Essex Room, Ritchie House 1740
When we lived in Philadelphia in 1969, I visited Winterthur Museum. H. F. duPont had a massive collection of pre-Revolutionary American furniture. He not only bought the furniture, but he bought the walls and surroundings right out of the house and displayed it as it would have been when it was new.
Ritchie House is on the historic tour of Tappahannock in Essex County.
They had specialty tours, and I took two of them. one of them was about decorating with textiles. I was interested in crewel embroidery and needlepoint, so after the tour I bought some slides that I thought were of particular interest. I bought this picture, both because I was familiary with the outsides of the old houses in Tappahannock, but also because of the crewel bed hangings.
I have obtained permission from Susan I. Newton, Photographic Services Winterthur Museum and Country Estate to use this picture. The original slide has become red with age.
Gateway to the Northern Neck
Captain John Smith, one of the original tourists to the area, visited Essex during the winter of 1607-08. On his first visit he did not linger a lot. While he was trying to disembark near what is now the county seat of Tappahannock, the Indians drove him back to his ship. The British settlers eventually established counties on both sides of the Rappahannock River. In 1645, Bartholomew Hoskins patented the Tappahannock site, which became known, at various times as Hobb's Hole, the short-lived New Plymouth, and the Indian name Tappahannock. The port town was to become a centre of commerce during the 17th and 18th centuries establishing a crossroads. Colonial charm is evident in the architecture of private homes and businesses in the old town area. Street names such as Marsh, Queen, Prince, Duke, Cross, Church, and Water are original. In 1705, the town was once again known by its Indian name of Tappahannock meaning "town on the rise and fall of water." One of the first signs of rebellion against British rule happened here. Leading merchant Archibald Ritchie, who supported the Stamp Act, was labeled as "the greatest enemy of his country." In 1766, gentlemen from nine counties gathered at Leedstown to draft the "Resolutions" that led Virginians to disobey Parliament. The lifeline for local watermen, the river is also a draw for the many weekend visitors from Richmond and the Washington DC area. Every June, Tappahannock hosts the Rivahfest which pays tribute to the Rappahannock River which sustains life as they know it here.
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