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William Renick House (Rock Farm; Cave Farm)

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Rock Farm; Cave Farm
c. 1795. 1825, Conrod Burgess (woodwork). 1980s. Northwest side of U.S. 219, northeast of intersection with Greenbrier County 9, 1 mile southwest of intersection of U.S. 219 and Greenbrier County 7 at Renick
  • William Renick House (Rock Farm; Cave Farm)

An architectural historian's dream, this unusual building is actually two houses. One was prompted primarily by the need for shelter, although it displays a fine sense of architectural detailing; the other clearly demonstrates the ascendancy of style over mere shelter. Together they provide a three-dimensional lesson in architectural history, as each of the two tightly joined houses is a perfect example of design, construction, and materials appropriate to its period and place. During the 1980s, after many years of decay, the Renick House was lovingly and accurately restored.

The earlier section, to the southwest, is built of rough-coursed limestone and features a regularly proportioned, five-bay facade. Just below the cornice is an extraordinary feature: exposed joist ends are hollowed out to a depth of several inches to accommodate purple martins, birds that conveniently feed on flies and mosquitoes and habitually return to the same nests each year. There are six nests on each long side and four on each end, the latter provided within wooden blocks set into the stone walls. William Renick's niece and her husband built the brick portion to the northeast in the Federal style. Chippendale railings grace the first and second stories of the pedimented front portico. Inside, there are only two rooms, one on each floor, both of which highlight the woodworking skills of Conrod Burgess.

Neither house makes any compromise to the other, and the two are not even built in line with each other. As Ruth Woods Dayton, the chronicler of Greenbrier County architecture, wrote in her Greenbrier Pioneers and Their Homes (1942):

The roof on the brick addition is steeper and higher than that of the stone part, and, architecturally, the two houses, one horizontal, the other perpendicular, have no relation whatever to each other. It is as though someone pushed the brick house up against the stone temporarily and then went off, forgetting to take it away.

To which one can only add: thank goodness someone forgot!

Writing Credits

Author: 
S. Allen Chambers Jr.
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Citation

S. Allen Chambers Jr., "William Renick House (Rock Farm; Cave Farm)", [Renick, West Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/WV-01-GR31.

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