Danville is a town built on tobacco, not the manufacture of it but the storage and transporting of it. In the early 1790s inland tobacco growers began agitating for a more convenient inspection station than Richmond or Petersburg and in 1793 the Virginia Assembly established a tobacco warehouse at Wynne’s Falls, a fording spot on the Dan River. Later in the year the village name was changed by the Legislature to Danville, the name coming from pioneering settler William Byrd who, in 1728, named the river.

In short order Danville would become Virginia’s largest market for bright leaf tobacco, laying claim to being the “World’s Best Tobacco Market.” By the Civil War Danville had evolved into a bustling town of 5,000. During the fighting the town’s cavernous tobacco warehouses were converted into hospitals and prisons. Starvation and dysentery, plus a smallpox epidemic in 1864, caused the death of 1,314 of these prisoners. Their remains now lie interred in the Danville National Cemetery. Danville was a major supply depot for the Confederacy but was never reached by Union troops.

Danville’s industrial era began in 1881 with the opening of a small yarn mill that would evolve into the largest single-unit textile mill in the world. Dan River textiles were known the country over. Fortunes made in tobacco and cotton showed themselves on Main Street as it stretched west away from the city clinging to the Dan River. While downtown Danville lost many of its most impressive buildings to fire and urban renewal energetic preservationists have kept this section of Main Street, known as Millionaire’s Row, looking much as it did in the town’s glory days.

Danville is home to some of the finest Victorian architecture in the South and our walking tour will work up and down Main Street (although topographically speaking down and then up) and we will start at the top of the hill with the house that launched Millionaire’s Row and witnessed the end of the Confederacy...

Sutherlin Mansion/Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History
975 Main Street

While still in his thirties William Thomas Sutherlin was operating the second largest tobacco factory in the Commonwealth and was the first Virginian to apply steam power to hydraulic tobacco presses. In his spare time Sutherlin founded and served as the first president of the Bank of Danville. In 1855, at the age of 33, Sutherlin was elected as Danville’s mayor and served for 6 years. The Italian villa he constructed on this hilltop in 1857-58 triggered development of the town’s fashionable West End and stands today as the city’s only such ante-bellum mansion. During the Civil War Sutherlin’s ill health kept him from serving actively but he was appointed Quartermaster of the critical Danville supply depot and arsenal. In the final week of the Confederacy from April 3 to the 10th Major Sutherlin quartered Confederate President Jefferson Davis in an upstairs bedroom. In this house, Davis wrote and delivered his final proclamation to the Confederacy on April 4th and later that day, met for the last time with his full Cabinet - events that enabled Danville to lay claim to being the “Last Capitol of the Confederacy.” After the war Sutherlin went back to his business interests and drifted into politics. He died at the age of 71 in 1893. In disrepair, the mansion was spared the wrecking ball in 1912 by a campaign from Confederate veterans that launched Danville’s preservation movement. Beginning in 1928 the Sutherlin Mansion began duty as the city’s first public library and since 1974 has served as the home for the Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History.


First Presbyterian Church
937 Main Street

The Presbyterians were the first congregation to organize in Danville (1826) but the last denomination to arrive on Main Street - and they brought game. This monumental Ionic temple-fronted sanctuary was completed in 1912, executed in light-colored sandstone and cream colored pressed brick. This is the fourth Presbyterian meetinghouse in town, designed by Reuben H.. Hunt of Chattanooga, Tennessee. the elegant egg and dart molding on the interior was contributed by Danville master plaster craftsman Charles Orchard. 

Witcher Jones House
903 Main Street

This was a much smaller house when tobacconist Witcher Jones had it built in 1875. You can see how the Italianate-flavored house was enlarged by the coloring of the bricks.

First Baptist Church
871 Main Street

This congregation was established in 1834 and prospered over the next half-century until more spacious quarters were needed. The Baptists secured this lot in 1885 for $8,000 and spent another $32,500 to construct a new church to the High Victorian Gothic design by John Rochester Thomas of Rochester, New York. Lightning struck the building in 1905 sparking a fire which left only the walls, tower and a bit of the steeple standing. Today’s appearance dates to the subsequent rebuilding.

Edward Fox Acree House
833 Main Street

This beefy Victorian was built in 1881 by Edward Fox Acree, who, with his brother James founded Acree’s Warehouse that helped propel Danville to the forefront of the loose leaf tobacco trade. Several styles are represented here. The eyebrow window is a Shingle-Style affectation, the elaborate milled roof brackets and window hoods are borrowed from the Italianate style and the fish-scaled gables and delicate columns of the porch are trademarks of the Queen Anne influence.

