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.
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!