Pleasant Hall

Growing up, I lived in a neighborhood in Virginia Beach, formerly Princess Anne County, called Kempsville, which was established as a town in 1781. It was named for Kemp’s Landing, a colonial port on the Elizabeth River. It was also the site where the first Virginian casualty of the American Revolutionary War occurred during an incident with the Royal Governor Lord Dunmore’s militia. In other words, there’s a lot of history right near home.

Less than two miles from my house is a historic home that I was always wanted to visit.
However, Pleasant Hall, as it is called, was always privately owned, so I never had the chance. Recently, Kempsville Baptist Church, the current owner of Pleasant Hall, celebrated their 200th anniversary, and as part of the celebration they opened the home for tours. Of course, I had to go check it out.

During the anniversary celebration of the church next door, there were also colonial reenactments on the lawn, as seen here.

During the anniversary celebration of the church next door, there were also colonial reenactments on the lawn, as seen here.

Pleasant Hall was built in 1769 as the home of George Logan, a wealthy merchant from Scotland with a large family that loved to entertain. In fact, the Logan’s hosted a victory ball in their home following the Battle of Great Bridge that took place in nearby, present-day Chesapeake in 1775.


A view inside the front living area of Pleasant Hall today.

Not shortly thereafter, the Logans returned to Scotland after announcing their support for the Crown. It is notable that George Logan was friends with Lord Dunmore, the last royal governor of Virginia who also retreated across the ocean once he realized he would not be able to regain control of Virginia after the burning of Norfolk in 1776.

In 1777, Peter Singleton purchased the home from the Commonwealth of Virginia, to which it had been escheated when the Logans left the country, and it was then inherited by his son Isaac Singleton and Isaac’s wife Suzanna Thorowgood Singleton in 1790. Peter Singleton was famous for riding from Great Bridge to Kempsville to warn citizens about approaching British troops during the war. Peter Singleton II, the son of Isaac and Suzanna, eventually inherited the home, as well as a considerable amount of property from his mother’s side of the family. Unfortunately, Peter II lost the home due to his gambling habits. He was paid a fair price for the home by William Bishop in 1804.

During the next decades, the home was sold many times. Between 1836 and 1857, it had three different owners. Then, in 1905, Dr. Robert Whitehead, Sr. purchased the house for $3,000 and moved in with his wife, Peaches Sanderlin. According to a docent in the home, it Peaches who named the home Pleasant Hall in the 1930s because she liked the name. Prior to that it was known as the Singleton House. Dr. Whitehead practiced medicine in an outbuilding on the property. When Dr. Whitehead died in 1945, his four children inherited the property. His son, Major Robert Whitehead, Jr., was the last owner-occupant of Pleasant Hall.

During the 1970s, Major Whitehead leased the home to John Pond, who ran a music school in the home. In 1973, Pleasant Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places.


This is a view upstairs between two bedrooms. The docent believes that these rooms were opened to one another when the home was renovated to serve as a funeral home

By the 1980s, Pleasant Hall was in need of restoration work. It was purchased in 1986 by Al Bonney (in my research I’ve also seen him listed as A.L. Bonney) with the intent to renovate. However, this did not take place. Three years later, Bonney sold the home to Neal and Karen Kellam. Neal Kellam was an important member of the Virginia Beach community who established a funeral home in 1980 that still operates today. The Kellams carefully restored the home, and it was used for funerals.

It wasn’t until 2001 that Kempsville Baptist Church, located right next to the home, purchased Pleasant Hall. In 2006, the church received a grant to help care for and conserve the home and significant projects to update the home were completed between 2008 and 2012. Today, the home has been decorated as close as it was known to have looked in the 18th century.

Many of the features of the home are original to the construction in 1769, including a majority of the window panes, door locks and handles, interior wooden shutters and door hinges. The wallpaper in the dining room today was recreated from what was found when layers of paint were scraped away during restoration.


Photos from renovations of the home are displayed in the front living room


The dining room wallpaper is decorated with birds and plant life.

I am very grateful that this home has been saved and maintained. The 17th century plantation home of Anthony Walke once stood in the nearby neighborhood of Fairfield. Its lack of existence is a reminder of the importance of historic conservation. To learn more about Virginia Beach historic homes, I would suggest reading Lost Virginia Beach by Amy Waters Yarsinske, which is available for free on Google Books.

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Centennial Destinations

When planning your summer vacation, keep in mind paying a visit to these historical spots celebrating their centennial anniversary in 2014.


Photo source:

1. Wrigley Field. Now home to the Chicago Cubs, the baseball park was originally called Weeghman Park and was home to the Chicago Federal League baseball team, the Chicago Whales, until 1920. It is the oldest National League ballpark and the second oldest active major league ballpark, the oldest being Fenway Park in Boston, which was built in 1912.


