The Anne Chatham house is just what you’d expect from an interior designer, a renowned gardener, a world traveler and the daughter of a wealthy statesman.
Now having been donated to the Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) Foundation, the custom-built house should impress guests — and its upkeep should provide practical experience for PHCC students.
Its owner, Anne Bassett Stanley Chatham, was the daughter of Thomas Stanley, the founder of Stanley Furniture and a governor of Virginia in the 1950s. Chatham’s house is in an area of Stanleytown known as Stoneleigh Estate, near what was her parents’ mansion, Stoneleigh.
Anne Chatham and her husband moved to California in 1962, where he opened a chain of Holiday Inns, Bassett Historical Center Director Pat Ross said. Her husband died in the 1980s, her granddaughter, Pokey Bolton said.
Anne Chatham started building the house in Stanleytown in 1991, Ross said. The house reflects her love of decorating and flowers, Ross said.
Chatham was an interior decorator and designer. She also was a Master Gardener and a member of The Garden Club of Virginia and the National Federation of Garden Clubs.
She lived in Stanleytown during warm weather and in Florida during cold weather, until health conditions kept her in Florida for the past few years, Ross added. Chatham died in 2013.
PHCC Vice President for Institutional Advancement Chris Parker said the house is 8,750 square feet.
Each room and hallway features unique light fixtures, fabric valances, curtains with fringe or trim, plantation shutters, elaborate moulding, wallcoverings and custom-made rugs. Floral themes dominate throughout.
Colors are in soothing, cheerful shades. Yellows, peaches and greens highlight the foyer, living room and dining room. Other color schemes are carried out in other rooms.
The house is full of special features. The living room fireplace is surrounded by dark green marble and a mantle with intricate carvings.
Glass shelves in two window bays upstairs provide display space. They were used to show one of the sets of miniature Stanley furniture which matched the set Gov. Stanley gave the Queen Mother when she visited Virginia.
The living room only will be used for hosting events, Parker said. A Steinway piano will arrive in another month or two to be placed there.
A garden room provides a transition from the living room to the elaborate back gardens, which are connected and defined by brick walkways.
The garden room can be an outdoor or indoor room. The living room, entry hall and library doors which lead to it are exterior doors. They can be shut, and the sunroom’s six double doors opened, to use the sunroom as a covered outdoor patio.
Anne Chatham’s interest in gardening is reflected in her master bedroom suite. The suite goes out directly to the garden — through a utility room with a utility sink and plenty of cabinets for gardening and floral supplies. It also leads to the greenhouse, which is against the bedroom wall.
The master bedroom has a private view of a small rose garden surrounded by brick walls. The fabrics in the room are covered in a floral design.
The bedroom is just the beginning of the master suite. It leads to a walk-through closet which is bigger than most standard bedrooms. It has three walls of rods for hanging clothes and a center area of cabinets and shelves.
The cavernous bathroom is made of passages through a vanity area, bathing area and sink area.
A main hallway is like a museum gallery of 8-by-10 framed photographs showing highlights of an amazing life. They include Chatham’s and her father’s meetings with dignitaries, including presidents and the Queen Mother; Chatham at locations throughout the world; and her gardens and homes.
The kitchens are as utilitarian as the living and entertaining quarters are luxurious. The kitchens actually are a complex of three adjoining rooms: the main kitchen, with catering-sized appliances; a serving kitchen, with cabinets and countertops along all walls; and a bar, similar to a galley kitchen with cabinets, counterspace, a stove, a sink and a refrigerator.
The bar adjoins the hallway; a countertop can be lifted for entry or down for serving drinks and food.
A 12-foot deep safe has shelves lining three of its cinderblock walls. An office has space for two work areas, one for the house manager and the other for the groundskeeper. It includes a kitchenette and a full bath.
The second floor can be reached by one of two staircases. The second floor can be divided into two separate living areas. One has a kitchenette and sitting room. A children’s playroom, with a bathroom with child-sized fixtures, connects the two halves.
Five bedrooms are upstairs, as well as an attic storage area. The house has 10 bathrooms, six upstairs.
“It’s a gorgeous home and property, but it’s also a very functional property,” said PHCC President Angeline Godwin. “It’s clear that Mrs. Chatham put a lot of thought into the design of the house,” particularly with entertaining and gardening in mind.
PHCC plans to “use it in three major ways,” Godwin said. They are to entertain guests and donors; to provide overnight accommodations when appropriate; and to provide “practical laboratory space” for some of the college’s programs, such as HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), horticulture and culinary arts.
Pending final approval, Godwin and her husband will have about 2,000 square feet as private living quarters, she said. That encompasses the bar area off the main kitchen, the master bedroom suite, the library and the office.
“I’ve lived in a public house before” in Kentucky, Godwin said. “It’s really important that the public part of the house be ready in a moment’s notice, or no notice at all.”
She said the couple would move some of their furniture into the public areas of the house.
Currently, the Godwins live in a house on Mulberry Road which the PHCC Foundation rents, Parker said.
Gowdin said she and the college appreciate “the complete graciousness on the part of the Chatham family.” Though they live in other states, “they feel very much a part of the community. They have watched the college from afar” and consider donating the house a good investment.