An authentic piece of Carroll County history is now for sale and each purchase comes with an added bonus – the opportunity to help restore one of the county’s most recognizable landmarks.
The Carroll County Historical Society is now offering actual pieces of the original roof slate from the J. Sidna Allen home, constructed in Fancy Gap in 1911. Each tile from the roof slate is hand-crafted with elegant designs related to the home by local artist Brigette Hadley. Each one is individually numbered and limited to 250 each.
“The J. Sidna Allen roof slate is an authentic piece of history, an incredibly beautifully hand-crafted artwork, and with your purchase you will help to restore the J. Sidna Allen home,” said Mark Harmon of the Carroll County Historical Society. “Proceeds go directly to the J. Sidna Allen House restoration.”
The historic pieces will go on sale Friday night, April 1 to coincide with “Sidna Allen’s Dream,” the third play in the series about the Carroll County Courthouse tragedy by playwright Frank Levering.
The play is a three-hour drama from the viewpoint of Sidna Allen. Performances are scheduled Friday, April 1, 8, 15, and 22 at 7 p.m.; Saturday April 2, 9, 16, and 23 at 7 p.m.; and Sunday April 3, 10, 17, 24 at 2 p.m. –all in the historic Carroll County Courthouse.
Ticket are available at the Carroll County Historical Museum on Main Street, Hillsville or by telephone at 276-728-4113. Cost of each ticket is $20. The Hale-Wilkenson-Carter Foundation will be serving meals prior to each performance. Menus vary with each weekend and the cost of each meal if $15. Tickets may be purchased at the museum or by contacting Elizabeth Huff at 276-728-7737.
Of the three designs currently available for purchase, the first is of one of the most noted outside features of the historic home – the conical roof attached to the wraparound porch.
“The tower rising just above the front porch roof gives the house one of its distinct characteristics. It has been called the turret, gazebo, and witch’s hat,” Harmon said. “The tower is topped by a weathervane and is purely decorative. With the gables and dormers all trimmed with elaborate and intricate woodwork and iron cresting, the gingerbread house effect is complete.”
The second design is the marble vase from the fireplace inside the home. It was once described by Sidna Allen himself.
“In our parlor we had one of the most beautiful tile mantels I have ever seen. It was light cream in color, with inlaid flowerpots at the base of each jamb,” Allen once said. “Vines from these pots trailed gracefully up each jamb and met over the center of the fireplace.”
The thin delicate vines are filigreed with gold, which helps to augment the elegant mantel.
The third design is of the home’s stained glass. Located at the bottom of the handcrafted oak quarter-sawed stairsteps, the stained glass inside the home is truly awe inspiring. The stained glass windows are located throughout the house both upstairs and downstairs. All the mirrors and parlor windows are of beveled glass. The stained glass and distinctive light fixtures were made by Tiffany Studios of New York.
The historic Fancy Gap home’s origins start in 1901, when at the age of 35, J. Sidna Allen married Miss Bettie Mitchell and together they began to plan for the home of their dreams.
“There is not another home like it in the world,” Harmon said. “It has been linked to the Queen Anne-style of architecture, Carpenter Gothic, and other various designs, which has combined to form this magnificent home. At this time, Sidna Allen was one of the wealthiest men in Carroll County and endeavored to build, ‘The culmination of our dreams, we used in it none but the best of material.’”
The house was started in 1910 and completed in 1911 as Allen hired only the best craftsmen in the county for construction of the couple’s dream home. When it was completed at a cost of $13,000, the house was considered by many to be the finest in Carroll County.
The Allens planned to furnish it with the very best that money could buy and were still working toward these furnishing when on March 14, 1912, all their plans and dreams came to an end with the Carroll County Courthouse Tragedy. Sidna Allen was sentenced to 35 years in the state penitentiary for his part in the shootout that left five people dead. As a result of the shooting, Floyd Allen and his son, Claud, were later electrocuted for their part.
“Three civil suits were filed on behalf of the families of the victims and, as part of the settlements, the house and property of J. Sidna Allen were sold by the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Harmon said. “The family of J. Sidna Allen, which included his wife Bettie and two young daughters, Marguerite (born in 1901) and Pauline (born in 1907), in effect became homeless. J. Sidna Allen was pardoned by Governor Harry F. Byrd after serving 13 years in prison and died in 1941 without ever setting foot in the house of his dreams (as far as we know).”
The original roof slates from the home are available to purchase for $100 each or all three for $270. They can be purchased during performances of Sidna Allen’s Dream at the historic Carroll County Courthouse or at the Carroll County Historical Society Museum during normal business hours.
An artist’s inspiration
Local artist Brigette Hadley has a unique connection to the Sidna Allen House. The home she owns was built in 1927 at the same time renovations were taking place to the historic Carroll County Courthouse. Inside her home are several original pieces from the courthouse that were involved in the shooting, including the railing from behind the judges’ chamber and the spindles and railing from the front of the courthouse.
“It is the only wood left from that shootout I understand,” Hadley said. “I am donating it to the historical society so they have the original wood to look at to duplicate and put it back in the courthouse.”
Apparently, the man who built Hadley’s home was also the person who was asked to get rid of any lingering evidence from the shootout. She figures local officials were “embarrassed” of the incident at that time.
“He built this house in 1927 and he used that layering in the house. You can see where it has bullet holes in it because they have repatched some holes we have discovered,” Hadley said. “We found all these other places where bullets had gone into the wood. There is one one place upstairs in one of the pillars where you can stick your fingers in where they dug out one of the musket balls.”
A member of the Allen House Restoration Committee, Hadley said the idea for the roof slate designs came about during discussions to raise money for the home. The project will be very expensive, she said, as there are many structural issues with the home.
“I just like the fact that people can own a piece of history with the house,” she said. “A lot of people love the house and hate seeing it is not being saved. Now we are on the right path to do it and these roof tiles are a good start in raising money to help restore it.”
She wants people to know that the tiles are lumpy. They are not perfectly flat, because after all, they are 105 years old. But that also gives each tile a lot of character.
“These are not brand spanking new tiles you get at Lowe’s. But they are beautiful with tons of character in them,” Hadley said. “Some have paint splashed on them from when they painted a long time ago. Some have tar from the settling of the house. I have left all of that on it because of the character, it makes them more interesting to own.”
Hadley plans to do more groupings of three in the near future after the original set is sold. She has gone through and photographed the inside of the home as well as the many different architectural elements outside of it. She plans to make each group of three have something from outside the house and two from inside the home. For instance, she is thinking about designs including the beautiful glass doorknobs inside the home, the outside of the dining room, and the ornate light fixtures inside the house.
“There are so many interesting parts to the house. It’s not a huge place but it has a lot of interesting pieces in the house,” she said. “I took a picture of the secret passage that goes upstairs and comes up into one of the bedrooms. I want to do a design from that photo. And then we were pulling some of the wallpaper up so I could take pictures underneath. I will do some of the wallpaper patterns we found because I am sure you can’t find any of those now. I had a really good time going through the house and seeing what could be painted to share with people in case they never get an opportunity to go through the house.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on [email protected]