Home Historic Staunton Foundation purchases Edmund Cabell house for Black history preservation

Historic Staunton Foundation purchases Edmund Cabell house for Black history preservation

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Historic Staunton Foundation (HSF) has purchased the historic Cabell Log House located at 654 East Beverley Street, which was built ca. 1869 by freedman Edmund Cabell and owned by his descendants for more 100 years.

The Cabell Log House is the only remaining 19th Century exposed-log structure in the City of Staunton and a rare example of a post-Civil War home that we can definitively connect to a specific local Black family. HSF’s immediate goal is to secure and stabilize the rare historic resource.

HSF will collaborate with the previous owner, Philip Brown, who is supplying materials for needed repairs. He purchased the house last summer, carefully cleaned the interior and removed the dead oak tree which had caused problems with the structure. Brown is milling the oak tree and will provide HSF with the lumber.

In the short term, HSF will proceed with mothballing the structure, a process used to secure an historic building so that it is dry and safe until a preservation and rehabilitation plan is established.

HSF will also work to further study the history of the house and surrounding landscape, with the assistance of local and regional experts. JMU professor and archeologist Dr. Dennis Blanton will document the landscape and historic archeological resources on the property and with Will Rourk, 3D Technologies Specialist at UVA, to record the building’s condition through 3-D laser scanning.

Eventually, HSF hopes to assemble a team to determine the best use of the property in the future. HSF owned the Cabell Log House once before in January 1987, when the property was purchased at auction for $7,600, noting its historical significance.

“We certainly owe a large debt of gratitude to Frank Pancake and Eleanor Patrick, who did all the legwork in making this possible,” former HSF Executive Director David J. Brown noted in foundation meeting minutes.

After establishing conditions for a limited easement, HSF resold the house in May 1987 to Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Tate.

In 1990, HSF created a plaque documenting what was then known about the history of the property. Still attached to the house, the plaque reads, in part: “The Cabell Log House was built c. 1869 by Edmund Cabell. It is the only remaining exposed log structure in the city of Staunton. Cabell, a “freeman of colour,” purchased the property immediately after the Civil War on June 16, 1866, from Alexander and Sarah Taylor. The price for the property was $50, with Cabell paying the first $10 in gold coins. Cabell constructed the original two room house using traditional log techniques. A large central fireplace serves as the focal point. In 1920, the house suffered a fire in a rear two room addition. The original house was spared and remains fairly intact with the addition of a kitchen wing and a bath in the early 20th century.’

The house remained in the same family for more than 100 years. Edmund Cabell’s son, Washington Cabell, and his wife were the second-generation owners. The house was inherited by Cabell’s daughters, Mary Cabell and Emma Cabell Smith, following his death in 1932.

Mary Cabell lived in the house until her death in 1972 and Emma Cabell Smith lived in it until 1987. At that time, the house was purchased by Historic Staunton Foundation because of its historic merit. The property was resold with restrictive covenants to Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Tate in May of 1987, for preservation and rehabilitation.”

Much remains to be discovered and documented concerning the history of the property. HSF believes the entire site will serve as an educational laboratory, revealing significant information about Staunton’s Black history and architectural traditions. Preserving and protecting such significant resources that inform us about our past is important for the Staunton community.

Historic Staunton Foundation is a nonprofit organization engaging the community in preservation of its historic architecture. Staunton’s vibrant architectural landscape comprised of historic and older neighborhoods provides a shared opportunity to enhance our community. HSF’s vision is to partner with the Staunton community to support policies and programs that protect, maintain and enhance the sense of place created by our historic structures and the built environment.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.