Before the pandemic hit, we visited two
wonderful couples in western Virginia who
showcase how to live comfortably in the past, one couple in
an old stone house bursting with choice antiques, the other
couple in a period-style plan they designed and furnished
with their enviable handiwork. We also catch a rare glimpse
into the lives of the oft-forgotten working class as we
explore the reconstructed London Town, which had virtually
disappeared after a century.
Lifelong antiques collectors Jeff and Beverley Evans
knew they wanted to live in an old house after they married,
but it took time to find the right property in their
native Virginia—and even more time before the people
who owned the 1811 stone house, though they didn’t live
in it, were willing to sell it.
Since 1987, when the Evans purchased the Sites
house—built by a German immigrant who had migrated
south of Pennsylvania to settle in the Shenandoah Valley
and expanded by a later owner—they have undertaken a
careful restoration and fine-tuned their myriad collections
to reflect the craftsmanship of regional furniture
makers, potters, and weavers.
Their decorating blends case pieces and ceramics
with colorful woven baskets and rugs, beautifully pieced
quilts, quirky tramp art, and a museum-worthy collection
of American-made pressed glass displayed atop mantels
and in cupboards throughout the house.
Born and raised in New England, Jim and Laurel
Pritchard embraced the can-do attitude of their practical
Yankee roots, deciding to build a log cabin when they married.
Though neither had been—nor been taught by—do-it-
yourselfers, they learned quickly out of necessity and
eventually made a career of building and selling houses.
As they worked, they gained an appreciation for old
houses and longed to build one final home as a retirement
project, though somewhere warmer and with a view. They
choose the Blue Ridge Mountains and built the house
frame based on John Hancock’s two-storey childhood
home with a gambrel addition.
Inside, their compromise design melds Laurelâ€™s desire
for an open floor plan (and closets) with formal rooms to
indulge Jim’s love of making paneling. They furnished
the house with finely crafted reproductions of carved,
painted, and veneered case pieces, floorcloths, paintings,
In stark contrast, the reconstructed buildings at London
Town along Maryland’s South River illustrate how
working-class colonists started life in the 17th Century, in
rudimentary plank buildings with sparse furnishings and
even fewer luxury goods. After the state bypassed the town
in favor of Annapolis (4 miles away) for its capital, the village
had all but disappeared by the Revolution, with only William
Brown’s brick tavern/boardinghouse still standing.
In the 1970s, archaeologists uncovered London Town
as well as similar lost towns in the Chesapeake region.
Since then, those findings and period documents have
guided reconstruction and interpretation to give visitors a
more rounded picture of common life.
We hope you enjoy these variations on re-creating