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Prestwould marks picnic with reproduction rarity

South Boston News / September 26, 2012
Dr. Julian Hudson, President and CEO of the Prestwould Foundation, unveiled the foundation’s latest project at the annual Prestwould picnic Sunday outside of Clarksville. For the first time in Prestwould’s history, the foundation is selling hand-made reproductions of a piece originally produced by the Crow family of cabinetmakers — the original of which is on display at Prestwould Plantation.

The Crow chest, which is considered highly collectable, was originally produced in Mecklenburg County. A similar one is on display at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Barry Thompson is a cabinet maker and furniture restorer who received the commission to build each reproduction chest.

Originally, they were made from Poplar wood and painted a color known as “Spanish Brown.” Thompson describes it as a “utilitarian piece that would have been used to store clothing or toys.”

The chest displayed at Prestwould, which Thompson used as his prototype, “most likely was made in the late 1700s, around 1795,” he said.

Thompson’s reproductions are hand-planed, hand-painted and given a traditional finish of shellac flakes. He makes the stain from walnut bits and pokeberries, and gives each chest a finishing coat of beeswax.

All of the wood is reclaimed old growth lumber. The one difference between his chest and the original is in the wood he uses. His are made from walnut.

Anyone interested in seeing the chest or purchasing a reproduction should contact Prestwould Plantation at 434-374-8672.

Hudson also announced the accession of two other items to the Prestwould Collection, including a lavender crepe myrtle grown from a cutting originally found at Prestwould and a set of china plates similar to that which would have been used at Prestwould when Sir Peyton and his wife, Lady Jean, were in residence.

Alexander Rawles, Assistant Curator for the museum, presented Margaret Zarelli with a plaque, honoring for her dedication to the museum and foundation. “You are truly an amazing and outstanding volunteer,” Rawles said.

Prestwould Plantation is intact and one of the best-documented plantations surviving in Southside Virginia. It is located on the north side of the Roanoke River (Buggs Island Lake) near Clarksville.

The home was built by Sir Peyton Skipwith, Baronet, who moved his family, including wife Lady Jean, from his Elm Hill Plantation to Prestwould around 1795. It was inherited by their second son, Humberston Skipwith, and stayed in the Skipwith family until 1914.

The house is an example of the transition between Georgian and Federal architectural styles.

It is one of the largest and most complex gentry houses in Virginia, according to Hudson. The home includes a full English basement, two main floors, and an unfinished attic. It is built of a sandstone-like substance quarried on the plantation.

It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2003.

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