Saddened about Pierceville plan
Published 5:37 pm Tuesday, October 6, 2020
Editor, The Smithfield Times:
At first glance, I was really hopeful when I saw the headline “Pierceville to be sold” in the Oct. 30 Smithfield Times. My heart was broken after reading the article.
This is our history that Mr. Luter is going to destroy. There is not another homestead in our
historic district as old as the early 1730s Pierceville house. Actually, there are only about 20 houses that old in the entire state of Virginia.
The land was a land grant from King Charles I in 1637 to Joseph Cobb. The property is a “landmark” property listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The legacy of its builder, Thomas Pierce, is as significant as the house and outbuildings. In 1781 Benedict Arnold, while camped on the property during the Revolutionary War, took Maj. Pierce captive at the Battle of Mackey’s Mill. Pierce secured his freedom and went on to serve as a delegate to Virginia’s Constitutional Convention in 1788.
The Virginia Department of Historic Resources has records from 1930 stating there were many slaves and two of the buildings were slave quarters; one is still standing. There is a cemetery with multiple burials that span the period from the 1700s to the early 1900s.
The Town Council keeps saying that they do not know of graves on the property. They have not looked for them. Are these graves going to be desecrated? The slaves who are buried on the property should be honored. They were some of the first people to help “build” Smithfield.
We call ourselves “Historic Smithfield.” The historic district of Smithfield was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Town Council’s allowing Pierceville to be demolished will set a precedent that an owner can do whatever he wishes to his property. Being “historic” will soon have no meaning. Owners will not have to go before Town Council to get approval to paint or make additions to their houses. Just do it. The town then loses its “historic” character. Tourists who love to come to this “historic” town will stop coming.
Yes, the property is in sad shape. The house has major roof problems, but the walls are still standing. The outbuildings are being held up by vines, but they are still standing. The kitchen will have to be rebuilt, but the original bricks are still there for the fireplace. Those who say it is too far gone to restore do not know how to do the work or just don’t care.
Yes, Mr. Luter has done a great deal for our town. It is not too much to think that he could protect our oldest buildings – including Pierceville structures, which are part of the story of Smithfield.
Isn’t there someone who will intercede for Pierceville with Mr. Luter, the Town Council and the town manager? We can do better for our citizens and visitors.