Restoration of a 250 year old house and farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

A story told in photographs

Richard L Thornton, Architect and City Planner

Detailed description of the architectural components, architectural history and cultural history of this farm may be found in Part One of the Shenandoah Chronicles. The cellar was constructed in 1754.

July 14, 1987

Dominion Bank required a three step financing of this agricultural-residential project. We were required to pay the full cost of the purchasing the property and installing fencing around all pastures. We also had to pay the full cost of drilling a deep well, but not the over-sized septic field that would be required for a cheese creamery. This is so that no matter what happened in the future, the bank would be able to rent the pastures and cultivated fields to farmers.

The next step was joint financing of the renovation and expansion of the house, plus construction of a large septic treatment system, which served both the house and the dairy complex. We were required to bring the house up to building code standards. It was essentially unchanged since the early 1800s. It had no kitchen, bathrooms, plumbing, electrical service or HVAC. Previous owners had always cooked on pot cranes in the fire places. We never could find where the former outhouse was.

Once the house was completed sufficiently to be occupied in the autumn of 1988, we then had to request an appraisal and apply for a construction loan for the dairy complex, based on the value of the vastly changed house. This is when we began to have serious marital problems. My (then) wife had demanded that we move from the Asheville, NC or she would divorce me. She was now demanding that we stop work on the farm, put the property up for sale, then move to another area of the country . . . or else she would divorce me.

That stance ended when the National Park Service designated our farm as a key unit in a proposed National Battlefield Park then began historical and archaeological surveys of the property. She assumed that the NPS was going to buy the property and would be required by law to offer us full appraised value. Thus, when in early 1990, the creamery begin selling a lot of cheese, her stance shifted to wanting “to cash out on the marriage.”

The dairy complex was constructed in 1989 to FDA standards . . . becoming the first federally-licensed goat cheese creamery in the United States. This meant I could sell cheese throughout the world, if desired. Shenandoah Chevre was considered the flagship of the goat dairy industry by the US Dept. of Agriculture. This resulted in a constant flow of foreign dignitaries and national celebrities to the farm. I was able to easily sell all cheese manufactured.

The cheese creamery’s architectural and sanitation standards vastly exceeded those of the goat cheese creameries in France, which were exporting to the USA. The French government got the impression that we were a division of a large corporation, which could be a threat to the French goat industry. This is the starting point for series of articles in the Shenandoah Chronicles . . . The French Courtesan, Who Came In from the Cold.

Unfortunately, the national publicity also attracted the interest of several criminal organizations and a satanic cult. Each one wanted to destroy our finances so they could buy the farm cheaply. The problem was that, beginning in April 1991, night-time raiders were killing our best goats. Eighty-eight were killed in 1991. Thus, by fall of 1992, I was forced to begin plans to move our operation to another state.

Our last sale from the Virginia facility was in September 1992 . . . 200 pounds of cheese for a banquet honoring singer and sausage magnate Jimmy Dean. The previous June, Jimmy had stopped by the kitchen door early on a Saturday morning. I was running errands in town, but the beautiful French lady, who originally was supposed to seduce me to get my cheese secrets was there. She didn’t know who he was, but instantly could tell that Jimmy was a nice man, so invited him to join her and her daughter for breakfast. Fortunately we had Jimmy Dean sausage in the refrigerator. She fixed Jimmy a gourmet breakfast using his sausage, my cheese, our farm’s herbs and her culinary skills. She had just graduated from the Ecole de Cordon Bleau. Evidently, Jimmy never forgot the experience!

August 4, 1987
Thanksgiving Day – 1987
Christmas Day – 1987
Installing the new standing seam roofing
New Years Day – 1988
Photo made in autumn of 2019


  1. Well it turned out to be a beautiful home. This is something that I have done in my lifetime . Two homes in England restored and here a lovely old Cretan home which was once an old Library. and it was fun watching it take shape with their lovely stone walls. Thanks for sharing your Restoration Richard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rita, I would love to see photos of those houses. Remember I am an architect . . . the American Indian thing is just something to keep me busy. Do you still have my regular email address?


  2. I think I do have some photo’s Richard but you will have to give me time to sort them out . I do have your e mail address so will let you know when I have sorted them. O.K.
    Thanks for your interest.


  3. How great to see the pictures of the preservation and rebirth of a house from history. I always hoped I could to that to a house. There used to be quite a few around. I have watched the past historic houses disappear from East TN/SW VA. So sad to see the historical Not appreciated and “Progress” come along and devour what remains. I would also love to see your restoration photos from England and Crete Rita.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Howdy, You have a future in Historical Restorations!!!

    On Fri, Jul 2, 2021 at 8:36 PM The Americas Revealed wrote:

    > alekmountain posted: ” A story told in photographs Richard L Thornton, > Architect and City Planner Detailed description of the architectural > components, architectural history and cultural history of this farm may be > found in Part One of the Shenandoah Chronicles. The cell” >


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