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Harshbarger House

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1797, c. 1825. 316 John Richardson Rd.

This house reveals a family's cultural and architectural evolution. Samuel and Elizabeth Gish Harshbarger were part of a group of German or Swiss Baptists or Brethren known as Dunkards (also called Tunkers from the German word tunken, meaning “to dip,” for their practice of baptism by full immersion) who settled the region in the late eighteenth century. Their house consists of an initial stone section with German-influenced characteristics and a later brick one more in the mainstream of regional building practices. The two bay, two-story stone section, with one room on each floor, has coursed limestone walls with stone jack arches over the first-floor openings. A low-pitched stone cellar includes the small wall alcoves, probably used for food storage, that frequently occur in early German-influenced houses. An inscription in the west gable, “SBH 1797,” records the owner's initials and the date of construction.

The Harshbargers used local brick for the three-bay and taller two-story addition. This section included a central, main entrance, making the older section secondary and giving an entrance to both sides of the house. A one-story, brick kitchen is behind the house instead of attached to it. (In later years, other owners joined it to the house with a hyphen.) While the Harshbargers adopted local architectural traditions, they remained faithful to German language and customs as well as their Dunkard beliefs that included strong opposition to slavery. Fearing that they could not compete with competitors using slave labor, the Harshbargers moved to Indiana in the 1830s, a state that now has a considerable Dunkard population.

Writing Credits

Anne Carter Lee


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Anne Carter Lee, "Harshbarger House", [Hollins, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Virginia vol 2

Buildings of Virginia: Valley, Piedmont, Southside, and Southwest, Anne Carter Lee and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015, 423-423.

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