Paxton Grant House
815 Main Street

John W. Paxton, an accomplished silversmith and clockmaker, purchased this land in the early 1800s. His son Walter, a tobacconist, constructed this Queen Anne confection in 1895. It is slathered with fish-scale shingles and boasts asymmetrical massing, wrap-around porch, and a sly eyebrow window on the roof.

Elm Court
811 Main Street

Today this house set well back from the street sports and empty front lawn but at one time a massive American elm tree lorded over the property. Jacob Davis started this structure in 1853 and sold it to his son-in-law George Ayres for $20,000 a decade later. Ayres spent the coming decades re-modeling and added the hooded gable and bracketed Italianate details. Since 1920 the building has operated as four apartment units.  

Robert Bruce James House803 Main Street  

For three generations Danville residents sought care here, with Robert Bruce James being the first of three doctors who used the brick building as their residence and office. The house features asymmetrical Queen Anne massing and elements with a splash of Neoclassical details. Look up to see a tripartite Palladian window.

Episcopal Church of the Epiphany
781 Main Street

The Church of the Epiphany was founded in 1840 with Dr. George Washington Dame preaching to a congregation of four. Dame had come to town to be headmaster at the Danville Female Academy. Four years later a small Gothic-styled wooden church was erected on this site; Confederate President Jefferson Davis attended service here in the waning days of the Civil War. In 1880 the original frame building was demolished and the present structure with three-stage corner tower and octagonal spire, was built along the lines of the original wood church. The building was completed in time for Easter services in 1881; the final cost was $16,000. 

Education Annex, Main Street United Methodist Church
769 Main Street

Go-to Danville architect J. Bryant Heard delivered a complimentary fellowship hall for theMain Street United Methodist Church next door in 1923. It features the same outstanding brickwork and Romanesque arched windows. The space has been re-adapted for community use since the congregation disbanded in 2007. 

Main Street United Methodist Church
767 Main Street

The city’s Methodist tradition dates back to 1834. The core of this building was erected in 1868 but its Romanesque appearance - the city’s best - came in 1891 courtesy of architect William M. Poindexter. The make-over came with the prominent castellated tower. In 1909 the widow of tobacco magnate James G. Penn donated an eleven-bell carillon for the church tower. 

Hotel Leeland
601-623 Main Street

Along with the Hotel Danville across the street, the Hotel Leland is the only remaining grand hotel from the go-go days of a century ago. The brainchild of local businessmen and brothers E.C. and K.C., the 72-room hotel, developed in a Colonial Revival style, opened in 1918. It was said the cost of the building was $500,000 with $300,000 spent to create the Strand Theatre alone. The chairs in the 900-seat theater were hand-carved in Richmond from solid oak and outfitted with brass plates. Local architect J. Bryant Heard shepherded the project to completion. 

Southern Amusement Building
549 Main Street

The two- story building has an elegant Neoclassical facade of glazed cream-colored terra cotta that rises to a frieze ofpurple and cream swags and a row offree-standing urns. This was built in 1922 by the Southern Amusement Company as the ornate front of a 2,000-seat theater that was never built. Finally it was sold in 1936 to Sears, Roebuck & Company.

Herman Building
515-517 Main Street

This four-story buff-colored brick building has stood for 100 years in more or less its original form. This was one of the first projects undertaken by architect Charles G. Pettit, Jr. after he came to town in 1909 to open an office for the Lynchburg firm of McLaughlin, Petit and Johnson. Along with J. Bryant Heard, Pettit was responsible for much of the look of downtown Danville’s streetscape. For Louis Herman’s new department store Pettit incorporated geometric patterns that would mark some of his later work as well.

The Masonic Building
105 South Union Street at Main Street  

This is Danville’s first skyscraper, completed in 1921, and still reigns as the city’s tallest building. The tandem of ten-story towers were constructed to relieve a shortage of office space and serve as a showcase for the Masons. It is actually the third lodge built in Danville built by the fraternal organization. Fred F. Farris, a West Virginia architect, designed the Neoclassical building with traces of Tudor and Gothic ornamentation. The two towers are constructed of concrete and steel and sheathed in white terra-cotta. The price tag - $550,000.


