After being built, Prestwould Plantation sat high on a hill on the eastern bank of the Roanoke River. The house was the home of Sir Peyton Skipwith and his family. The legacy of documentation left by the early Skipwiths is said to be the most complete and extensive of any non-political family in Colonial or Federal America. Invoices and bills show Prestwould to have been three-fourths completed in 1794 and the family to be living in the home by 1797.
Prestwould was one of the largest and most complex gentry houses built during its time when it was completed in 1795. The seven bay mansion is 68 feet by 52 feet with an English basement. The interior of the manor has large rooms, mostly furnished with Skipwith heirlooms. Some rooms still have original wallpaper that Lady Jean, Sir Peyton's second wife, ordered from England. The cellar has an eight foot ceiling, the first floor a twelve foot ceiling and there is a ten foot ceiling on the second floor. Each room has a fireplace built by local people. The interior woods are pine and oak.
Tradition has it, though, that Sir Peyton skipwith won the land in which Prestwould was built off of William Byrd III in a marathon poker game.
A house such as Prestwould was not easy to build in the late 1700s. Stone and wood were abundant, but hardware, paint, wallpaper, and rugs had to be ordered from England. The lime-sandstone used to build the house was quarried from the plantation. Other original buildings included a gazebo, a plantation business office, and loom house, slave house, a meat house, and a spring house.
A foundation was formed which bought the house and set about restoring it to what it was in the late 1700s. Many of the original furnishings were donated by their current owners and many of the interior items, such as paintings and mirrors, are on loan from area museums. Many of the outbuildings have been restored, and the massive garden is still in the process of being restored.
The house is open for tours May through October and is the site for festivals and weddings. Prestwould is located two miles north of Clarksville on US15 in south-central Virginia.
Click here to see more recent summer views of Prestwould and the grounds and outbuildings.
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