The past is the present for future generations who do not know their history

Bon Accord…

or Bonnie Accord, David Peebles‘ plantation or a part of it, is now known as Aberdeen and is on the National Register of Historical Places. Why, bless their  hearts, the Peebles name is not even listed as one of the former owners. Some of the information about the history seems erroneous to those who may be familiar with the David Peebles family of Prince George County in Virginia.Aberdeen - part of original plantation of David Peebles named Bon Accord

The two-story brick home, a temple  style building, rectangular in shape was built circa 1790. Perhaps James Cooke did build Aberdeen, however, as it was David Peebles who originally owned the property and as some descendants believe still owns it. The once pristine plantation is located on what would seem an isolated and lonely stretch of highway nine miles east of Hopewell on Route 10. It’s physical address is 15301 James River Drive in Disputanta, Prince George County, Virginia in the 23842 zip code. Given as primary owners are: James Cooke family, Thomas Proctor, and the Charles Marks  family.

Aberdeen, originally part of the Bonaccord estate,  the records of the Historical Register state that it was given to Elizabeth Bonaccord [Peebles] upon her marriage to James Cooke. It is named after Cooke’s birthplace, Aberdeen, Scotland.  The write-up about ‘Aberdeen’ is part of a Virginia W.P.A. Historical inventory Project sponsored by the Virginia Conservation Commission under the direction of its Division of History.

In 1840 a great celebration took place at ‘Aberdeen’ in the form of a wedding for the groom Nathaniel Cooke. Cooke had served in the Confederates States Army in Company F, 5th Virginia Cavalry. Evidently it was a grand and great event, as it has become part of the history of the home. Nathaniel Cooke died in 1862. The write-up suggests that James Cooke was the progenitor of the Cooke family.

The photos of ‘Aberdeen’ were taken 1 Dec 1937 by Jennie Harrison as part of a survey and documentation that was included in files with the W.P.A. program and associated with the record of review to determine the buildings’ qualifications for historical register status. Elizabeth Cooke Hurt was given as informant. The official name of the property is given as ‘Aberdeen’ and the site number is given as VDHR file no. 74-0001. The recommendation process was complete in 2001 on November 20th by the Virginia Department of Historical Resources.

The one building is given as privately owned. It is a single dwelling with agricultural fields that is currently functioning as a single dwelling for the purpose of agriculture that matches the given historic function as a single dwelling in the Domestic category with agricultural fields in the category of Agriculture.

The building is architecturally classified as Early Republic and Early Classical Revival. The property is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to te broad patterns of our history and embodies the distinctive characteristics of type, period, or method of construction or represents the work of a master, or possesses high artistic values, or represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components lack individual distinction. There are 378 acres associated with the dwelling. The period of significance for the building is 1840. That date would coincide with the marriage of Nathaniel Cooke that was held at ‘Aberdeen.’ The information given is that the dwelling is owned by Aberdeen Farm Properties, LLC at Aberdeen Farm, 15301 James River Drive, Disputana, Virginia 23842.

The lengthy descriptions of the property as contained in the paperwork seeking placement in the National Register of Historic Places follow:

Description

Aberdeen is an imposing brick temple-form house. The main façade features an imposing pediment finished with horizontal flush sheathing. The walls are laid in Flemish bond with flat arches over the openings. A diminutive portico with Doric columns is the central feature. It and the main roof have cornices with block modillion. A lateral hall runs across the entire front of the house, which is reflected in the side elevations that each have a door and two windows on the first floor below three windows on the second floor. Aberdeen is one of a group of houses that have this plan and front elevation. They occur over a long period and are scattered randomly across the state. Aberdeen also features important Federal interior woodwork in remarkably undisturbed condition. The house sits in a picturesque grove in front of woodland and wetlands. Between the fenced yard and the main road are flat fields typical of Tidewater Virginia still in cultivation, as they have been for at least three centuries. On these and other fields Thomas Cocke and his friend Edmund Ruffin conducted experiments in fertilization that led to Ruffin’s publications that revolutionized farming.

Exterior: The house at Aberdeen is a large plantation house built with the overall proportions of a classical temple. The walls feature Flemish bond brickwork with simple flat arches of the openings. The pediment is covered with flush sheathing and is outlined by a cornice featuring block modillion. This cornice continues around the house. The first-floor windows feature 9-over-9 sash and the second floor 6-over-9. The window frames are set flush with the brick walls and are not recessed, as is usually the case. The windows are fitted with louvered shutters. The house sits on a high basement lit by small rectangular windows.

The front (east) elevation is three bays wide. A diminutive 3-bay Doric portico shelters the central double door. It has the same cornice as the main roof. The porch has wide steps between stepped brick plinths (of 20th century vintage). In the center of the pediment is a round-arched window framed by arched blinds.

The 3-bay side elevations are identical with double doors at the front ends with two windows beyond on the first floor. On the second level windows occur above each lower opening. These elevations reflect the interior plan – a lateral front hall opening into two rooms behind.

