Historic Downtown Walking Tour
The Historic Downtown Farmville Walking Tour is a self-guided walking tour of the Farmville Historic District. Spend a leisurely afternoon experiencing Farmville’s history and unique architecture.
1. Appomattox River Warehouses, Mill & First Streets
In January of 1898, a great fire destroyed all of the original early 19th century riverfront warehouses. The brick structures seen today were built in 1899. In 1837, Farmville was the fourth largest tobacco port in Virginia. Tobacco was stored in the warehouses until it could be shipped down the Appomattox River Canal to Petersburg on bateaux.
2. The Whitfield Building, 308 North Main Street
Constructed in the early 1860’s, this is the oldest storefront building still in its original form in Farmville. The building was designed from noted architect Asher Benjamin’s early 19th century books on architecture. Of interest is the Greek Key over the windows on the second floor.
3. The Davidson Building, 229 North Main Street
Recently restored to its original storefront, this building’s Beaux Arts style architecture and original pressed tin ceiling make it a unique example of 19th century architecture.
4. The Doyne Building, 144 North Main Street
Constructed in 1887, this building was the first mortuary in Farmville. The contrasting color of the brick provides an interesting display and represents the late 19th century use of brick building materials.
5. Farmville Baptist Church, 132 North Main Street
The Baptists’ first meeting house was erected in 1836 and is still standing at the intersection of Main and Fourth Streets (See Number 9, First Baptist Church). The Reverend William Moore organized the church on Nov. 25, 1836. The church was founded with 21 charter members, two of whom were Samuel and Phil White, who were freed black men. When the building became too small, a new church was constructed in 1855 at 132 North Main Street. The third building was constructed with a Sunday school building on the same site and was dedicated on Nov. 1, 1914. This structure was renovated and enlarged in 1960.
6. Prince Edward County Courthouse
Originally the courthouse for Prince Edward County was in the village of Worsham, five miles south. On Oct. 20, 1871, the cornerstone of the first Prince Edward County Courthouse in Farmville was laid. The first session of the court in Farmville was on March 26, 1872. When the building became inadequate for use as a courthouse, a new building was constructed on the same site in 1939. It represents the picturesque simplicity of early Colonial design.
7. Town Office Building, 116 North Main Street
Built in 1885, it was an Opera House until 1921 when it became the town fire station. In the late 1950’s it became the town office building.
8. First Baptist Church, Main & Fourth Streets
This church building was constructed in 1836 and originally housed the congregation of the Farmville Baptist Church (See Number 6). When the Farmville Baptist Church moved to 132 North Main Street, this building was sold and later housed The Southside Institute, a school for boys. One of its students was the noted physician, Walter Reed. In 1867, it was purchased by the congregation of the First Baptist Church. The church remains in excellent condition and serves as a reminder of the Civil War and the reconciliation of the South afterwards.
9. Beulah African Methodist Episcopal Church, 115 South Main Street
Soon after the smoke of the battles of the Civil War had cleared away and the cry of Freedom rang, 4,000,000 slaves were set free. In the minds of many there was a sincere prayer to God and thanksgiving for deliverance from the bonds of slavery. This religious experience, free from any supervisory presence, was in the thoughts of the founding fathers of this historical church. In 1868, a number of black members of the Farmville Methodist Church decided to establish a church connected with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The original frame building burned in 1900. The present brick structure was built in 1901.
10. Paulette-Gills House, 109 High Street
A small building was built on this site in 1842. That original building was enlarged in 1843 and again in 1858. A complete renovation of the house and a second floor were completed in 1871 by R.S. Paulette, a wealthy local tobacconist. The building later became property if his granddaughter, May Paulette, and her husband, Dr. William J. Gills, MD. Dr. Gills practiced medicine in the house. In September 1909 he purchased the building next door and opened the first Farmville Hospital. This first organizational meeting of the Farmville Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy was held here on March 19, 1896.
