Oakland Green Commentary

COMMENTARY - Log House (Bed & Breakfast Suite)


Ten generations of Browns have lived at Oakland Green --


Richard Brown built this log portion probably in the 1730’s;

His son, Henry (1720-1801) constructed the stone wing in the 1740’s;

His son, John (1749-1828) built the brick addition in the 1790’s;

His son, Nathan (1783-1821) added the porches on the front & back;

His son, William (1818-1900) whose portrait hangs in the parlor, built the barns and added one of the first bathrooms in the county;

His son, Joshua (1857-1946) added a kitchen (since replaced) and heat;

His daughter, Helen (1893-1970) planted many of the trees and shrubs;

Her nephew, William Holmes DuVal Brown (1929-2001, grandson of Joshua) restored the log portion and replaced the kitchen wing in 1978; also put in poolhouse

His daughter, Sara (1974-  ) built her own cottage on the property in 2001

Her children Hannah Rose (2006-  )???? And William Arthur Maison (2011-???)


In 1969, the logs were taken down, numbered, treated with preservatives and some replaced. A few were either too far gone for re-use or were too heavy to lift back into place, so that new logs were used as replacements where required (note evident one over mantel). About 3/4 of the original logs were used in the restoration.


The original beams on the ceiling of the first floor were turned and re-used, with an enclosed steel beam to support them. The original floors were far too warped to be usable, so the present floor, which came from an old church in the Shenandoah Valley, was added. The closet and rear doors are part of the original structure; the front door is a reproduction, using old wood. The windows, which had been of 9 panes, were enlarged to 12 to give more light in the room. The fireplace, with its large lintel beam, is the original.


This room was used as the kitchen for the rest of the house until the Civil War; although the large fireplace in the stone wing was also used for cooking. It was also a separate structure until the restoration when bathrooms were added upstairs and down and joined to the stone wing. 


Furniture of interest: country Chippendale candlestand beside the wing chair is an original family piece, as is the stretcher table where breakfast is frequently served to B&B guests.

Corner cupboard was purchased locally (probably made in Pennsylvania).

Early Audubon prints are of North American animals which lived on the farm.

Photograph of Joshua and Nellie Duvall Brown in front of the house dated 1895. Bill’s father, William Holmes Brown, is the little boy in front.


At the fireplace: tallow lamp, bear trap, early cooking utensils, pot trammels; all used by the family in the early years.

Dark rug in front of fireplace hand-braided by Jean in winter of 1995. Other rugs hand-braided by Bill’s mother, Louise Tillett Brown.



COMMENTARY - Stone Wing (Dining Room)


This portion of the house was added in the 1740’s. Originally, it was divided by wood-paneled partitions into two small rooms. The Franklin stove (now closed for furnace flue) was used for heating in one room and the large fireplace for cooking in the other. It is still frequently used!


The enclosed hanging stairway is typical of those found in early Quaker houses. They are steep and uncomfortable but conserve heat and prevent drafts. 


One may wonder at the lack of wide floorboards in this and the brick portions of the house. The family living here in early 1900’s loved to dance and persuaded their parents to cover the rough pine (which can still be seen from the basement). The maple floors are from trees harvested at the farm.


Furniture:  The tall clock is a family piece. The works are English, dated 1799; the cabinet is perhaps earlier and probably made in Philadelphia. The music box is late 19th century and belonged to Hannah Brown Fletcher who was born here at Oakland Green. Her photo with her husband is over the box. The dress is shown today, but regularly is kept by the Loudoun Museum.


Dining table was made from walnut trees on the farm before the Civil War. Chairs are the acorn-top Waterford chairs made in the county. The hunt board or serving table is an 18th century American piece, probably Maryland or North Carolina.


At the corner washstand is photograph of Gov. John Page, who served as Governor of Virginia from 1801-1805; He was close friend of Thomas Jefferson who was President during those same years; we are told that the original of the photo was painted by Charles Wilson Peale and hangs in Independence Hall, Philadelphia; Jean is fifth generation removed from him.


Over the Franklin stove is signed lithograph of William Penn; the Revolutionary War sword belonged to a lateral ancestor of Nellie Duvall Brown, Bill’s grandmother.


Over the hunt board is a chart dated 1763 which was a gift of Jean’s uncle, Admiral Page Smith, who was SACLANT (Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic). The chart was in actual use by British ships and was given to Uncle Page on his retirement by his British aide in the 1964. The chart would have been in use during the decade of the building of this house.


In the corner near the music box is an Engraving of the First Prayer offered to the Continental Congress. As their first motion, the gathering of members proposed a public prayer, that they “might gain in sobriety and wisdom”. On September 7, 1774, Rev. Duche’ (an Episcopal clergyman of Pennsylvania) read Psalm 35 from the Book of Common Prayer.