In the rear wall brick continues to the top of the gable. There is a pair of slightly projecting chimneys. A one-story frame wing is attached which now houses a bathroom and kitchen. This wing contains work from different periods and probably has been rebuilt several times. Happily it is so subordinate to the great mass of the house that it does not compromise the classical proportions. It provides modern conveniences and leaves the original interior spaces unchanged.

Interior:  The front door opens in to the hall that runs the width of the front of the house. At each end are double doors. All three exterior doors feature transoms and leaves in which the panels have been replaced with panes of glass. Across the hall, interior doors lead to the two rooms beyond the hall. These single doors are robust 6-panel ones set in handsome double architrave frames. The splayed door and window reveals and soffits are reeded. In the northeast corner, the stair rises in a long initial run to a landing, a transverse run, another landing, and a final reverse run. The stair features a simple newel, square in section, and a handrail, oval in section, set on a recessed rectangular base. Simple balusters, square in section, support the rail. The treads rest on delicate curvilinear brackets. The hall like all the downstairs rooms, has pedestal wainscot with flush panels. There is a delicately molded cornice at the ceiling and a flat picture molding set in the wall about three feet below the cornice.

Behind he hall are the parlor (the southeast room) and the dining room (the northeast room). The large rooms are of equal size. They have similar pedestal wainscots and dentil cornices with slight variations in detail. The windows in the dining room have reeded reveals and soffits; those in the parlor are flat paneled. Each has a fireplace in its end (west) wall.

In the parlor, bookshelves have been built to the right of the fireplace. the fireplace probably retains its original large brick firebox, topped by a thin jack arch. The brick surround is framed by a delicate molding which is, in turn, bordered by a band of reeded blocks set flush with each other. Very narrow fluted  pilasters frame the opening and support and entablature of probably unique design. The cap molding of the pilasters continues across the top of the fluted band. The entablature breaks out over the pilasters and a central block. Between the three projections is a band of concave recesses. Above it is an intricate molding that breaks and carries over the projections. Above the molding a punch-and-dentil band occurs between the blocks. The cornice shelf features complex moldings.

In the dining room there is a closet to the left of the mantel and a door to the right that gives access to the one-story rear wing. While the doorcases to these openings appear to be original, the doors are not, and the present arrangement may not be the original one. The mantel is a simpler version of the one in the parlor. It repeats the fluted pilasters and three-part architrave but has a simpler entablature with a continuous band of modified wall-of-troy ornament. Above each pilaster cap is found a curious element that resembles an enlarged section of bead-and-reel ornament.

On the second floor, a winding stair to the third floor is located beside the main stair. There is a small hall room in the southeast corner. There are rooms of equal size over the parlor and dining rooms. These have wainscot and mantels with cornice shelves ornamented with dentils over openings framed with two-part architraves. The corners adjacent to the mantels (next to the common dividing wall) have been enclosed with angled walls to create a bathroom accessible to each bedroom.

The third floor has several rooms of differing sizes. Only two have windows – a small one served by the arched pediment window and a large one utilizing the window between the chimneys on the rear wall. There is a storage room under the roof on the south side.

There are photographic and other records of outbuildings that once stood near the house. A smokehouse was recently dismantled, but has been stored on the site for future rebuilding. The yard consists of mature trees and shrubs typical of rural Virginia. There are informal flowerbeds in the side yard north of the house. The yard is surrounded by trees in the fence rows on the front and sides and woodland  at the rear. In fornt of the house are broad open fields divided by an axial driveway that runs out to State Route 10. These fields and adjacent ones are planted today with seasonal crops. The deep cut where the road enters the gate to the front yard attests to the great age of the lane. Behind the house and fields are stands of pine timber, mixed woodlands, and designated wetlands. Except for a few small houses in the distance, view is of the flat fields that cover most of Prince George County. The land is still used as much of it was in the 19th century and some of the present crops may well still benefit from the marling done by Cocke and Ruffin almost two centuries ago.

Significance Summary

Aberdeen in Prince George County, Virginia, is significant at the state level under Criterion C for its architectural merit and under Criterion A for the unsung contribution of Thomas Cocke to the agricultural research done by his close friend, Edmund Ruffin. The house that Cocke built on his inherited land is one of a small group of houses built with lateral front halls serving pairs of large rooms. It contains distinguished Federal woodwork whose idiosyncrasies may well be linked to other houses through additional study. The house is remarkably well-preserved, with few changes, and sympathetic modernizations. Its sits surrounded by woodland, wetlands, and flat fields still being farmed. Thomas Cocke’s role as Ruffin’s guardian and later as confidant and friend has been overshadowed by Ruffin’s strong personality. Though Cocke did not publish his experiments on soil renewal, his debates with Ruffin and their mutual investigations were significant part of Ruffin’s research. In the fields still under cultivation at Aberdeen and on their lands nearby they experimented and cogitated. Ruffin’s published works reformed a significant segment of American agriculture.

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