Foundation launches new project to save Dunnington Mansion

Published 5:28 pm Friday, July 28, 2023

The lights went up, the cameras panned over and for a couple days this month, the Dunnington Mansion became the focus of a documentary crew. Organized by the Dunnington Mansion Foundation, the project is one of the group’s latest attempts to draw attention to the site, in hopes someone will step up and help them restore it. 

“We are using funds raised by the tours we do to pay production costs,” said Heather Beach, the foundation’s president. “The Foundation hopes that it will preserve this history of Poplar Hill, which has always been our primary goal. Also, it will educate the public about the importance of saving America’s historic homes and hopefully save this house.” 

The documentary team flew in the week of July 18 from Oklahoma, to put this together. But there’s one problem hovering over attempts to restore the site. It’s currently up for sale, along with the rest of the property, and the price tag isn’t a small one. It stands at $12.5 million right now. 

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The package includes all of Manor Development’s partially developed land holdings surrounding the Manor Golf Club. It also includes the Dunnington Mansion as we mentioned, along with more than 766 acres of land. To be clear, this sale does not include the Manor Golf Club, just the property around it still owned by Manor Development. 

Other projects on the horizon 

This fall is shaping up to be a big one for the Foundation. Tours will start back up in September, they plan to have a presence at the Heart of Virginia Festival and if all goes according to plan, the group wants to coordinate with Red Door 104 for an art festival, possibly held either in downtown Farmville or on the mansion grounds. There’s also talk of a golf tournament, possibly held at the Manor Golf Club later this year. 

About the Dunnington Mansion

Richard Woodson bought the land in 1748 and built the first structure on the property. Then the home, then called Poplar Hill, was passed down through the family before being sold to Capt. John Knight in 1860.

He left the mansion to his daughter and son-in-law, the Dunningtons. It was during this time, in 1897, that the current mansion was built. Dunnington extensively renovated the home, adding on four rooms, a massive tower and stately front entrance. This also changed the orientation of the house, switching from north/south to east/west. The front of the house now faces west.

After their death in 1960, the home was owned by the Bolt family until 2000. Then it changed hands several times after that, from 2000 to 2021. At that point, the Community Development Authority purchased the property to build the Manor Golf Course.

Editor’s note: Connor Thompson covered this for the Farmville Herald.