At the fireplace:  early iceskates; 50 pound carriage weight; tallow lamp; soapstone (to warm beds); crane for hanging pots; early Dutch oven (note cupped top to hold hot coals); early cooking utensils.


Looking through to the kitchen (1978 addition), old wood was used as much as possible to blend in with the 18th century part of the house. Wide pine flooring came from the Shenandoah Valley; pine beams and old chestnut came from a demolished barn in Maryland. Tiles are hand-painted in Portugal and represent animals and other things grown on the farm.



COMMENTARY - Brick Wing (the Parlor)


This section was built in the 1790’s and reflects an architectural style, both inside and out, which is typical of many of the Georgetown houses which were built about the same period. Carved mantel and woodwork, the chair rail, and the window-treatment all reflect Federal influence.


This room has its own narrow enclosed stair which originally provided the only access to the two bedrooms above. It was almost 100 years before the stone and brick portions of the house were connected by a common hall on the second floor.


There is some evidence that what is now the front of the house was originally the rear. The foundations indicate that the house originally faced downhill, toward the spring house (dated 1804). But when the porch was added on the north, it became the front entrance.


Portraits over the piano are of William Holmes Brown and Martha Jane Pancoast Brown who lived here during the Civil War. They were married in 1841 and celebrated their 50th anniversary here in 1891. The wedding certificate is in the possession of the family. The artist was Lucien Powell a native of the Loudoun-Fauquier community who later became quite famous as a landscape artist. Some of his works hang in galleries in Washington and elsewhere.


19th Century pedestal table in the corner is made of cherry wood from the farm. Photo on table of Jean’s brother Admiral Leighton W. Smith (Ret) and wife Dottie, following their personal audience with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth during which she bestowed upon him the status of Honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE) circa 1996. He had served as Commander in Chief/U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Supreme Commander NATO Southern Command, during the conflict in Bosnia.


Desk is early 18th century American.


Chippendale wing chair is believed to be an original one, although the stretcher on the bottom has been added.


Windsor chair is an early reproduction.


Piano is a Vose, dated 1862, signed by the maker in Boston. Interior rebuilt by David Hipkins of Waterford in 1974. It is permanently out of tune and no longer used as a piano.


Portraits on the mantel are of Joshua (son of William and Martha Jane) and Nellie Duvall Brown (grandparents of Bill, great-grandparents of Sara) who lived here until the 1940’s. Other photos on the table and piano are of family members -- wedding picture of Jean’s grandparents, June 6, 1900, in Alabama.


Five generations are represented in this room, beginning with the 5th generation (portraits over piano) 6th generation (Joshua & Nellie), 7th generation, Wm Holmes Brown and sister Helen who lived here, 8th generation, Wm Holmes Brown, Jr., 9th generation Sara Holmes Brown, and 10th generation, Hannah Rose Brown Maison.


In the hallway:  High chest dates from about 1775 and is a Hepplewhite design. It was made locally and has been in the house ever since that time. It has been photographed and catalogued by the Museum of Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem, N.C., as an excellent example of early American cabinet-making.



COMMENTARY - New Wing (Kitchen, Family Room, and Screen Porch)


This wing was added in 1978 to replace an older kitchen and porch which ran the length of the house.


Old material has been used as much as possible in order to blend with the 18th century ambience of the older part of the structure - 

      Old pine from the Shenandoah Valley for the floors;

      Chestnut cabinets used from a demolished barn in Maryland;

      Old doors from the demolished porch used for cabinets in the hall;


Tiles used on stove island and back-splash were hand-painted in Portugal, purchased locally at Weller Tile in Ashburn;  all the tiles reflect vegetables or animals native to the area.


Photos of Admiral H. P. Smith, former Commander in Chief NATO Atlantic(uncle of Jean); and Admiral L. W. Smith (Ret) former Commander in Chief U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Supreme Commander NATO Southern Command; Leighton led the Implementation Force (IFOR) in Bosnia during 1994-95(brother of Jean).


Other photos in the hall of the House of Representatives chamber where Bill served as Parliamentarian from 1958 to 1994 when he retired. He then was consultant on parliamentary rules of procedure for many of the former Communist-ruled countries.


On the screen porch are farm implements found in the barn and displayed here to remind us how hard these Quakers worked.

      •     a corn planter

      •     apple butter stirrer

      •     wooden rake to turn hay or straw

      •     wooden pitch fork

      •     old keys



Brick House Bedroom (Sara’s)


Sara graduated from University of Oregon (Eugene) in 1996. She is 9th generation to live at Oakland Green and the only child of Bill and Jean. She married Scott Maison from Toms River, New Jersey, in 2004. They live in a cottage built in 2001  just down the road from the main entrance to Oakland Green. Their daughter, Hannah Rose Brown Maison, was born July 24, 2006, the tenth generation to live at Oakland Green!


