The question about Melrose Plantation we most often get is "Is it open for tours?" No, not yet, but we hope to be open in the year 2011. That will be a very special year: First, it will be the 150 anniversary of the beginning of the War of Southern Independence, second, Melrose will turn 170 years old, and third, we hope to be through the national and state historic registration process. Melrose is a county landmark already.
Situated nearly a quarter mile off a quiet county road and surrounded by 95 acres of farmland and woods stands the stately white clapboard plantation house, Melrose.
Begun around 1840 and completed in 1857, Melrose boasts a beautiful, wide staircase that rises gently to the third floor from the center entry hall. Made of chestnut trees cut from the property, the curving handrail with goosenecks is unique.
An elaborately decorated plaster ceiling in the fancy formal parlor is prominent among the unusually high ceilings on the first floor. Under the medallion in this room many local couples were married by the builder's son-in-law, Wayland Dunaway, whose book we sell. The parlor, like the rest of the interior rooms, has never been painted so our restoration included cranberry colored damask wallpaper similar to that found in the White House of the Confederacy in Richmond. Tea is ready to be served on an English tilt-top table using the wedding service of Catherine's great-grandmother. Colors on the ceiling reflect the color in the Victorian design carpet and tea service, including the gold leaf on the ornamental plaster work. The 1820 oil portrait of Lady Celina Meade by Sir Thomas Lawrence, RA, is a focal point.
Woodwork and doors throughout the house are original, as is the raised paneling under the stairs in the entry and beneath the windows in the dining room and parlor and in the two-foot thick passageways between the wings on the first floor. In keeping with the style of the period, woodwork is being faux finished mahogany. Floors are brick in the English basement, finished pine on the first floor, painted and unfinished pine on the second floor, and unfinished pine on the third floor. Four chimney stacks serving ten working fireplaces in the house punctuate the original slate roof.
Due to the pieces of blue and white china we found around the old kitchen, we decided to use blue & white china in the kitchen. To accent the period-style Spode plates Robert gave me for Christmas one year, we chose a Waverly wallpaper in a Chinese fretwork pattern for the kitchen. The ceiling and table are covered in the bright floral wallpaper "Melrose" by Laura Ashley. It reminds us of the nineteenth century artist Claude Monet's kitchen in France which we visited on our honeymoon. That time has been called "the age of garden culture" because of the devotion to nature that was the rage of people of means during that time. Certainly the Pinckards and Dunaways who built and owned Melrose in those days fit into that description.
The grand piano in the music room is by Knabe of Baltimore, a favorite of General R.E. Lee. This 1920 instrument has been updated with pianomation, which plays the piano from a cd! The sound is lovely for parties and events as the music room is just off the dining room. A caned rosewood sofa and chair make for a comfortable evening there. Adjoining, the dining room features a complete mahogany set that I'm told won best of show at the 1904 Worlds' Fair held in St. Louis, MO shortly after my great-grandparents married! With us, it is now with the fourth generation of the same family!
A second story porch balcony is supported by plain wooden columns surrounded by a unique Chippendale diamond patterned railing that's mirrored on the front porch beneath. The front entrance is surrounded by stained-glass windows framed by novel louvered exterior double doors.
Consistent with the Georgian and Greek Revival influenced design, even the several out-buildings are formally balanced. Although only the fireplace wall remains from the original brick kitchen, the mirrored original brick laundry the initials TAP carved above the huge fireplace in the laundry. Thomas A. Pinckard was the son of the builder and he eternally rests along with other family members in the family cemetery on the property. A remarkable original A-frame style barn has a brick foundation.
Deer, wild turkey and rabbits are among the wildlife found at Melrose, one of the largest farms in the county today. Among the wildlife we share the farm with, we also have Southern Belle and Beau ground hogs "Mel" and "Rose" who predict spring's arrival in the South, not unlike Punxsutawney, PA's Phil is able to foretell for the North. They even put out a press release!
Primarily because of its grand scale, the Lancaster County Historic Landmark Commission identified Melrose to "embody an architectural style and manner of antebellum plantation construction found to be exemplary...one of the finest examples in our region."
FYI: There is a wonderful and informative architectural and cultural study of Southern farms and plantations produced by the National Parks Service you can visit on the web: click here