Sweet Briar House
Sweet Briar House has been home to the presidents of the College since its founding in 1901. The former estate residence has been on the Virginia Landmarks Register since the 1970s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The original house was built in the late 18th century by Joseph Crews. Originally known as Locust Ridge, the structure was a two-story, six-room farmhouse of red brick. In 1830 Elijah Fletcher bought the house and 1,000 acres for $7,000 from Penn family relatives of his wife, Maria Antoinette Crawford. Fletcher, a schoolteacher from Vermont who had come to nearby New Glasgow (now Clifton) to teach at an academy there, rose to prominence in the local community and in Lynchburg following his marriage in 1813.
Called "Sweetbrier" for the abundance of wild roses on the property, it became the summer home for the Fletchers and their four children, Indiana, Elizabeth, Sidney, and Lucien. In 1841 the family made it their permanent residence, and in 1851-1852 the original T-shaped farmhouse was enlarged with the addition of the tower wings, showing the daughters' attraction to Italianate architecture they had seen during a grand tour of Europe.
The house was furnished with pieces bought in New York and Philadelphia. In 1858, upon Elijah's death, his daughter Indiana inherited Sweetbrier, renaming it "Sweet Briar." In 1865 Indiana married a New York clergyman, James Henry Williams, and though the couple traveled back and forth between New York and Sweet Briar, they considered this to be their home.
Sweet Briar College's first president, Mary K. Benedict, used Sweet Briar House as her residence. For the first years of the College it also housed faculty members, the post office, and the infirmary. The first floor also served as the administration building for the College until 1926. A 1927 fire damaged the central part of the house and led to the rebuilding and modernization of the central part and east wing of the house.
Sweet Briar House is surrounded by gardens restored by The Garden Club of Virginia, and is filled with many of the furnishings original to the Fletcher and Williams families.
As a functioning residence, the house is not open to tours on a regular basis. However, it is frequently open to students and their families and to alumnae for Families Weekend/Homecoming and Alumnae Reunion. Inquiries concerning Sweet Briar House and its gardens should be directed to the Office of the President at (434) 381-6230.