Poplar Hill is an abandoned mansion most famously owned by the Dunnington family in rural Prince Edward County, Virginia.
The Wood Plantation, constructed in 1840 by James D. Wood and his wife, Frances Watkins Wood, was located on a knob dotted with large poplar trees in rural Prince Edward County. 2 The residence was purchased by Confederate States of America Captain John H. Knight in 1860 who lived there with his wife, Cornelia Bland Knight. In 1876, Walter Dunnington, of the Dunnington Tobacco Company, married the captain’s daughter, India Knight.
The Dunnington Tobacco Company was organized in 1870 by James W. Dunnington, which focused on raising dark-fired tobacco and later bright leaf tobacco that was used by Virginia and North Carolina-based cigarette manufacturers. 1 James’ son, Walter, joined the family business in 1872 and began making connections with tobacconists in Austria, Italy, and Norway. Walter was also instrumental in establishing the local First National Bank and was co-owner of the Virginia State Fertilizer Company.
In 1897, Walter and India Knight Dunnington moved into their Wood Plantation and dramatically expanded upon the structure with an Italianate-style addition at which point the 8,500 square-foot house became known as both the Dunnington Home and Poplar Hill. 1 2 It featured fourteen rooms, six bedrooms, and three bathrooms. 3 A modest, circa 1790 house that was located behind the Dunnington residence was relocated a short distance away to house farm workers. 2 Noted as the Woodson House, it was constructed by Richard Woodson for him and his wife, Ann Madelin Michaux Woodson.
The Manor, a golf course and residential development on the grounds of the Dunnington estate, failed to take root circa 1999 because of an economic recession. 2 The Granite Falls Hotel and Conference Center proposal was another attempt to develop the Dunnington estate for commercial purposes but it also failed to take root. 4 Another attempt by the Poplar Hill Community Development Authority led to the start of the construction of an 18-hole championship course in October 2004 and the Manor Golf Club opened on June 14, 2006. In preparation to renovate the Dunnington Mansion as a clubhouse and event center, the interior was stripped of ornamentation and fixtures, and the surrounding outbuildings, including the Woodson House, an ice house, an apple house, two slave houses, a cabin, two barns, and several machine sheds, were demolished.
As of October 2020, the Poplar Hill residence and an adjoining 361 acres are being auctioned.
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- “Poplar Hill–Victorian-Era Home of the Tobacconist Family the Dunningtons.” Farmville Herald, 4 Aug. 2004.
- Gaskins, Ray A. “More golf history from Farmville.” Farmville Herald, 8 Sept. 2016.
- Bowers, Michelle. “New pictures of Dunnington Mansion: Poplar Hill in Virginia!” Old House Life, 2 Mar. 2019.
- Schumacher, Michele N. “Reader shares thoughts on “The Manor”.” Southside Messenger, 22 Jul. 2013.