National Register


National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination

In February 1973, Rosegill was nominated to the National Register of Historical Places of the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. The nomination was made by the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission, room 1116, Ninth Street State Office Building, Richmond, Virginia, Junius R. Fishburne, Jr. Director. The document is a form with a lot of checkboxes, classifications, addresses, owner's name, etc. We have copied below a few narrative portions of the document, and the full forms are on the following pages. Rosegill is also listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register.


Describe the present and original (if known) physical appearance
The Rosegill plantation complex is located in a commanding position near the end of a narrow peninsula formed by Urbanna Creek on the west and a millpond and marshy creek on the east. The complex is approached from the south by a long axial avenue across open fields. On the north side of the complex is a broad flat field and a sweeping prospect of the two mile wide Rappahannock River.

At present, the complex consists of an impressive range of five eighteenth century buildings. From east to west the range includes: a wash house (now the manager's house), the dwelling house, the kitchen (now an office), and a storage house (now a garage). The land fronts of the buildings are aligned, forming a grandiose row, stretching 1466 feet from end to end. The focal point of the group, the dwelling house, has had a complex architectural evolution. In its original form it was a small, 1 1/2-story brick structure, approximately 37' 6" X 21', covered by a gable roof with interior-end brick chimneys. In this form it was similar in style and proportion to the dependencies, and thus it is assumed that all the buildings were built at the same time as an architecturally unified complex. While it is known that Rosegill was occupied since the mid-seventeenth century, this complex stylistically dates no earlier than the period 1730-1750. The brickwork details in the dependencies, and the few remaining pieces of original paneling in the house substantiate this dating.

The plan of the dwelling house's original core consists of center hall with a room on either side. The stair must have ascended either in one of the rooms or between the walls as the hall is too narrow to permit a stair. Still in place beneath the hall is an original vaulted wine cellar. The footings of the unexcavated portion of the original core are ballast stones.

This core was enlarged by the addition of a room, twenty-five feet in length, at either end, making the overall length of the facade eighty-eight feet with eleven bays. The style of the paneling installed in these rooms is of the 1770 period, and the English marble mantle with carved shell and foliage, and Sienna Marble panels is very similar to one in Carter's Grove ordered in 1771. It is likely that part of this circa 1770 enlargement included the twelve foot wide stair hall added across the entire river front. A further enlargement is known through an 1801 policy of the Mutual Assurance Company showing that the house was made U-shaped by the addition of two 33' X 25' wings on the river front. These wings probably formed part of the circa 1770 enlargement, but may have come later. The same policy stated that the house by then was covered by a "Dutch Roof," probably meaning a gambrel roof.

As shown on an 1805 revaluation policy of the Mutual Assurance Company, the house by that date had been connected to each dependency by a "covered way part brick & part wood." These ways were over eighty-six feet in length and nine feet deep. Also a "Wooden Piaza 10 by 20 feet" had been added to the center of the land front. An 1815 revaluation policy shows that the covered ways had been replaced by a brick wall, and the "piaza" or portico had a stone floor. All three policies mention numerous wooden outbuildings of which only a smokehouse remains.

The house underwent a major remodeling around 1850, probably after its sale to Captain John Bailey in 1849. The "Dutch Roof" was removed and the main body of the house raised to two full stories with a gable roof. The second story was faced with weatherboards. It may have been at this time that the two wings on the north side were removed as they were not incorporated in the remodeling scheme. All the brick walls on the main portion were stuccoed and scored (perhaps to hide the scars of the lost wings) and all the eighteenth century exterior trim was replaced with simple Greek Revival trim. The portico appears to have been replaced also since the present porch is mid-nineteenth century in style. About the only exterior feature left to show the building's early origin was the beveled water table.

On the interior, the long hall across the north side of the house was re-trimmed with Greek Revival woodwork, and the two stairs there appear to be entirely of mid-nineteenth century origin. The paneling in the small room on the east side of the entrance hall was retained as was the paneling in the circa 1770 rooms. Some original woodwork was left on the second floor, but the exact quantity is not known.

