The Quest for Enon Hall

The Old House Web

Enon Hall
Enon Hall, welcoming Hathaways once again.

Bill Chapman first glimpsed the ancestral family home, Enon Hall, in Lancaster County, Virginia, when he was seven years old.

Ever since, he's dreamed of returning to family hands the property deeded to William Hathaway I in 1666.

Bill inquiring about buying Enon Hall over the years. His smoldering desire to purchase the ancestral home was flamed in 1993, with the birth of his son, William Hathaway Chapman, Jr.

Finally in 1996, Bill got word that the current owner, a very elderly Mr. Russell Hayden, would talk to him.

Thus began two and a half years of starts and stops that finally culminated in a July 25, 1999 closing. Enon Hall was once again in the Hathaway Family.

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A front view of Enon Hall when the Chapmans purchased it.

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The house as it looked in the 1930s.
The front porch was removed and recycled first as a back porch, and later as a shed.

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A view of the Enon Hall waterfront on a November day.

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Front elevation showing the original Dutch Colonial portion of the structure, dating to 1730-50.

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This black and white photo was taken in the 1930s, just before the property slipped from family hands.

(Click on pictures for larger view.)

"We genuinely bonded with Mr. Hayden," Bill says. "I think he found great comfort in knowing that his home of so many years would be in loving hands after he was gone."

Still, Bill admits it is unusual to purchase a house without seeing the inside.

It would be a full three months after closing before Chapman, his wife Gay, and son William, were able to tour the house. Seven months later would be the first time they spent a night here.

The Chapmans had seen the property from the outside -- a striking Dutch colonial, situated on nearly four acres of prime waterfront property.

It would be easy to fall in love with the property for the land alone. The Antipoison Creek runs past Enon Hall on its way to the Chesapeake Bay. At high tide, the water at the end of a small pier on the property is over five feet deep, providing boat mooring. The creek is rich with crabs and oysters.

Then there's the house. A 1997 study by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources calls Enon Hall one of the rare examples of a preserved 18th century rural house. The gambrel roof and one interior end brick chimney make the house unusual, the study notes.

While the house style seems to be consistent with the later part of the century, anecdotal evidence dates the house to 1730. Additions were built and removed over the years to accommodate the changing needs of each generation of the family.

Yet it wasn't the house or the setting that charmed the Chapmans. Their interest was purely in returning to the Hathaway name a property that had been in the family for 275 years before 1940.

Enon Hall is the ancestral Hathaway home, built on land deeded to the family in 1666. The house and property, which once encompassed 400 acres, had slipped from family hands in 1939. After that, only a small family cemetery, which under Virginia law could not be sold, remained in the family. Most of the estate land has been sold, leaving only 3.67 acres with creek frontage, and the house today.

Gay Chapman, and son, William Hathaway Chapman, Jr. contemplate the serenity of the Antipoison Creek from their new dock. The Chapmans' only view of Enon Hall was from the outside, late fall.

"We had accepted the idea that the inside of the house was a disaster," Bill recalls. "Turns out that all things considered, the inside is in pretty darn good shape."

Chapman says he wouldn't have been interested in Enon Hall if not for the family connection.

"We do see a lot of potential and love it for all of its charm and family history," he says. "But this isn't the house that would have made us slam on the brakes, pull the car over and go investigate."

To imagine the leap of faith it took to purchase the country estate, consider that the Mr. Hayden who owned the house for 30 years was now in his mid-90s. His wife had suffered from Alzheimer's Disease.

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No one -- including the bank appraiser -- had been upstairs in the home for years. A hint of what was upstairs lay in the a peek into the center hall and one room downstairs. The space was piled knee deep with "stuff" and drenched in the stench of cat urine.

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A hinge on an old smoke house. The elderly owner of Enon Hall and its out buildings had no heirs, and feared that the property would be torn down once he died.

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The Chapmans were pleasantly surprised by the good condition of Enon Hall, once they took full possession.

(Click on pictures for larger view.)

Yet, the Hayden's had obviously loved Enon Hall in the 30 years they owned it, Bill says. The elderly owner seemed embarrassed by the state of the house. At age 95, he was anxious to bring closure to his life. Bill was equally passionate about returning the estate to the Hathaway family.

It was on this basis that purchase negotiations began.

As much as the Chapmans wanted the house, money was an issue. Bill, the president of a 36-person ad agency in Richmond, and Gay, a full-time mom to the couple's son, William, 6, already owned a Victorian reproduction in the Richmond suburbs.

Moving to Enon Hall, an hour and a half commute from Richmond, was not a option. Enon Hall would have to be a second home. And the couple simply was not in the financial position to pay top dollar for the estate and then complete the extensive renovations.

So the Chapmans and Mr. Hayden settled on terms. The selling price, while a bargain for prime waterfront property, still represented a sizeable investment for the Chapmans. The sale granted lifetime tenancy for Mr. Hayden, who died early in 2000.

Returning the building and the land to Hathaway ownership was Bill's primary goal. Everything else -- the condition of the house, the cost to restore it -- was secondary.

Bill says he had no contingency plan, other than to "mothball" the building if repairs required were more extensive than anticipated.

For three months, the Chapmans only viewed their home from the outside.

"Actually, we probably had created such horrible mental images of the inside that we weren't in any great rush to see it!," jokes Bill.

Finally in October, 1999 they got their first tour of the house to which they had already committed so much energy, time and money.

For the past year, Bill has kept a careful journal of his purchase and restoration efforts. The journal serves partly as a family history, but also fosters genealogical research. Since going online a year ago, Bill has had contact with 14 previously unknown Hathaway descendants.

<-To Part 1 of this story
To Restoration Journal->

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