The Village View mansion house at 221 Briggs St. has survived The War of 1812, the Civil War, and two world wars.
The historic building dates back to the 1790s but is the centerpiece of a 200-acre plantation founded in 1726, a half-century before the U.S. became an independent nation. The Village View Foundation is determined to save the historical site for future generations.
On Dec. 19, the completion of a vital preservation step forward happened when Billy Shelton of Shelton Seamless Gutters installed gutters on the mansion house. It is a needed step in preserving the structure’s 1837 appearance.
“We couldn’t put them up before because we were getting state money,” Village View Foundation President Steven Suessmann said. “They cut that out, so we were able to get some gutters up. That has helped tremendously in getting the water away from where it is causing rot.”
The rain gutters are one of several renovation projects in the last few years. Suessmann and Foundation Vice President Jerry Wozniak restored two basement doors that sustained rot damage. The doors were epoxy-repaired and are ready to be installed.
Near-future projects include replacing a pair of windows with rot damage and getting rid of mold in certain areas. Once the tasks get completed, the rain gutters will play a vital role in keeping rot damage and mold to a minimum. Suessmann said the gutters are already making a noticeable difference in protecting the structure.
While its age alone makes the Mansion House a historical place, it also gained a measure of historical notoriety during the Civil War. Confederate generals used its front parlor for a council on defending a strategically important railway.
The Petersburg and Weldon Railway was a primary supply line to the Confederate army in Petersburg and Richmond. Because of its importance, the Union army made an effort to destroy the line in Hicksford (now Emporia). The episode became known as the Hicksford Raid or the Apple Jack Raid.
On Dec. 7, 1864, Union general Gouverneur K. Warren, with 26,200 infantry and cavalrymen, moved from Petersburg to destroy the rail line, striking it below Stoney Creek. Confederate forces, led by Hampton, were organized to resist the advancing Union column. A decision was made to establish the main line of defense along the Meherrin River at the railroad crossing and around the villages of Belfield (north bank) and Hicksford (south bank).
Dec. 9, the Union cavalry appeared at Belfield and attempted to reach the railroad bridge at midday. It was stopped by the entrenched Confederate cavalrymen. These defenders burned the nearby wagon bridge to prevent the Union from crossing the river. Later that evening, Warren ended his attack.
About 16 miles of track were destroyed in the raid. This initially was a severe blow to General Robert E. Lee’s supply line. By early March 1865, the line was reopened as far as Stoney Creek, where supplies could be sent into Confederate lines by wagon.
In the late nineteenth century, rooms in the Mansion House and its dependencies served as a doctor’s office, dentistry, an apothecary, and an academy for boys.
The plantation grew from its original 200 acres in 1726 to its full 4,990 acres in the late 18th century. In 1986, the Mansion House and its remaining four acres of land were given to the community by its last private owner, Sidney Briggs.
“I’ve been giving tours,” Suessmann said. “We don’t charge anything, but we appreciate donations. People have been very generous when they’ve gone through.”
To schedule a tour at Village View, call Suessmann at 434-594-6810. If he doesn’t answer, leave a message.