Explore the History Behind Seven Springs

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The Dabney House

 An early photo of the Manor

An early photo of the Manor

Seven Springs, built circa 1725, is a striking and unusual specimen of 18th century Tidewater domestic architecture.   It is situated on the Mehixen Swamp near the Pamunkey River in King William County, Virginia, northeast of Richmond.  Built in a transitional period between Medieval and Georgian, it has a unique square plan with a central chimney, unlike any other in Virginia from this period.  Despite its small size and architectural informality, the house is comparable in quality to many of the more pretentious dwellings of the day.  The home is built of brick laid in Flemish bond with glazed headers above the beveled water table and English bond below it.  Raking courses of glazed headers accent the eaves.

 Captain George Dabney I, the possible builder of the house, received a land grant in St. John’s Parish (then King and Queen County) in 1701.   Dabney was a prominent figure in the early history of King William County, serving as a member of the County Court, as it’s first Sheriff, and as an original official of Delawaretown, now known as West Point.  In 1722, the legislature authorized the establishment of a ferry on Dabney’s estate. 

When Dabney died in 1729, he left a substantial estate in King William and Hanover counties.  He bequeathed all his holdings to his two sons, George and William, which included numerous properties and thousands of acres. 

The construction of Seven Springs has traditionally been attributed to the Dabney patriarch, but the evidence is inconclusive.  It has been argued that this was the house George Dabney the younger was living in when his father died, since the older man was known to have lived closer to the ferry.  The destruction of most of the King William records on two separate occasions prevents the resolution of the problem.  Architecturally, the house can be said with some certainty to have been built circa 1725-1740, however.

The house is three bays long, with doors in the southern bay of each façade and in the west bay of the north end.  The first-floor nine-over-nine window sashes are modern replacements of Victorian two-over-two sashes, but the window frames are original.  Three of the four gable-end windows have been enlarged, but the east window in the southern end, including the frame and four-over-four sash, is original.  The front dormers were added early in the nineteenth century, while those on the rear are modern. 

Much of the original woodwork was removed, either in the Federal remodeling or subsequently, during the house’s intermittent periods of neglect, but significant clues remained to guide the restoration of the structure. 

The parlor has a large, rectangular plan fireplace, with a small closet to the left.  The three-panel door to the closet and the chair rail which encircles the room are both original.  The remainder of the woodwork is a restoration. 

 

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The dining room also retains its original chair rail and three-panel closet door.  On this door survive original foliated H-hinges, an early feature not often found in Virginia. 

 In the stair hall the chair rail is original, as is the triple-run walnut stair (with some balusters renewed).  The latter has elaborated sawn brackets, a square newel, a molded rail, and three turned balusters to a tread. 

 A small outbuilding, originally serving as an office, once stood in the front yard.  It has been incorporated into the Guest House and is now the bridal suite.  The structural framing and some of the interior woodwork are all that remain.

Many legends connect William Byrd, George Washington, Patrick Henry and other notables with Seven Springs.  Washington was a frequent visitor while the Burgesses met in Williamsburg, and Colonel Charles Dabney fought valiantly at Washington’s side during the Revolution.

One legend tells of Washington being presented with a black bear at a ceremony nearby, and not knowing quite what to do with the gift, left it at Seven Springs.  The bear remained for quite a while, tied to a mulberry tree out in the yard.

 

 The unoccupied Manor

The unoccupied Manor

From George Dabney II, the property passed to his son James, who later moved to the family’s Louisa County plantation, and in 1795 it was transferred to James Dabney’s son William “Brick House Billy” Dabney.  Early in the nineteenth century, Seven Springs was sold to A.B. Pullen and descended through the Pullen and Atkinson families into the twentieth century.  During this period, it was used as a barn and a playground for neighborhood children.  After having been vacant from 1940-1967 it was purchased by H.D. Moffett who began a restoration.

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 Harry Coons, who restored Seven Springs

Harry Coons, who restored Seven Springs

Seven Springs was about to change in ways no one would have imagined, but one visionary man. 

His name was Harry Coon, and he purchased Seven Springs from Moffett in 1982. 

Although Harry Coon spent most of his life in the Midwest, his time in Virginia made a lasting impression.  Naval service first brought him to Hampton Roads, where he served as drummer in the U.S. Navy Band station in Yorktown during WWII.  After his service he went onto a career in music.   He worked for CBS in Chicago writing jingles and producing a local television show, then launched a commercial music business out of his home in Glenview, Illinois.  A fascination with Colonial Williamsburg brought Coon back to Virginia.  

After having purchased Seven Springs, Mr. Coon decided to begin his own restoration and subsequent addition of most of the outbuildings that are part of the property today. He enlisted the help of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for guidance through the process. Joe Yates from Richmond was employed as the architect. Beginning in the 1983, renovations began on the Manor house, while construction began on the Guest House, Office and Honeymoon Cottage. Additional storage buildings were added over the years with the Garden House being the last to be built in 1999.

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Mr. Coon took great care in designing these buildings. He spent many hours in Colonial Williamsburg sketching buildings and searching for inspiration for his next creation.

At the end of Mr. Coon’s tenure, he decided to donate Seven Springs to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in 2008. They retained the property for four years, upon which it was sold to another Moffett family, this time from Texas.

In 2015 Seven Springs was purchased by the Hunnicutt family, of Richmond.  A new vision was formed for the property.  For the first time in it’s history, Seven Springs is now open to the public, as a wedding and events venue.

A Hog Island sheep farm was established to prevent the near extinction of this native Virginia breed.  Seven Springs now stands as a model of agri-tourism.  Events are routinely hosted to allow for the enjoyment and preservation of the property.  

 

We are happy to have you and hope that you enjoy your time at Seven Springs!