11. Confederate Monument, High and Randolph Streets
Plans to build a monument to honor Confederate heroes of the Civil War were started by the Prince Edward Memorial Association at a meeting in the Old Opera House in August 1895. This organization preceded the formation of the Farmville Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and consisted of Confederate Veterans and local county persons. The UDC Chapter formed in 1896 and took the lead in raising $3,000 to erect the monument, a large undertaking when land cost $2.50 an acre and an adequate size home cost only $1,500. The monument, designed and erected by Petersburg Marble Works, is made of Virginia gray granite, 19 feet in height. The bronze figure of the Confederate solider was cast by Gorham & Co. and is seven feet tall. The monument was dedicated on Oct. 11, 1990. The speaker was Farmville native, Professor William T. Thornton, Dean of Engineering at the University of Virginia, where the engineering building is named in his honor.
12. Farmville United Methodist Church, High Street
A group began meeting in a building on this site in 1832. In 1833, the property was conveyed for use by the Methodist Episcopal Church. The first church building was a small wooden structure. A brick church was built in 1839. Upon finding out that 400 pounds of beeswax were needed to make the mold for the medallion for the ceiling of the new church, Mrs. Pleasant Hubbard, a member of the congregation, personally traveled throughout the county and collected the needed beeswax. Encased in glass, this medallion is still on display in the church. In 1907, when the congregation grew too large for the church, it was torn down. The present brick building was completed in May 1908 and enlarged in 1953 and again in 1963. The stained glass windows are memorials to deceased members.
13. Longwood University, Ruffner Hall and The Rotunda, High Street
Longwood is a coeducational, comprehensive college with 4100 students and 100 majors, minors and concentrations. Longwood recently was named by a national guidebook as one of the best values in higher education. Longwood was founded as the Farmville Female Seminary in 1839 by a corporation of seven of Farmville’s leading citizens. Portions of the west wing of Ruffner Hall were constructed as early as the late 1850s. From this building, students watched in terror as the Confederate troops retreated to Appomattox. Soldiers stopped long enough to speak to sisters and friends, knowing they would soon be in the hands of the enemy. Two days after the war ended, General Grant returned to the Farmville area. Hearing of the students’ distress and of the dwindling supply of food available to them, he gave orders that assistance be given to any student who wished to return to their home. Ruffner Hall is distinguished by its Rotunda, built in 1905. The dome features portraits of four great educators whose philosophies contributed to Longwood’s founding: Thomas Jefferson; Horace Mann, father of public education; Dr. Jabez Lamar Curry, who drafted for the legislation for Longwood to become Virginia’s first Normal School for white female teachers in 1884; and Dr. William Henry Ruffner, Virginia’s first Superintendent of Public Instruction and the college’s first president after it become state-supported in 1884.
14. Johns Memorial Episcopal Church, 400 High Street
The church was named in honor of Right Reverend John Johns, D.D., Bishop of Virginia from March 14, 1862 until his death on April 6, 1876. The main part of the church building was constructed in 1882. The bell tower was later added and completed in 1900. In 1911, the church building was enlarged and extensive improvements were made to the structure.
15. Longwood University, Lancaster Building, High Street
Built in 1939, it is the only building in Farmville constructed under President Franklin Roosevelt’s Public Works Administration. This building served as the university’s library until 1991.
16. Reed-Elam House, 404 High Street
Constructed in 1853, this house was the first rectory for the Johns Memorial Episcopal Church. In September of 1888, Reverend L. S. Reed purchased the property. Reverend Reed was the father of Dr. Walter Reed, who was noted for his work on the cause and cure of the yellow fever. Mrs. Annie Reed Elam, half sister of Walter Reed, inherited the home from her father.
17. Beckham House, 504 High Street
This residence was built in 1907 for Dr. Paul W. Beckham, a local dentist, whose brother, Dr, Benjamin M. Beckham, founded Ferrum College. Dr. Paul Beckham was killed in an automobile accident on January 1, 1965, while delivering Christmas baskets to needy families. The house is presently the home of Captain Thomas M. Beckham, USA, Ret., the son of Dr. Paul W. Beckham.
