Pilgrim’s Rest and the Colvins. (revised)

Pilgrims Rest, LOC Prints and Photo Div. I

Pilgrims Rest front view, ca. 1936. Library of Congress. Photographer unknown.

In 1938, Susan Morton, a worker with the Virginia Historical Inventory, a preservation-minded program under  F.D. R.’s  Works Progress Administration,  visited Pilgrim’s Rest, because her agency was tasked with inventorying old properties throughout Virginia.[1] Being one of the oldest estates in the county, dating  to the early 18th century, Pilgrim’s Rest fit the criteria perfectly.  She’d visited and reported on other Colvin estates in the area such as Truro, Hazelwood, and Tenerife — all of  which  belonged to members of the particular  family  I have been studying for some time, but none of those homes, while old and certainly historically valuable,  would make it onto the National Register of Historic Places.

A while back, I was contacted by Elizabeth Colvin, grand-daughter of Bruce Steel Colvin, (1932-2000), and  great-granddaughter of  Dr. Henry Lynn Colvin, (1900-1974). In her email, she complimented me for my efforts and kindly offered to assist if she could.  I am always gratified when this blog gets the attention of living descendants of its subjects.  In Elizabeth’s case, her g-grandfather was the first Colvin to come into possession of that venerable old home which had been in place for well-nigh three centuries. The lands today are highly prized by archaeologists for its abundance of pre-historic Native American artifacts.[2]

Pilgrims Rest is significant not only because its architecture represents old Tidewater style, (the double-chimney is a dead giveaway, see insets below, ) but because it sits on land which was once part of the original Foote tract.

Those who know Piedmont Virginia history know that Richard Foote and his compatriots (fellow developers, as it were, ) Robert Bristow, Nicholas Hayward, and George Brent, had received their patents totaling  some 3,000 acres directly from the crown (that’s King James II.) The quartet thought things would work out if they invited scores of Huguenots (outcast French Catholics) to settle in their new idea for a neighborhood to be called Brent Town. It was named after George Brent who was — you guessed it  —  a Catholic from neighboring Stafford County. But things didn’t work out the way they planned. The Huguenots never came, mostly due to terrible marketing ideas in Europe by the four, and competition by others wanting immigrant settlers just as badly, and so, slowly  those huge tracts dwindled either via direct sale or lineal passage to smaller and smaller ones. But the home, Pilgrims Rest, remained, eventually passing –  along with some 640-acres —    to Rev. Levi Hazen (a Methodist minister)  who by 1849  re-christen his plantation Mt. Wesley. (After  Methodism founder, Rev. John Wesley,  no doubt) It was the good minister’s grandson, Melvin Colvin Hazen, who acquired the property in the early 20th century and re-renamed it Pilgrim’s Rest.   It was this “Melvin Hazen” who is named in her  1930s WPA report  by  Susan Morton when she was out trekking around old homes in the area during that Goliath New Deal historical project. And it was that same Melvin, again, who was visited by folks from the Historic American Building Survey during the same period, and whom, after taking their notes and measurements,  took some of the only 1930s-era photos known to exist of the home and which are now safely housed with the Library of Congress.

Pilgrims Rest, LOC Prints and Photo Div. III

Pilgrim’s Rest rear view. ca. 1936. Library of Congress. Photographer unknown.

It was during those New Deal years, however, that three nephews of Melvin Colvin Hazen  first acquired Pilgrims Rest – bringing it officially into the Colvin family for the first time. And in the 1940s, Elizabeth’s great-grandfather, Dr. Henry Lynn Colvin, a Washington, D.C.-based pediatrician,  bought out his cousin’s shares and acquired the estate and who performed  some restoration and renovations  in 1956. But by 1982 it passed out of the family, sold by Dr. Colvin’s widow, Virginia Colvin [nee Steel] to Dr. and Mrs. Thom Thomassen.

In 1993, the Thomassens, in turn, sold the estate to Dr. and Mrs. Rodney J. Klima, the 1257OPcurrent owners.    Dr. Klima, an orthodontist,  serves the Fairfax community. [3]   Nevertheless, by  1989,  Pilgrims Rest’s historic features made it a candidate for listing with the National  Registry of Historic Places.[4] In addition to helping restore the main house,  in 1996,  the Klimas began  salvaged an 18th–century Kingsley Granary outbuilding which had sat, dilapidated and  abandoned, near its original site along the banks of what had been Broad Run. Years earlier, in 1968, that water course was flooded to create Lake Manassas to expand the county’s water supply. Threatened with submersion, the Klimas bought the structure from the county and had its two-stories worth of stone and beams hauled in pieces to its new site at Pilgrim’s Rest where they restored enough of it to not only re-purpose it as a guest house, but to included it along with Pilgrim’s Rest in an updated application to the National Registry of Historic Places.[5]

By 2004,  Pilgrim’s Rest took its honorary place on that valuable directory. In 2013, Pilgrims Rest was added to the Virginia Landmark Registry.

[1] Susan Morton, “Report # 191, Pilgrim’s Rest,” 1938,  Works Progress Administration,  Virginia Historical Inventory, Library of Virginia
[2] Pilgrim’s Rest registration forms 1989, 2004, National Register of Historic Places
[3] Kilma Orthodontics website, http://www.klimaortho.com/meet-dr-rodney-klima
[4]  Pilgrim’s Rest registration forms 1989, 2004, National Register of Historic Places
[5]  Dave Marino-Nachison, “18-Century Kingsley Mill outbuilding to be relocated,” September 17, 1996, Manassas Journal.

About Alex Colvin

Alex Colvin is a senior undergraduate at the University of Houston where he is completing his BA in History and minoring in Anthropology. His academic work has been published in the 2017 annual volume of the Journal of the American Revolution, (JAR,) Houston History Magazine (Summer, 2016,) and is also published at www.researchgate.net and www.academia.edu. He is a retired investigative reporter as well as an experienced genealogist. His overall research interest is in Southern Studies. A new website project, Narratives in Black and White was begun last year, which is exploring the historiography and narratives of historically ignored mixed-race marriages in the U.S. from the Antebellum period to present day. https://www.narrativesinblackandwhite.com/ At UH, he was the Charter President, Walter Prescott Webb Historical Society, (Webb UH Main 2014-2015) Additional credentials can be found in the CV / Services tab.
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