Once Considered America’s Oldest Home, Thoroughgood House Evolves in Virginia Beach – The Virginian-Pilot

Historic house museums such as the Thoroughgood House exist primarily to preserve homes and educate the public. Site interpretation with relevant tours and programs is an important part of the education process.

When additional information about the property emerges through documentation, archeology or other scientific disciplines, adaptation of existing interpretation may be – and often is – necessary to provide an accurate understanding of the site.

“Our goal is really to educate people. Why is this place important? Why is that important?” said Annmarie Reiley-Kay, director of the Virginia Beach History Museums. “Interpretation is an important part. It goes hand in hand with education.

Friends of the Adam Thoroughgood House Foundation, led by Henry Clay Hofheimer II, formed to purchase and restore the house at 1636 Parish Road in the Thoroughgood subdivision of Virginia Beach.

Under the direction of Finlay A. Ferguson Jr., the restoration project was completed in 1957. The property was later owned by Norfolk and administered by the Chrysler Museum. The Thoroughgood House opened on April 29, 1957.

Local archaeologist Floyd Painter, who had excavated at the site, said the location had once been the site of a large Chesepian Indian village – long before English settlers arrived.

At the time of the dwelling’s conservation and restoration, scholars believed the brick home to be that of Captain Adam Thoroughgood, who came to Virginia as an indentured servant and received a land grant of $5,350. acres in 1635. They believed – or wanted to believe – that the house was built in 1636.

It was once characterized as the oldest brick dwelling in America. While the land where Thoroughgood House stands was indeed part of Captain Thorowgood’s original land, this historic brick house did not exist during Thorowgood’s lifetime. It was built eight decades later by one of his descendants, great-grandson Argall Thorowgood II around 1719.

“When we tour today, we talk about that. We engage people. We recognize that at some point there was a tipping point,” Reiley-Kay said. archaeological.”

During archaeological testing prior to the construction of the education center at the Thoroughgood site in 2018, James River Institute archaeologists found no evidence of pre-1700s European artifacts or remains on the property.

“We use science. Documents help us. Archeology helps us. Dendrochronology helps us,” Reiley-Kay said. Dendrochronology is the scientific method of dating the growth of tree rings to the exact year the tree rings formed to accurately date the age of wood used in the construction of a building.

The Thoroughgood site training center is particularly welcoming. Visitors can enter to see the video, browse the exhibits and use the restrooms. A guide accompanies visitors along the way to the house and presents a 45-minute interpretive tour.

“It’s a nice setup,” Reiley-Kay said. “You can get the background story first, learn more about the tour, then ask questions.”

When ancient documents – or other evidence – emerge, the historical interpretation of the site reflects this additional idea.

“An interpretation plan is not a definitive thing. It’s constantly evolving. A plan should be flexible enough to allow for the incorporation of additional material,” Reiley-Kay said. “It’s natural. We evolve in general. An interpretive plan is not just how to make a visit.

According to Reiley-Kay, developing and implementing an interpretive plan is a multi-level undertaking that requires input from professional consultants and museum staff as well as the general public.

Marketing of the historic site, wayfinding signage, exhibits, website design, specialized tours and related programs are all integrated into a comprehensive interpretive plan.

Reiley-Kay and his associates are currently engaged in producing an interpretive plan that will help guide Thoroughgood House and other Virginia Beach historic sites for years to come. The development plan is being finalized.

“We’ve been working with stakeholders on this over the past year, since March of last year,” Reiley-Kay said. “We want to tell this story. We want to find better ways to tell these stories. As we grow, more and more information is also discovered,” she said. “We find new evidence all the time.”

The Thoroughgood House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960. In 2004, a Save America’s Treasures grant awarded the city of Virginia Beach $150,000 for the preservation of the house. The city completed the grant and pledged to update the electrical system, replace the doors and seal the bricks to keep moisture out.

Following the renovation and preservation project, the Thoroughgood House reopened with a revised interpretation of the house built by Argall Thorowgood II and later modified by his son, Colonel John Thorowgood Jr. The focus of the revised interpretation focuses on the house as it existed. in the 1700s.

“We think Adam Thorowgood is of great significance based on all the different families that came from him and brought in,” Reiley-Kay said. “We’re talking about Adam, but we’re not claiming it’s Adam’s house now.”


What: Thoroughgood House is celebrating the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day with a tree planting, master gardener talks, scavenger hunt, crafts and house tours.

When: 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. on April 29

Or: 1636 Parish Road, Virginia Beach

Cost: Free

For more information, email [email protected] or call 757-385-5100

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