18. Longwood Alumni House, 608 High Street
The Bed & Breakfast was originally built in 1880 and served as a private residence to Dr. Cunningham. Dr. Cunningham later served as President of the college (1887-1897), which at that time was called the Female State Normal School. The house was later purchase by the University for the president, Dr. Jarman, and served as the home of Longwood Presidents until 1969. In 1969, President Dr. Willet moved his family to the current presidential home, Longwood House. The house then became a work space for the Alumni Office and later transitioned into overnight accommodations for faculty/staff, alumni, parents, and friends of the university. Today it is known as the Longwood Bed & Breakfast open to the public to use and enjoy.
19. Cunningham-Bugg House, 700 High Street
It was the residence of Mrs. Fred Bugg, mother of Dr. Robert Bugg, who served as headmaster of St. Christopher’s School in Richmond.
20. Victorian Style Homes (further up High Street)
This area is a beautiful residential neighborhood. The Victorian-style homes were built during the late 19th century.
21. McKinney House, 408 Beech Street
Phillip W. McKinney purchased this property in 1877 and erected a house there by 1878. He was Governor of Virginia from 1890 to 1894.
22. Wade-McKinney House, 308 Beech Street
It was erected in 1843 and purchased in 1879 by Samuel V. McKinney, brother of Virginia Governor Phillip W. McKinney. In 1899, it was purchased by the Wade family who donated it to Historic Farmville, Inc., in 1987.
23. Jackson House, 304 Beech Street
It was here that General Robert E. Lee came on the morning of April 7 for a meeting with the Confederate Secretary of War John Cabell Breckinridge, Quartermaster General A. R. Lawson, and Commissary General I. M. St. John. Patrick Henry Jackson, a wealthy tobacconist and a staunch supporter of the Confederate States, built the first part of the house in 1837.
24. Thornton House, 309 Beech Street
The lot was purchased at auction April 21, 1836, by Mary T. Riddle, the first woman to purchase property in her own name in the town of Farmville. The house, built in 1756, was sold in 1839 to Colonel John T. Thornton, CSA. John and Martha Thornton had three sons: William M. Thornton was a Professor of Mathematics, Chairman of the Faculty, and Dean of Engineering at the University of Virginia; James R. Thornton was an honor graduate of Hampton-Sydney College and taught Mathematics there; and Harrison R. Thornton became a teacher and missionary to Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska (he was killed in 1863, the only missionary to Alaska slain by a native Alaskan. Colonel Thornton was killed in 1862 at the Battle of Sharpsburg, Md. General Lee paid a brief condolence visit to the widow and children of Colonel Thornton at their home on April 7, 1865.
25. Berkley-Hardy House, 303 Beech Street
Constructed in 1840, this house is the best example of federal style architecture in Farmville. William Randolph Berkley, an attorney, a Lt. Colonel in the Confederate States Army, and a trustee of Hampton-Sydney College, purchased the property in 1871. He and his brother, Robert R., were the grandsons of William Berkley, a Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Robert R. Berkley, an attorney and physician, was a Colonel on the staff of Governor William E. Cameron. Berkley later became the editor of the Farmville Journal and was the first editorial and news writer of the Farmville Herald. Dr. Thomas G. Hardy and his wife purchased the property at 1920 and improved and enlarged it. The house is now leased to Longwood University.
26. Farmville Presbyterian Church, Third Street
The original frame rectangular building was built in 1827-28, enlarged in 1847, and remodeled in 1859, when the steeple was added. Because lightening often struck the steeple, it was replaced with a less imposing tower in 1906-7. When the news came of President Lincoln’s death, the Commandant of the Union Army Post in Farmville requested and received permission to use the church for a memorial service the following day. Union soldiers attended the church during the period that Farmville was under Marshall Law after the war. Constructed in 1853, this house was the first rectory for the Johns Memorial Episcopal Church. In September of 1888, Reverend L. S. Reed purchased the property. Reverend Reed was the father of Dr. Walter Reed, who was noted for his work on the cause and cure of the yellow fever. Mrs. Annie Reed Elam, half sister of Walter Reed, inherited the home from her father.