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2. Pittock Mansion. Located in Portland, Oregon, Pittock Mansion was home to Henry and Georgiana Pittock and their children. Pittock left home at age 19 and followed the Oregon Trail to Portland. He owned a The Oregonian newspaper, founded the paper industry in the Northwest, developed land, operated a bank, and invested in multiple industries. The home was built in the French Renaissance style and boasts panoramic views of the city and surrounding mountains. It has 46 rooms and sits on a 46-acre estate.


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3. Montclair Art Museum. Located in Montclair, New Jersey, the Montclair Art Museum has a distinctive collection of American and American Indian art. For their 100th anniversary, on view is a special exhibition called “100 Works for 100 Years: A Centennial Celebration” that features art identified with a special tag throughout the museum’s galleries and grounds. It is on view through November 2, 2014.


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4. Lucknow. Also known as Castle in the Clouds, this estate is located in Moultonborough, New Hampshire. It was the country estate of Thomas Gustave Plant, who made his millions in the shoe manufacturing industry. Today it is owned by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust and managed by the Castle Preservation Society in close to its original state.


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5. Beverly Hills. The City of Beverly Hills in California is known for its Rodeo Drive shopping, celebrity sightings and even it’s famous zip code- 90210. All year long, they are celebrating their centennial anniversary with a cookbook, a postage stamp, a fleece jacket, y youth art contest, a lawn bowling tournament and tons of events including a farmer’s market and a pet extravaganza, Woofstock 90210, this summer.

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Cavalier Closeout

The Cavalier Hotel has been a landmark at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront since in was built in the 1920s. The hotel officially opened in April 1927, and it’s grand style, innovative amenities and desirable location made it a top tourist destination. People traveled by train from near and far to experience the Cavalier Hotel. There was ice cold water delivered to every guest room despite refrigeration as we know it today not yet existing. Each bathtub had a fourth handle for salt water, as people at the time believed salt water baths were medically beneficial. For guests who travelled to the hotel, there was a separate dining room for their chauffeurs. The list of exclusive amenities goes on and on.


The drained swimming pool as it looks today.

Due to the hotel beings located so close to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, a major shipping channel and target of German U-boats during World War II, the United States Navy took over the hotel in 1942. It was used as a Radar Training School and housed sailors. It became so full that sailors even stayed in the stables and classes were held in the bottom of the drained swimming pool. After the war, the Navy rented rooms to house single officers.

In 1973, a new Cavalier Oceanfront Hotel opened and the original Cavalier a Hotel was going to be closed. The following year, all contents of the original hotel were auctioned off. However, the hotel was reopened in 1976 due to public demand.

In 2013, both Cavalier Hotels were purchased by Bruce Thompson for $35.1 million with plans to renovate both properties and build 100 homes on the surrounding property. The majority of bidders on the Cavalier hotel planned to demolish the hotel, creating quite an uproar from history lovers and Virginia Beach natives alike. Thompson closed the original Cavalier Hotel and in full circle, the contents of the hotel were once again sold to the public.

I attended the liquidation sale to see the deals and to see the hotel before it’s renovations. It is truly in need of work. It is outdated and in disrepair. Much of the furnishings were not worth purchasing, in my opinion. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to walk through the hotel, see a variety of guest rooms and the views and imagine what life was like when the hotel was in its prime.


Here’s the line waiting to get inside the Cavalier Hotel liquidation sale.

Although I am not happy that the landscape around the hotel will be crowded with new construction, I am very glad the hotel is being preserved. I look forward to visiting again after the renovation and hope that as much of the history of the hotel is preserved as possible. It is estimated that the renovation will take two years.

In March 2014, the Cavalier Hotel was officially added to the Virginia Landmarks Register. It is now nominated to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. This designation gives the developer significant tax breaks for renovation.



A view of the Atlantic Ocean from a guest room inside the Cavalier Hotel. The building on the left is the newer Cavalier Oceanfront Hotel.


A view of the tile inside a guestroom bathroom in the Cavalier Hotel. Each bathroom was tiled like this.


Here are some blueprints of the Cavalier Hotel strewn on the floor in a room in the basement that stored linens.


A look down a dark, dingy and dated hallway of the Cavalier Hotel.

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Pinterest for History Buffs

For those who have yet to discover the magic that is Pinterest, it’s a photo-sharing website organized into themed pin boards. Each “pin” or photo, links users back to the original content where the photo was found. There are some Pinterest users with some fun history boards that I thought I would share:

ancient places

User: Boyd57867

civil war sites

User: djbarr66/

colonial williamsburg

User: ruthanne1951


User: chrissy_lewin


User: rhys614

american revolution

User: historybyzim

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Christmas During the Civil War

Across the nation, historical sites are commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. This holiday season, there are plenty of opportunities to learn about how soldiers and their families lived during the Christmas season throughout the Civil War.

