The plantation that became known as White Plains originated from a 362 acre tract that Robert Ellett Jr. had acquired by 1787, land formerly owned by William Lemay whose heirs sold it to Thomas Ellett in 1786. By 1791, structural improvements were built on the property, which became the Ellett family’s ancestral home, White Plains. In 1820, when county tax assessors began disclosing the assessed value of buildings, a domestic complex worth $550 was located on the Ellett plantation. After Robert Ellett’s death around 1824, his widow, Frances, retained life rights to White Plains but promptly moved to Henrico County. Temple Ellett, who married the former Mary W. Acree in 1828, probably lived at White Plains before he inherited it outright in 1838. Between the time of the tax assessor’s visit in 1841 and his return in 1842, Temple Ellett erected a new building worth $1,050 at White Plains, presumable the existing dwelling; however, he retained the property’s original improvements, then valued at $500. Temple Ellett died in 1848, leaving life rights to his widow, Mary, but bequeathed the family home and 125 acres to his eldest daughter, Lucy Ann, who wed Cornelius H. Dabney in 1846. Mary W. Ellett lived at White Plains until her death in late 1864 and Dabney, who had remarried, lived near Hopewell Church, on his own property.
In May 1863 Mary W. Ellett’s daughter, Bettie H., who was age 22, sent word to Confederate troops that the Union cavalry was moving toward Tunstall’s Station. Thanks to her timely warning, the attack upon the railroad was averted. A remarkably detailed account of the estate sale held after Temple and Mary W. Ellett’s deaths reveals how their home was furnished in February 1865. It also reveals that the Ellett family’s crops and livestock had escaped wartime intrusions, probably because their domestic complex was off the beaten track. In 1873 Lucy Ann Ellett Dabney’s three surviving children sold the White Plains dwelling and 125 acres to the children of blacksmith John C. Winn and his wife, Ann Elizabeth, who were Native Americans and formerly lived in western New Kent County near Black Creek. Mrs. Winn, upon being widowed, retained possession of White Plains until her death in the early-to-mid 1880s. She and her sons farmed the land, but her daughters supplemented the family income by working as seamstresses. Upon division of the Winn estate, White Plains passed through a series of owners. Between 1957 and 1958 Dallas H. and Eugenia E. Smith, enlarged the dwelling by adding an architecturally appropriate wing. The Peace family acquired the property in 2011 and with the advice and effort of Restoration Builders of Virginia, David Cooley, present a fully restored 19th century home for modern living. The family is proud of its recognition from Preservation Virginia earning their preservation award in 2013 and among others credit the Virginia Rehabilitation Historic Tax Credit and the Department of Historic Resources for its incentive program to master the restoration.
The formal Living Room was recently re-designed by Ms. Patti Ryan of Richmond who beautifully incorporated legacy pieces and accented them with acquired antiques by the family. Mr. Peace’s great, great maternal grandfather Purcell (Purr-sell) carved the round wooden table along with several other pieces in the home. A picture of him on horseback hangs in the English basement foyer. The family would like to draw special attention to a picture of Ms. Eugenia Smith on one of the secretary’s shelves. Mrs. Smith and her husband Dallas restored White Plains house in the 1950s by adding the perpendicular addition which houses all mechanical and plumbing. Her tasteful efforts saved the home from dereliction and despair. Later in life as a widow, she remarried Mr. Douglas Fleet of nearby Retreat Farm. The Peaces choose to honor her love of this place with their recent award winning restoration, garden and vineyard, and specific elements in this room such as the curtain “holders” under each window. The chimney was recently restored by Preferred Chimney Services of King William County (Jeff Austin) which relined the flues; fire inserts were custom made by Studley Stove of Hanover County.
The formal Dining Room has witnessed many uses over the years including once as a bedroom for the prior owners. The left exterior door previously led to an elevated outside porch which can be seen in photographs from the 1930s found in the Virginia Department of Historic Resources file. These images also led the Peaces to identify the site of recently unearthed slave quarter foundations. The right exterior door leads to a “pent” closet which overhangs the masonry foundation. The dining room table is a solid piece of American wood custom made for the Peaces by fellow Hampden-Sydney College alumnus Owen Suter of Richmond. A local artist Carson Overstreet Price’s original art hangs above the fireplace. Carson’s father is a lawyer and alumnus of Hampden-Sydney College.
The Foyer welcomes guests from the classic blue ceilinged front porch facing the Pamunkey River through the home ultimately to the master bedroom designed by Kenneth Byrd of Richmond. There an original Ed Taylor of Hanover hangs above the fireplace while another adorns the hallway outside the chamber. These Taylor originals once hung in the office and home of former Supervisor and Judge Nina K. Peace, who was the first woman ever elected to the Hanover Board. The master bed is another gem of Owen Suter’s. The grandfather clock tolled as Mr. Peace’s great-grandmother and grandmother were born in the family’s ancestral home of Hillsboro, Virginia. The clock derives from Frederick, Maryland and was made in the late 1800s. From the foyer, one can observe more original art on the landing and in the bookcases collected by the family. Of special note, their children, Camden and Henry’s silhouettes were cut by Silhouette Artist Billie Wills of Richmond.
The English basement Den changes the pace of the home’s décor and provide a sanctuary retreat from the world in the comfort of a cozy couch before a blazing fire topped off with ample refreshments from the nearby bar cart. Mr. Peace retains several curios in the corner cupboard including an authentic voting machine from the Virginia General Assembly from the displaced session resulting from the 2007 State Capitol renovations celebrating the 400th Anniversary of Jamestown. Col. James Kilian was Mr. Peace’s maternal grandfather who served in two world wars before dying in 1958. The most prized item here is a silver cigar box presented to Col. Kilian by the Prince of Wales during his command post at Litchfield, England. The wooden lining of the box is comprised of tinder and remnants of burned English housing set ablaze by Nazi bombs. A program from the presentation ceremony is found inside. Col Kilian’s Legion of Merit and Bronze Star are framed for display in the basement foyer.
The basement Kitchen was completely gutted during the rehabilitation. Previously lined with pine cabinets, too many termites had taken root therein. The kitchen farm table is found at The Kellogg Collection in Richmond, Virginia. This original winter kitchen had a bread oven enclosed to the left of the fireplace. A window previously sat where the door to the patio was installed during the rehabilitation and the patio remains one of the Peace’s favorite entertaining areas constructed by Mike Hart of Homescapes in Richmond, Virginia. The three framed set above the hearth represents an 1865 probate record associated with the house containing an inventory of goods found herein. Historian and Author Martha McCartney located this list and published a short history of the house and farm. After finding a probate record on the Library of Virginia online archive Mr. Peace was able to request an identical record be written as it would have by Calligrapher Ginny Rogan of Powhatan. Rick’s Custom Framing preserved the three pieces of historical art as a lovely set and conversation piece. It is most interesting to see that even a butter churn would be listed and inventoried.
The basement Foyer includes a family map collection and engravings of Americans who contributed greatly to our nation and state’s history and reflect a character and virtue which the family respects. Take note of the worn steps perfectly protected during the renovation process.