Elks Lodge
560 Main Street

The B.P.O. Elks Lodge No. 227 in Danville was established in 1892 and this lodge and apartment building came along in 1912. Danville architect Charles G. Pettit, Jr., tapped into the emerging Craftsman style with geometric patterns into this brick building. Overall, the bricks are laid in the decorative Flemish bond pattern of alternating headers and stretchers.

Hotel Danville
600 Main Street  

Danville boasted a number of grand hotels in its glory days of the late 1800s and early 1900s: Hotel Leeland, Morgan Hotel, Hotel Dan, Burton Hotel. Most are gone today. The red brick, nine-story Hotel Danville joined the roster in 1927. It was an upscale affair, boasting its own theater and amenities attracting a well-heeled clientele. Among the notables who signed the guest book were Eleanor Roosevelt and movie stars Greer Garson, Randolph Scott and Lash Larue. The Colonial Revival building was also the site of Danville’s first commercial radio station when WBTM erected its transmitting antenna to the roof in 1930. The Hotel Danville closed operations in the 1970s and carries on as housing for the elderly.

Danville Post Office
700 Main Street

This Depression-era project to create a federal post office and courthouse was completed in 1932, replacing a 50-year old building two blocks east on Main Street. J. Bryant Heard provided the plans for the stripped-down classicism of the Art Deco style building.

Lanier House
770 Main Street

This is the oldest house on Main Street, built around 1830 by James Lanier. In 1833 he became Danville’s first mayor. Lanier would do a double take if he saw his Federal-style house today. When it was owned by the Wylie family in the 20th century a quartet of full-length Doric columns were added to the entrance. It did duty as an Elks Lodge in the early 1900s for a spell.

Peatross House
776 Main Street

Richard Warner Peatross was born on the family farm in Caroline County in 1839. An ardent secessionist, Peatross was mustered into service for the Confederacy on the day of the First Battle of Bull Run and surrendered with the Army of Northern Virginia, having passed through the Civil War without a serious injury. He taught himself law and won admission to the Virginia bar, beginning practice in Danville in 1867. Peatross had this Georgian Revival house built in 1905 when he was serving as city attorney. That wooden frame building served the county’s legal needs and was also used for religious services - Thomas Jefferson called it “The Common Temple.” In 1803 the building was razed and replaced by a brick courthouse that can still be seen today in the rear wing. In 1859 a front addition in the Gothic Revival style came along. The portico seen today dates to 1867.

Lawson House
782 Main Street

Architect-builder T. B. Fitzgerald constructed the original two-story, red-brick Italianate dwelling In 1881 for Robert W. Lawson, a successful tobacconist. You can see the Italianate details such as a flat roof, arched window hoods, one over one windows and corner quoins. What is decidedly not Italianate is the semi-circular Ionic portico that came along in 1911, added by William Daniel Overbey, president of the Danville Lumber & Manufacturing Company.

James H. Fitzgerald House
802 Main Street

This is a rare example of the luxurious Chateauesque style in Danville, seen most conspicuously in its varied roofline. Erected in 1891, the brick house sports terra cotta detailing, rough stone beltcourses and a well-proportioned conical corner tower.

B.S. Crews House
806 Main Street  

The most eye-catching detail of this eclectic Queen Anne house from 1890 is its octagonal corner tower decorated with ornamental scrolled ironwork. The tower of this beautifully preserved house is capped by a wrought iron finial. The plans were drawn by local architect R.B. Graham.  

E.G. Moseley House
840 Main Street

This picturesque Victorian house, lovingly restored after decades of decay, was constructed in 1903 for E.G. Moseley, president of the Danville Tobacco Association. Moseley was also a long-time Methodist minister for whom Moseley Memorial Methodist Church was named.

Wiseman House
842 Main Street

This well-proportioned English cottage-style house designed by J. Bryant Heard snuck onto the street in 1917. Henry A. Wiseman, a physician, built it for his bride. He had been born in the family home that had been on this property since 1870. The house was in the Wiseman family for 100 years before beginning a three-decade stint as the headquarters for the Danville chapter of the American Red Cross. It has since been returned to its roots as a residence. 

William H. Lipscomb House
854 Main Street

This Italianate-flavored brick house with its patterned slate conical tower is actually one-half of twin houses constructed for brothers William and James Lipscomb in 1885. The brothers, two of twelve children, operated a grocery and merchandise house at the foot of Main Street and purchased an 80-foot lot here for $4,350. When James died in 1802 his house was sold and torn down by new owner James Gabriel Penn. The bricks were saved and used for Penn’s carriage house.