December 21: Ellwood Manor, Locust Grove, VA– Located near Fredericksburg on Wilderness Battlefield, Ellwood Manor has a rich Civil War history, including visits from both General Robert E. Lee in 1863 and General Ulysses S. Grant the following year. A free Christmas celebration will take place at Ellwood Manor on December 21 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be an entertaining and educational visit fro 19th-century Santa, as well as period music and readings, refreshments and  tours of the home, which is decorated for the holidays.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

December 21 and 28: Smallin Cave, Ozark, MO– Ozark was a centralized location of Union activity during the Civil War, and there is strong evidence that Smallin Cave was used by troops during that time for purposes such as a hideout for a Union spy. You can take the Christmas-themed Civil War Lantern Light Tour of Smallin Cave that includes hot cocoa and coffee. During the tour, you will hear stories of the American soldiers at Christmastime during the Civil War while sitting around a campfire. Afterwards, you will go on a lantern-lit tour of the cave.

December 22: Chatham Manor, Fredericksburg, VA– This site served briefly as Union headquarters during the Civil War. On the afternoon of December 22, Civil War Santa will be paying a visit to Chatham Manor. He will be dressed in patriotic clothes that he wore while visiting children during the Civil War. There will also be crafts, a scavenger hunt and refreshments.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Now through December 22: Old Governor’s Mansion, Milledgeville, GA– During the Civil War, this home was claimed by General William Sherman during his “March to the Sea.” The public is invited to holiday tours of the home, which take place nightly through December 22. A special candlelight tour with holiday music will take place on December 19.

Now through December 22: Buttonwillow Civil War Dinner Theater, Whitwell, TN– This special holiday dinner theater features an 1864 Tennessee Christmas show, that focuses on period holiday traditions and beliefs. The experience includes food, music, Victorian decorations, period treats and beverages.

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Art History Wednesday: Target with Four Faces

This mixed media assemblage piece was completed by Jasper Johns in 1955. It is a multi-layered piece. He started with a collage that he covered with encaustic, which is pigments added to hot wax, and added sculptural elements to the top. The masks at the top are made of paper mâché.

Target with Four Faces

Target with Four Faces

When Johns completed the piece, it created a sensation because it was so shocking- the antithesis of what was being done in the 1950s. While all other artists were doing personal and expressive pieces, this seemed cold and impersonal. There are little doors that can cover the masks at the top. When you open the doors, one would expect to find a revelation. Instead, they find something very impersonal. The eyes are cut out, which takes away personality and individuality.

Around the time that he created this piece, Johns was using targets, as well as other common images, such as flags, maps and numbers, in many of his works. By using encaustic in this piece to build up the texture of the concentric circles that create the target, Johns makes then less precise and more tactile than the common shooting target that average individuals would associate this image with.

To those who have the time, thought and sensitivity to spend more time with the piece, they see beneath the surface, both literally and metaphorically. The personal aspect of the painting is there, but it is only accessible to those who put in the time and effort to find it. In the top right corner of the painting, a newsprint headline reading “History and Biography” is visible through the red paint. Whether or not this was intentional move by Johns will remain unknown. It is up to the viewer to determine how to interpret this piece, and perhaps, that is how Johns intended it to be. However, it is important to note that there is more to this work than meets the eye on first glance.

Today, Target with Four Faces is part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

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July 1943: Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Workers

I recently came across an excerpt from the July 1943 edition of Mass Transportation magazine, where an article was published about getting more efficiency out of women employees. The article began by recognizing that there is definitely a need to hire women because the military draft has resulted in a shortage of manpower; however, there are methods to select the most efficient women to get the job done. The article listed 11 helpful tips to do just that.

Women are still working for equality in the workplace, but after reading this article, I can see that we have come a long way. The article suggests that companies hire young, married women because they have a greater sense of responsibility, are less likely to be flirtatious and still have the interest to work hard. It also says that “husky” women are a better choice for hire compared to their thinner counterparts because women on the heavy side are more even-tempered.

The tips go on to suggest that before hiring a woman that she be examined by a medical professional because oftentimes a woman may be mentally or physically unfit for a job. In fact, the article says, many women end up being turned down for a job because of nervous disorders. Following this portrayal of women as weak and fragile, the article also suggests that employers given women an adequate number of rest periods during the day and that women cannot shrug off harsh words the same way that me do, so it is imperative to be careful when criticizing.

Wow. Thank goodness for the pioneering women who fought for their rights, bringing about the feminist movement. Many gender inequalities continue to exist in the workplace, but women have made great strides in closing the gap.

Read the original article here.