The house underwent yet another major remodeling in the early 1940's, after it was acquired by the late husband of the present owner. In this remodeling, the paneling in the east room of the original core was dismanteled and installed in the room on the west side of the entrance hall. The east wall of the original core was then demolished to make a large new dining room. Half the area of the circa 1770 east room was incorporated into the new dining room and the rest of the space was made into a breakfast room. The fine paneling of the circa 1770 east room was discarded, although the Greek Revival plaster rosette was saved and moved to the new dining room. Fortunately, the paneling in the corresponding room on the opposite end of the house was spared. Notable features of this unusually handsome fully paneled room include the imported marble mantel already mentioned, the eight-panel doors, and the full length fluted Ionic pilasters flanking the mantel. The second floor was altered by the removal of the interior fireplaces to provide space for bathrooms and closets. Some eighteenth century doors remain on the second floor, but there is little other early woodwork. Additions in the 1940's remodeling include small, one-story service wings at either end of the house and a one-story sun porch in the center of the north front. The wash house and kitchen have undergone several renovations, and, except for the brick walls, little original fabric remains in either building. Both buildings are laid in Flemish bond above the water table and have wide segmental arched windows with gauged brick lintels. Any glazing in the brickwork is hidden by numerous coats of paint. The kitchen has a symmetrical five-bay facade, however the wash house has an asymmetrical six-bay facade. The kitchen retains it original fireplace with its eight-foot wide opening. The storage house to the west of the kitchen is also laid in Flemish bond) but the front wall has been removed to make a garage opening. A brick on the east wall is inscribed "RW". Other early outbuildings include a nineteenth century frame smokehouse and a nineteenth century bake oven, both near the wash house. immediately in front of the main house are two interesting fragments of Corinthian pilaster capitals in what appears to be Portland stone. The origin of these fragments is unknown, but they may once have formed part of the front portico.


Statement of Significance
Rosegill ranks among the oldest and most historic estates in America. It was established in 1649, when Ralph Wormeley I patented 3200 acres "on South side of Rappahannock River, 10 miles up the river from Bay, bounded on the northwest by Rosegill Creek." Ralph Wormeley and his brother, Christopher (a former governor of the Tortuga), were the first of their distinguished family to settle in Virginia, and both served on the Governor's Council. Following Wormeley's death his widow, the former Agatha Eltonhead of Eltonhead, married Sir Henry Chicheley, Deputy Governor of the Colony, who made Rosegill his home. The estate was inherited, however, by Wormeley's son, Ralph Wormeley II (1650-1700), probably the most distinguished member of the family. Ralph II matriculated at Oriel College, Oxford in 1665, and returned to Virginia following the completion of his education. During his career of public service he acquired the reputation of being "the most powerful man in Virginia"; serving as a burgess, a member of the Council, Secretary of State, trustee of the College of William and Mary, and President of the Council.

Rosegill was an elaborate seat during Ralph II's tenure. It was described in 1686 by M. Durand, a French Huguenot immigrant, as consisting of ". . . at least 20 houses scattered along a charming plateau above the River. The best of these he [Ralph Wormeley II] lends to the Governor." The governor to whom Durand referred was Lord Howard of Effingham, who spent his summers at Rosegill to avoid the inhospitable climate of Jamestown. That Rosegill should have been chosen by Effingham over all other places available to him is indicative of the plantation's importance.

Ralph Wormeley II left Rosegill to his son Ralph III (circa 1680-circa 1715). Ralph III served as sheriff of Middlesex County from 1704 to 1705, but died before he had the opportunity to hold any other public offices. His brother, John Wormeley (1689-1726) fell heir to Rosegill, and lived there quietly until his death. John's son, Ralph Wormeley IV (1715-1790) was the next owner of the estate and it probably was he who erected the present complex of brick buildings. Recent architectural investigation of these structures by Mr. Paul Buchanan of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has led to the belief that these buildings belong to the 1730-1750 period and incorporate no seventeenth century fabric.

Ralph Wormeley IV, served as a burgess, and, like his son, Ralph V (1774-1806), was not sympathetic with the Revolution. Both father and son attempted to remain passive during the struggle, but Ralph V, accused of loyalist sympathies, was banished to Frederick County for the duration of the War. Upon his release, he returned to Rosegill only to discover that the house ironically had been pillaged by a Tory privateer. Ralph V later accepted the break from England, and continued his family's tradition of leadership in Virginia affairs by serving in the House of Delegates and being a member of the Virginia Convention of 1788.

Following Ralph Wormeley V's death Rosegill passed through various ownerships. From 1848 to 1855 it was in the possession of Captain John Bailey whose extensive alterations gave the house its present nineteenth century aspect. From 1901 to 1924 it was owned by J. Henry Cochran, a United States Senator from Pennsylvania. Rosegill was acquired by the late husband of the present owner in 1944.

Although the present complex of buildings is a significant relic of colonial plantation architecture, the extensive nature of the original complex, coupled with its associations with some of the colony's most prestigious individuals, makes Rosegill potentially one of the state's richest archaeological sites.

  Major Bibliographic References
Homes and Gardens of Old Virginia
, Garden Clubs of Va., pp. 367-371
Lancaster, Historic Virginia Homes and Gardens, pp. 287 ff.
Nugent, Cavaliers and Pioneers, p. 181
Torrence, Virginia Wills and Administrations, p. 470.
Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 8, pp. 179 ff; vol. 16 p. 16-17; vol. 18. pp. 373-375; vol. 36, pp. 98-101, pp 283 ff pp 385 ff.
Mutual Assurance Company, vol. 14, policy 474, vol. 35 revaluation policy 161; vol. 43 revaluation policy 1935

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