Note early Waterford sewing rocker. Also cradle believed to have been used here by the family.


This room was originally two separate rooms, evidenced by plaster imperfection on ceiling.


Fireplace works but not used. Not too many folks want to haul wood upstairs!


Rug handbraided by Bill’s mother, Louise Tillett Brown.



Stone House (Borning Bed Room)


High cannonball bed dubbed “the borning bed” by Bill’s grandfather, Joshua Pancoast Brown, because this is where the babies were born from early 1800 through Bill’s father’s generation (last one recollected to be born in the bed was Jane in 1898).


Quilt on the bed (shown only on request) has signature on it -- “Hazel Brown from her great-grandma M.E. Jackson, Oct. 3, 1892.” Hazel was Bill’s aunt; M.E. Jackson was her maternal grandmother who was distantly related to Stonewall Jackson. Hazel was one of the babies born in this bed.


Note the trundle bed underneath, as well as an early cradle nearby.


Trundles were used to conserve space.


Early washstand.


Tall bedside table an interesting crude country piece -- may have been built for this bed.



Log House Bedroom (B&B)


This bedroom is used as the primary Bed & Breakfast suite.


It is in the earliest part of the house and was not connected to the stone wing until restoration in 1969.


When Bill and Jean married in 1971, Jean wanted a door through to the stone wing; Bill (who didn’t readily take to change) resisted so Jean took matters into her own hands. She took a screwdriver (very large) and hammer in hand to commence chipping away at the stone until daylight could be seen. When Bill arrived home, he realized she had been very serious about wanting a door, so he had a professional stone mason come and finish the door. He really had no choice!


As you can see, she nearly caught the cornerstone, hence the narrow passageway -- but nevertheless a passageway!


Rugs handbraided by Bill’s mother, Louise Tillett Brown.


Crochet bedspread done by Bill’s grandmother Ora Tillett and Louise.


Old Waterford sewing rocker;  early Windsor rocker.


Windsor rocker very old and uncomfortable!


In 1998, Bill, Jean and Sara placed 187 acres of 200 acres in a permanent conservation easement with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, a state agency.


Main part of barn built pre-Civil War. It is a bank barn built into the hillside so that equipment could be stored on the second level and animals fed underneath. The animals were also protected from the north wind in this way.


A family story is told and quoted in a letter from Jane Brown Gemmill who was born here in 1899 and died in 1994.  She wrote the letter in 1986 at age 87.


“When I was growing up on the farm, I often heard stories about Oakland Green during those tragic, troubling years of the Civil War, with soldiers in the area.  As the long war finally was coming to an end, my grandparents went out on the high ground at the end of the present front lawn and counted 10 fires -- of barns being burned.  Northerners were punishing the southerners and depriving them of their crops. As they counted those fires, they saw a hawk overhead swooping down toward the chickens.  They called to their son Nathan to get the gun and shoot the hawk.  Nathan acted quickly just as two soldiers were passing along the road to set fire to Oakland Green’s barn!  That shot made them wary that confederate soldiers were there so our barn was spared!”


Trees: Large spruces were planted circa 1880 by Bill’s grandmother to protect the house from the north wind.  Several trees have been planted in commemoration of a special event or person.  Willow oak in front yard planted on the occasion of Jane Brown Gemmill’s 90th birthday.  Coming from the public road up the driveway, several trees were planted to memorialize deceased family members.  Another willow oak tree was planted by Bill and Nicholas Lord Fairfax in 1992 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Oakland Green being in the same family (eight generations).  Photographs of Lord Fairfax and Bill spading in the dirt are in the parlor. 


The original Fairfax deed is still in possession of the family.  It is dated 1741 from Thomas Lord Fairfax to Richard Brown.


The house is built in four different sections, all joined.  The log house built in 1730’s and restored in 1969; the stone house built in 1740’s; brick house built in 1790 -- all 18th century.  In 1978, a frame addition was put on the back of the house, so as not to be seen from the front;  therefore, as one approaches the house, it is much the same as in the 18th century.


Other Outbuildings:

Corn crib and storage shed (major work to shore it up done in 2008 by Dave Logan)


A small ash house used for storing ashes for candles and soap; lye was extracted from ashes by leaching out the lye with water, sometimes called potash. Lye is a strong alkaline that when combined with fat and water makes soap.


Spring house, with building stone dated 1801, in use for full water supply until about 1992.


At the pool, an old smoke house which was removed from a property in Clarke County and re-built here to be used for storage of pool equipment.