“It’s just a lovely home,” said Martinsville Garden Club member Helen Carter, citing the “beautiful antiques and details in every room. Everybody has really enjoyed the house, and the comments have just been continuous.”
Joan Montgomery was a hostess at Edgewood, the third home on the tour and the home of Sam and Carolyn Davis. Montgomery said she had seen “a really great turnout.”
In each house, a hostess from the garden clubs told stories and described details in her section of the house. Montgomery’s post was in Edgewood’s formal living room. She said the stories behind each object were just as interesting as the house and furniture.
She pointed to a black-and-white photograph of a beautiful young woman. The woman was Sam Davis’ aunt, who died of polio in 1942 at age 21. Montgomery said being told about the photograph prompted many visitors to talk about their memories of polio, and several interesting conversations developed.
“Another point of interest,” Montgomery said, pointing out the window to a formal rectangular garden, “is where they filled in the swimming pool.”
Meanwhile, past the foyer and outside, Susan Pilson of the Martinsville Garden Club cheerfully herded guests toward the front walkway where she was standing, looking at the front door.
“Come ahead, ladies!” she said. “I have a wonderful story to tell you.”
She was preparing to talk about a crest above the front door that came from the headboard of Walter Reed’s father’s bed. The man was in the family of Mrs. Leslie Faudree. She and her husband did extensive, historically correct renovations on the house in 1951-53.
“We are extremely grateful to the homeowners for opening their homes” for the tour, chairman Judy Epperly said. “They’ve been so gracious.”
The tour is put on by the Garden Study Club and Martinsville Garden Club, member clubs of the Garden Club of Virginia. Historic Garden Week is observed across the state.
Proceeds from the tours pay for the Garden Club of Virginia’s renovations of historic gardens across the state.
Garden Club of Virginia Director of Development Karmen Gustin said she is spending the week seeing the Historic Garden Week tours in seven cities across the commonwealth.
“The arrangements are world class, really stunning,” she added, “and the flowers are from the ladies’ (in the garden clubs) gardens.”
In Edgewood Manor, two massive floral arrangements commanded attention in the oval foyer. One was made by Susan Critz and the other by Becky Farrar.
Both had Scotch broom spraying above yellow and purple tulips, dark pink roses, light pink tree peonies, snowballs, American boxwood and Dutch iris. One arrangement adorned a table, and the other sat on the grand piano.