Friday, July 1

Some Riva Howse History

My brother asked me for a history of The Riva Howse for the website. Yeah - we've got a website. It's a work in progress.

If you are not familiar with The Riva Howse - basically it is a cabin by the James River that my family owns. Ok, Mom and Dad own - and share with the rest of us. We, in turn - share it with our friends.

It is a place of respite. We don't have jet skis and motorboats...we've got canoes. We don't have TV, and the radio is sketchy sometimes too. We love it very much.

So - how did this magical oasis come into our lives?

I found it (or perhaps, it found me?). During one of those periods in my life when I found myself discontented with my work situation (there have been 3...look at my job history - figure out which 3 were my least favorite)...I had to psyche myself up to go into work. So I would drive the stretch of River Road in Madison Heights that passes alongside the James River. Some mornings there would be fog lifting from the river - and driving in the cool shadow of the bluff and ridge - well, it would be enough to make me say "I can do another day".

One morning as I passed by this little house on the river side, I noticed a BIG sign nailed to it "Absolute Auction" (where Gordon and Denise painted the lovely scene). The date was pretty memorable for me: March 6. My mom & I's birthday. If memory serves right, that was late January. I saw it several more times before the beginning of March. And it turned out that Dad had seen it too...on a bike ride. We decided it would at least be fun to go to the auction and see what it went for. I have a pretty serious affinity for auctions anyway.

So we went. And we poked around with the rest of the crowd. It was a drizzly morning...I'm sure it was mid-week, too. And so Mom, Dad and I put our heads together and came up with a figure. And I was elected to be our bidder. And so the auction began...

I was familiar with the auctioneers - Carlton Wingfield and his son Steve (who I knew from church...nice fellow. Rest in peace friend.). I had already spoken with Steve and decided to open the bidding at 5K. The next 10 minutes were intense. Bidding on anything at an auction can get your adrenaline pumping - but try it with real estate...that's where the rubber hits the road.

There were 4 or 5 bidders at the beginning - but around 15K, it was down to just me and one other guy. He was a very emotional bidder - you could see the steam coming off his head. I (though shaking mentally) was cool as a cucumber. Steve and I had connected so that I could bid with the slightest shift of my eyebrow, nod of my head. So...the other guy couldn't even tell who he was up against.

Mom and Dad were on the opposite side of the circle from me - and I kept trying to get some sort of sign from them that they were still comfortable with the figure we had come up with. Nothin'. Dad was just standing there like he was watching me bid on a plow or something. Mom, she was just smiling away...

Finally - he hit his top limit...and we owned .137 acres of heaven. 549 River Road. The Riva Howse. Transferred to us on 4/21/99 from Michael K Thaxton (who had paid $6,000 for it 4/27/98). Searchable public fascinating. It was built in 1969 and is noted as being "flood plain adjacent". Um...yeah...

In 1985 when the James River left its banks in the famed Flood of 85 (such a creative name...) the Riva Howse was below water. Only the chimney cap stuck out. A man who worked for Lynchburg City owned it them - he showed me a picture of it. I wish I had asked for a copy of that.

So - there is a bit of the history of the Riva Howse. Now my brother has his info...and I have a blog post. Two birds with one stone.


  1. Love it...the riva howse AND your blog Chris! Now I have to come up with something for his website...hmmm - what to write?