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Chacchoben Mayan Ruins

Temple to the Sun

Temple to the Sun

The Mayan ruins known as Chacchoben, meaning “place of the red corn,” is located on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, approximately 184 miles south of Cancun. The history of the site dates back to 200 B.C.E. when evidence suggest that the first inhabitants came to the area and lived in small villages near the water. As the Mayan population and power grew, they expanded to control the territory and resources of the surrounding areas. Their strategic location near the middle of the peninsula allowed them to participate in political and commercial exchange between territories to the north and south. The height of the Mayan empire was between 600 and 900, and the ruins at Chacchoben date back to 700.

There are still overgrown areas of ruins that have yet to be excavated.

There are still overgrown areas of ruins that have yet to be excavated.

Chacchoben remained populated by the Mayans until the Spanish conquests in the 1500s. The site was rediscovered in the 1940s by a man named Serviliano Cohuo who was looking for some land to farm. He lived with his family with the Mayan ruins on his land until he died in 1978. The ruins were not reported to the Mexican government until 1972 after they were encountered by American archeologist Dr. Peter Harrison. He was in the area working on a project from Tulane University. While flying in a helicopter area, he noticed hills of land in a predominately flat landscape and realized that there were temples beneath the hills. Dr. Harrison was the first to make maps of Chacchoben.

In 1994, the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History began to excavate and restore the site. It was opened to the public in 2002. There are temples as well as living areas that have been excavated. Portions of the ruins still remain under piles of dirt and plants because of lack of funding to continue excavation.

My November visit to Chacchoben

My November visit to Chacchoben

I had an awesome visit there earlier this month, and I would definitely suggest sun screen, bug spray and an umbrella if you go during the rainy season. It went from sun to a downpour of rain when I was there. There is a circular path that you walk to see the various structures, and you do get to climb parts of them. One unique thing that I learned is that in their prime, they were bright red. If you go to the backside of the Temple of the Moon, you can see a remaining portion of the red exterior. Unfortunately, in order to excavate the site, the top layer of the structures are sacrificed. There is also abundant wildlife here. We saw quite a long snake skin the rocks (luckily not the snake) and there were monkeys swinging through the trees.

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Gifts for the History Buff in Your Life

Here are some ideas to help with holiday shopping for the history buff in your life:

1. This Abraham Lincoln wall clock features 12 portraits of our 16th president. This is also a great gift for the art lover in your life, as each image of Lincoln is a different color, reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s pop art.

Final Score Products

Final Score Products

2. These Eiffel Tower bookends are a great accessory for any bookshelf. The Eiffel Tower has been the icon of Paris since it was constructed in 1889 as the entrance to the World’s Fair and held the title of the tallest building in the world for 41 years.

Daisy Shoppe

Daisy Shoppe

3. This Candlestick phone can dress up any desk. These phones were present in homes across the United States from the 1890s until the 1930s prior to the introduction of the one-piece handset. This vintage-like model has modern conveniences, such as a redial button and adjustable volume controls.

4. History buffs can commemorate African American history with a Frederick Douglass necktie, as they proudly wear the image of a social reformer, writer and statesman who was a leader of the abolitionist movement after escaping slavery.

5. An Uncommon History of Common Things is a great book published by National Geographic. It covers topics from washing machines to wine and everything in between. It even includes colorful illustrations to go along with a wealth of information.

National Geographic

National Geographic

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The History of Contemporary Ballet

Contemporary ballet emerged in the United States in the late 1800s in direct response to Classical Ballet. Some similarities remained: the same dance vocabulary was utilized, there was a strong relationship between the dance and the music and it required dancers to be at a high level of technical and artist ability.

One major shift from Classical Ballet to Contemporary Ballet was the subject matter. While Classical Ballet was about fairy tales, Contemporary Ballet was more human and dealt with controversial subjects. Contemporary Ballet doesn’t necessarily tell a story, it’s much more abstract than Classical Ballet.

Contemporary Ballet has dancers that are sometimes dancing en pointe and sometimes they would wear soft ballet slippers. This greatly differed from the Classical Ballets that were characterized by ballerinas being en pointe. Contemporary Ballet also has a lot more freedom of movement in the upper body of the dancers, than Classical Ballet, which adhered to an erect upper body with the shoulders and hips always aligned.

One notable contributor to Contemporary Ballet was George Balanchine, who is considered to be the father of American ballet. He was Russian by birth and even graduated from the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg, Russia. He was later invited to the United States by Lincoln Kirstein, a wealthy patron of the arts, to work as a choreographer and teacher. Balanchine went on to found the School of American Ballet in 1913. Today, this school offers the foremost training for ballet in the United States.

Balanchine revolutionized the dance world by founding the New York City Ballet and by changing the face of ballet through costuming, choreography and dance philosophy. He often eliminated sets and costuming, such as those used in Classical Ballet, because they took away from the focus on the dancer. During his career, Balanchine created over 400 ballets and is considered to be the greatest contemporary choreographer of his time.

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