VAGenWeb Lunenburg Co., VA

Page updated April 17, 2008

JoLee Gregory Spears

Return to the VAGenWeb Lunenburg Old Homes Page


Oak Ridge Plantation
Click on image to enlarge


Information furnished to The Lunenburg County Historical Society 
by Lynn and Sandra Vaughan of Green Bay, VA
The land on which this splendid brick plantation house stands was first owned 
by John Knight, who received the land patent to the property from King 
Charles II in 1742 in exchange for forty shillings. John Knight's son, 
Tarleton Knight, began construction of this fine home in 1830; work was 
completed by 1835. The current owners are Tarleton Knight's great-great-
great-great grandson, Lynn J. Vaughan, and his wife, Sandra Smithson Vaughan. 
Both are natives of the area who take great pride in the restoration of this 
ancestral home, which is one of the finest examples of period architecture in 
Lunenburg County. 
Mr. and Mrs. Vaughan began restoration of the house in 1983 and updated the 
home by adding a modern kitchen, a family room with full basement underneath, 
bathrooms, and back porches. In the process of restoring the house, they also 
rebuilt what is the third front porch to grace the home, using columns 
salvaged from the Longwood College Colonnade. No one knows what the original 
porch was like, although speculation is that it probably had an A-roof and 
was smaller than the current porch, perhaps no wider than the front doors.
The double front doors, which open into the magnificent entry hall with its 
lovely staircase, provide an interesting feature of the house. They are 
crowned by the original fanlight and are secured from the inside by a 
substantial bar. The entry fanlight, along with the oversized windows of the 
house, allow wonderful light to enter the high-ceilinged and airy rooms. The 
numerous large windows contain at least 90 percent of the original glass. 
Each of the rooms in the original structure has a fireplace which provides a 
focal point and adds additional charm.
The construction of the house is substantial. Oak Ridge is built on a two-
foot thick foundation. The remarkable brickwork, which includes English, 
Flemish, and common bond, features painted mortar joints which further 
highlight the beauty of the masonry. A protruding course of brickwork near 
the base of the house was designed to direct water away from the foundation, 
an architectural element that appears in many fine homes of the colonial and 
early national period. The solid construction of the house's foundation is 
verified by the presence of a 10"-diameter oak stump still clad in its bark 
which was found underneath the house during the recent renovation work. The 
stump had been perfectly preserved from the time that the original foundation 
was laid in 1830. The first roof on the house was probably constructed of 
wooden shingles. The present tin roof dates from 1899-1900 and is in 
excellent condition. The wide overhanging eves of the house make gutters and 
drains unnecessary. 
All of the bricks used in the construction of the house were made on the 
plantation of strong Lunenburg clay. Interior as well as exterior walls are 
of brick which make the house very solid. The exterior bricks were baked 
longer to make them impervious to the elements over the years, while the 
unexposed bricks for the interior walls did not have to be baked as long. 
At least 95 percent of the interior walls have their original plaster. When 
the Vaughans began their work on the house, the walls had not been painted, 
having been coated only with whitewash. Woodwork in the hall and parlor had 
had only two coats of paint in the 160-year history of the house. The current 
owners made the outstanding choices of paint colors for the walls which 
provide a beautiful contrast for the white woodwork. 
Family tradition says that the original woodwork in the house was imported 
from England. All doors and windows have bulls eye corner decorations which 
are hand carved. Most of these are original to the house, while those 
necessitated by the new construction or by replacement either were carved by 
local craftsman and furniture maker, Mr. Roy Underwood, or were made in North 
Carolina. Where necessary, window moldings were reproduced by Ruffin and 
Payne to match the original ones. Original floors are of six-inch wide heart 
of pine. Timbers used in the construction of the house were cut on the 
plantation.
The first kitchen for the original house would have been outside for safety 
reasons. In more recent years, previous dwellers had moved the kitchen inside 
to occupy the room where the Vaughans have located the present dining room, 
which is conveniently adjacent to the gracious modern kitchen which they 
added. The pantry still retains the fragrances of hams and foods previously 
kept there.
Three of the original dependencies can still be located on the property. The 
site of an old ice house is discernable. Another of the dependencies is a 
smoke house. The studs in the smokehouse are closely set at one foot apart to 
prevent intruders from tearing off the weatherboarding and stealing the meat! 
The purpose of another dependency is uncertain, perhaps slave quarters. 
Landscaping around the back of the house has been done with large field 
stones which were originally a part of the foundation of an older structure 
on the property. The wedge marks for the separation and shaping of these 
stones are still visible.
A family cemetery located on the property to the east of the house is the 
resting place of numerous Knights and their Vaughan descendants. Family 
tradition says that the home of the original landowner, John Knight, was 
located near this cemetery, while Tarleton Knight's first house, which was 
constructed earlier than his plantation house which stands today, was located 
on the opposite side of the property. Speculation is that some of the timber 
in the outbuildings was from the first Tarleton Knight home because 
preservationists have dated some of the bearded weatherboarding used in their 
construction as predating the 1830s house.
The house contains many interesting pieces of furniture and decorative 
accents. Among the notable furnishings are two antique piano-fortes from an 
earlier era. The Vaughans have tastefully decorated the house with many of 
their own family pieces and interesting items of memorabilia.
Over the years, many family members and guests have traveled to the beautiful 
brick home situated at the end of a secluded drive protected by large oaks 
for which the plantation was named by the original builder, Tarleton Knight. 
Oak Ridge Plantation, still a working farm today, has been the site of many 
happy times and family celebrations. Among them were the recent weddings of 
the Vaughans' two daughters which took place on the front lawn with the 
plantation house and rolling tobacco fields as backdrops. Thanks to this 
family's preservation efforts, this substantial home promises to be enjoyed 
for generations to come.
— Lunenburg Historical Society

 

 

See related wills and will abstracts:

Will of John Knight naming son Woodson and others.

Will of Woodson Knight naming Tarlton W. Knight and others