Major Fouchee Tebbs . . . built the fine mansion on the side of the hill which, after a long period of dilapidation, fell a victim to the great storm of 1933. . . .The front of the house, which was situated on a steep hill, was really three full stories high, though the first floor was treated as a basement and the principal floor lined with the grade in the rear. The house was five bays long but only two deep, and was coverd by a rather low hipped roof. At the break of the hip the chimneys, almost square shafts with moulded stone caps, occured. The facade was symmetrical with corner quoins, a stone belt course, and a fine modillioned wood cornice. There was an arched center door framed with cut-stone pilasters supporting a moulded archivolt....
Approaching the door was a long flight of stone steps which splayed out toward the bottom. Strangely enough, they were not provided with wrought-iron railings which, on account of the height of the steps, would seem indispensable. The whole basement wall was of coursed stonework, and the window openings were spanned by stone flat arches. The upper windows, which were graduated in height from the first to second story, were untrimmed except for stone flat arches with fluted keys. These, however, were employed only on the facade, brick flat arches being used on the other elevations. An unusual feature of the front wall was that . . . it was laid out in all-header bond, though Flemish bond was used elsewhere. Except for one or two minor structures [including the neighboring Old Hotel], there seem to be no other Virginia examples of all-header bond extant, though many may be seen in Maryland. . . . A feature of the exterior of the Tebbs house was the main cornice, which was well moulded and enriched with modillions. Except for this and some of the sash, with its narrow staff bead, there was no early exterior woodwork surviving [when it was photographed].
In plan, the house had a central stair hall with one large room on the left and two smaller on the right. This arrangement, with symmetrical chimneys on the roof, was managed by carrying the flues of the north or right-hand chimney at an angle to come out of the roof at the corect location. The stair ascended the right-hand wall and returned toward the front from a rear landing. This prevented access to the right rear second-floor room, to which there was a supplementary stair. The basement rooms were used also, probably for service and merchandise. If there were dependencies, no evidence of them remained.
The interior woodwork was distinguished, but had little carved ornament. All of it was removed before the time the house was seen by the writer, but much of it is preserved elsewhere. The great south room was the important one of the house, and this had a dado with pedestal-type base and chair rail. At the ceiling line was an excellent, fully-moulded cornice with a band of Wall of Troy dentils. There were two windows in each of the three outside walls, and between the two in the long south wall was a cupboard, the reveal of which was gained from the thick brick wall. This, as well as the windows, was set on the chair rail, and also like them was trimmed by a moulded architrave. There is remarkable similarity between these cupboard doors and those in the Blue Room at the Carlyle house in Alexandria. Each of the double doors has a single panel arched at the top. The mantel supports a full cornice-shelf. The overmantel panel also has crosettes and is supported by a carved frieze and pediment. This forms a conservative but handsome room of its type. It is interesting to observe that both the upper and lower halls had small, plaster, cove cornices with moulded cymatiums and neckings. Perhaps unique in Virginia was the framing of the great-room floor, which had girders running from north to south, with smaller perpendicular members above and below them. This was evidently a recognized structural form and is referred to in Peter Nicholson's Encyclopedia of Architecture, Vol 1, p. 77 as a "carcase" floor.
The floor plan of the Tebbs House. (Floor plan unattributed, probably by Thomas Tileston Waterman.)
The upper wall of the Tebbs House with bonding, quoins on corners, and stone trim over windows. (Photograph by Thomas Tileston Waterman.)
Doorway with cut stone pilasters and arch. (Photograph by Thomas Tileston Waterman.)
Basement wall, window arch, and water table at Tebbs House. (Photograph by Thomas Tileston Waterman.)
This text was first published in Thomas Tileston Waterman, The Mansions of Virginia: 1706-1776, Bonanza Books, New York, 1945, pp. 230 - 235.
Copyright © 2002-2007 Sarah E. Mitchell