Ye Olde History

Welcome to my home.

It's in the historic district of our little Virginia town. It even has an official little plaque and blurb in the the town registry:

"This site was previously the location of Reverend Paul Henkel's first house, constructed circa 1791 and later moved to a lot on [another street]. The current building was constructed between 1876 and 1885. This building was utilized as a rooming house at one time, and was also the site of the [Town] Tea Room."

According to the deed history, it is clear that from the time that Peter Palsel first sold our town to Abraham Savage in 1791, the property lot has changed hands a lot. Twenty-five times actually. Though, considering that we are looking at a period of 220 years, it's really not that much. The property lot itself has been divided, put back together, and united with the property lot behind it on numerous occasions. But don't worry. I'm not going to go through every single deed exchange... That's just boring... However, I would like to share a little history & Civil War melodrama with you.

Are you ready for what I call the 'Era of Henkels'? Here goes!

Abraham Savage sold the property to Reverend Paul Henkel on December 29, 1791. He built his first house on the property, but later moved his house to another part of town.

In 1810, Reverend Paul Henkel sold the northern half of the lot to his second son Reverend Philip Henkel in North Carolina. In 1818, Paul Henkel sold the southern half to his third son Ambrose Henkel.

Ambrose then purchased the northern half from Philip Henkel, thereby coming into possession of the complete lot.

In 1841, Ambrose Henkel sold the lot to the Reverend Solomon D. Henkel.

Rev. Solomon D. Henkel

Solomon died in 1847 and in his will, he left the whole lot to his grandson, Solomon Peter Rupert.

That's a lot of Henkels and I'm in the process of researching the family's history. To sum up, we've gone from Paul to Philip to Ambrose to Solomon D to Solomon P. I think I'll name my next two children Ambrose & Solomon. Such excellent names, don't you think?

Now we get to the melodrama part...

Solomon P Rupert married a woman named Jessie, who was the principal of a local Female Seminary. During the Civil War, Jessie was a strong Union sympathizer in an area where most everyone supported the Confederacy. I mean, come on, Shenandoah Valley, Virginia? So. Not. Pro-Union.

Let's just say that Jessie was not at all liked by the townspeople. She was forced to leave the Seminary when the War ended in the Union's favor. In 1884, her husband committed suicide, presumably as a result of having become a social pariah, and a lengthy court battle ensued over the property.

His wife, Jessie Rupert, was able to purchase the southern half of the lot in public auction.  She then immediately sold the property to Lewis P. Henkel, who then immediately sold it to James Cox in December of 1884. And James Cox is definitely a person of great interest to me.

My house was built between 1876 and 1885. That means that it was either built by Solomon P. or by James Cox. Personally, I'm hoping that the house was built by James Cox because otherwise some dude named Solomon committed suicide in my home.  And I find that a little disturbing. Fortunately, I don't get a haunted vibe from the walls of my home, so I'm leaning towards James Cox as the builder.

Among the business names listed in the county records for our property was this:

So, we knew that in 1885, a business called James Cox's Skating Rink was located on my property lot. Such a little tease of information. Is it any wonder that it sparked my curiosity?

Here's what we know. James Cox purchased the property in December of 1884. He owned the property lot from 1884 to 1889. It's entirely possible that he could be responsible for building my house as he falls within the 1876-1885 time slot.

James Cox was a wealthy Englishman who owned Bellgravia Plantation in the Shenandoah alley for a period of time. I have to have it confirmed, but I assumed he's listed amongst the "succession of owners before the Brumback family in 1907."

He bred cattle and trotting horses.When he sold the property to Mary Hottel in 1889, his residence as shown in the recorded deed was Liverpool, England.

James Cox established a skating rink on the property by July of 1885. Do you think 7 months is enough time to build a house? The fact that the skating rink was established in July tells us that it most definitely was not an ice skating rink. It was a ROLLER SKATING RINK.  Why didn't this occur to me sooner? Finally, we know that Mr. Cox charged 10 cents for a pair of skates.

Can you imagine roller skating while dressed in full Victorian garb?? HOLY MOLY!
I hope to do some library and county record research to find out more information.  I'll see if my little researching fingers can turn anything up.

During the 1940s, my home was known as the Mrs. Corbin's Traveler's Inn & Coffee Shop. Here's a postcard from the early 50s:

It first opened in 1946 and operated at least until 1954.

Our little Coffee Shoppe served some classic 40s diner fare. Here's a copy of the original menu:

Special luncheon 55 cents!? Free second cup of coffee!? Sold! Oh, coffee shop/tea room/sandwich shop! You rock my world!

I love, love, love having this menu. On the back, there is an advertisement for a "One of Virginia's Greatest Natural Wonders"

I managed to locate some of the dishes that all of this scrumptious food would have been served in:

A creamer:

A sugar container:

And a soup bowl:

Today, we refer to the Coffee Shop as the Sandwich Shoppe because, when we bought the house, the realtor told us that it used to be a little sandwich shop.

The script at the bottom says:

Traveler's Inn & Coffee Shop
L.S. Corbin owned and operated the Traveler's Inn and Coffee Shop from 1946 to 1953.
Now a residence.
 Let's compare side by side:

ca 1946-1953                                                             2010

We have lots of plans for our house. We'll restore as much as we can, while putting our own mark on it. I'm becoming quite adept at politely asking (interrogating) town residents about the history of my home.

The house has no front yard because in the 1880s, our little town was especially little and had only one main road. The road was smaller and didn't really have much in the way of sidewalks. So there was a little more room in front of the house at one time, but not much. The road was actually one of the main highways in the area before the Interstate System came into being under Eisenhower. The road in the early 1900s:

Here's a closer look at the Sandwich Shoppe:

Front Entrance of Sandwich ShoppeSide View
Back View

In the 1940s, this itty bitty space contained a short order kitchen and a small tabled area for customers. Sandwiches, coffee, and tea were the order of the day. I have to do more research before I can give you specific details. I hope to find a inside picture of the shoppe in all of its mint green 1940s glory. That would be excellent!