Tusculum to be rebuilt in Amherst County

| May 30, 2014

Tusculum, the 18th-century home of Sweet Briar founder Indiana Fletcher Williams’ mother, Maria Crawford, will be rebuilt in Amherst County. Janis and Sam Roskelley recently purchased the house from the College and agreed to meet certain conditions for its reconstruction on their property near Forks of Buffalo.

President Jo Ellen Parker said the College is happy to have found the right owners for Tusculum after a yearlong search.

Tusculum as it looked in the 1980s. Photo courtesy of Jackie Biedler.

“We worked with our partners in the historical preservation community and the Tusculum advisory council throughout this process to find someone who could restore the building with historical sensitivity,” she said, noting the College is proud of its decade of stewardship of the home.

Nearly 10 years ago, through a partnership between Sweet Briar, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and Preservation Virginia, the house was disassembled, cataloged and moved to campus for storage and preservation. Originally, Sweet Briar hoped to raise funds to rebuild the historic home on campus.

Not long after, Sweet Briar launched the Tusculum Institute, an educational and community outreach program dedicated to preserving and studying local historic assets. The Tusculum Institute’s programming efforts have expanded over the years and the institute now plays a vital role in greater Lynchburg.

When it became clear that, despite energetic efforts, Sweet Briar would not be able to fund the reconstruction of the house, the College began looking for a new owner with the means, ability and interest to recreate it in a historically sensitive manner.

Sam Roskelley, a structural engineer, and his wife have experience restoring historic structures, although Tusculum will be their biggest undertaking so far. They were drawn to the home for several reasons.

“We’ve talked about building on our property for some time,” Sam Roskelley said. “When I read about Tusculum, it just seemed like it would be an interesting project and would suit our site very well. We’ve long been interested in historic houses. Also, as my wife is a [2000] graduate of Sweet Briar, we liked that connection.”

They submitted a proposal to rebuild the 1750s portion of the home, restoring the original entrance and rooms in that section as they were. A modern addition on one side will provide a kitchen, baths, closets and laundry. Materials from an early 19th-century addition will be preserved for a possible future add-on on the other side of the original structure.

“This plan has the advantage of an authentic reconstruction of the eighteenth-century house, while conserving the rest of the nineteenth-century fabric for the future,” said Lynn Rainville, director of the Tusculum Institute. “The contemporary addition will enable Mr. Roskelley to add modern conveniences without compromising the eighteenth-century plan.”

The proposal met the approval of representatives from DHR and Preservation Virginia, as well as noted architectural historian Travis McDonald. McDonald, who conducted a field report of Tusculum before it was dismantled, concluded that the Roskelleys’ plan preserves the main house.

“Sweet Briar’s priority has always been to see this historically important piece of local history preserved and reconstructed,” Parker said. “We are delighted to have played a role in passing it along to future generations.”

Jennifer McManamay

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Category: Tusculum Institute