James G. Penn House
862 Main Street

James Gabriel Penn was born at Penn’s Store on November 14, 1845 and as a cadet at Virginia Military Institute was part of the celebrated Cadet Corps that fought with valor for the Confederacy at the Battle of New Market in 1864, forcing the Union Army out of the Shenandoah Valley. After the war Penn arrived in Danville in 1868 and entered into a partnership in a mercantile concern. He sold that interest and became a commission merchant for the purchase of leaf tobacco as a principal in the firm of Pemberton and Penn beginning in 1872. He spent an estimated $60,000 to build this Victorian mansion in 1876, liberally decorated with Italianate details and strengthened by a three-story Second Empire-style central tower. The house picked up several remodelings through the years as it evolved into a Danville landmark. The family lost the house during the Depression and it was sold at public auction in 1934 for $9,300. It is one of only two houses on Millionaires Row listed individually on the National Register of Historic Places.

Charles M. Sublett House
78 Main Street

Tobacco magnate Charles M. Sublett built this spectacular rendering of a High Victorian Gothic mansion for his new bride Jennie Crosby inn 1874. Sublett died two years later, but the house remained in the family for the next 120 years. The mansion is awash in pointed arched windows, corbeled cornices, finials capped by a complex roof massing and all enclosed by a splendid wrought iron fence.

E. J. Bell House
904 Main Street  

Merchant EJ Bell constructed this house in the Italianate style in 1860 but he suffered financial reversals in 1868 and the house was sold at auction. H. Lee Boatwright, a vice-president at the tobacco firm, Dibrell Brothers, moved here in 1893 and set about overhauling the 33-year old mansion. He had visions of a grand classical visage and added Palladian windows and doors with beveled glass and a two-story Ionic portico intersected by a one-story Ionic colonnade.

W.A. Cherry House
912 Main Street

This land was once owned by James Lanier, Danville’s first mayor. W.A. and Maggie Cherry erected this eclectic two-and-a-half story clapboard house in 1898. It features asymmetrical massing and a Neoclassical porch of slender, fluted Ionic columns. The ancient oak that shades the front yard is a survivor of an original grove of nearly two acres. The house was acquired by J. Pemberton Penn, son of James Penn, in 1905. 

James Rufus Jopling House
918 Main Street  

This interpretation of the French Second Empire style was crafted in 1890 for J.R. Jopling. The focalpoint is the three-story central tower crowned with a mansard roof. Jopling was a Bedford County farm boy who left to fight in the Civil War and came home to the fields. He was appointed deputy sheriff of Bedford County in 1866 at the age of 21. In 1868 he left the farm to begin his business career as a clerk in Lynchburg. By 1874 he was in Danville managing a hardware store. When he built this house he was running a wholesale and retail enterprise. Active in both the Methodist church and the Democratic party, Jopling became president of the Merchants Bank in 1893 which he merged into the First National Bank of Danville, which he also helmed. 

William F. Patton House
926 Main Street

Local lore maintains that the shrouded facade of this stone and brick Queen Anne house was “unveiled” by banker William Patton when it was completed in 1890. A look up close reveals exquisite terra cotta detailing and craftsmanship. The house would be visited by tragedy within a few years when Patton’s wife died from typhoid and the family left to live with his mother-in-law. O. Witcher Dudley, a prominent tobacco leaf dealer, purchased the house and the Dudley family resided here until 1954. By the 1960s an absentee owner laid out plans to replace the aging 27-room mansion with an apartment building. The scheme kick-started Danville preservationists and it became the first house to be rescued.

John H. Schoolfield House
944 Main Street

John Harrell Schoolfield was part of the six-man consortium, including two of his brothers, who pooled $75,000 to charter The Riverside Cotton Mills on July 27, 1882. Known familiarly as the Dan River Mills, the company would hold sway in the community for 126 years. Thomas B. Fitzgerald, one of the founding partners and an architect-builder constructed this splendid Italianate mansion for the Schoolfields in 1884. The composition is highlighted by a decorative cast iron porch and the superb metalwork is carried down to the steps leading up to the entrance.

Lewis E. Harvie House
954 Main Street

Lewis Harvie served as a surgeon in the Confederate army and hung out his shingle in Danville for many decades. His built this frame house in 1873 when residences on Main Street were a bit more modest. Over the years it picked up a Neoclassical face.

David Ayres House
968 Main Street  

Long-time tobacco merchant David Ayres built this Georgian Revival brick house in 1874. Look up to see a centered Palladian window. This Ionic portico was added around 1910.