When you cross the threshold into the home at 108 Trolley Court, you can almost hear Mamie Smith, Fats Waller or Louis Armstrong blaring from a Victrola. With a little imagination, maybe you can see a woman standing by the fireplace, a Lucky Strike in one hand and a Mary Pickford or Sidecar clutched in the other.
As a wisp of smoke trails off from her cigarette, she takes a sip of her cocktail and bemoans Prohibition, or perhaps tells her husband she’s heard enough about that Babe Ruth for one evening.
It’s the Roaring Twenties, and the house at the end of the cul-de-sac on Trolley Court—one of the first built in The Preserve at Oakwood, a new Lynchburg neighborhood— captures the essence of the decade and the kind of comfortable opulence one might expect to see on the right side of the tracks before The Great Crash.
“We were tasked with trying to get all the builders and developers to look at that property as a continuation of early Rivermont in the 1920s,” says Ron Driskill, vice president of Custom Structures and a member of The Preserve’s architectural review board.
“The Oakwood clubhouse was built in 1918 and we were hoping—and that’s what the goal is—that all houses built in there would be sympathetic to early Rivermont. So, in that house itself [108 Trolley Court], we have put together a lot of different details of houses in the Rivermont area that were built during that period.”
Custom Structures designed and built the house at Trolley Court as a spec house, embodying the vision for the neighborhood. Among the home’s exterior features are a Buckingham slate roof, terra-cotta chimney pots, punch vents, operable shutters, black window muntins and frames, a decorative chimney stabilizer and a detached garage with an exterior staircase, the kind you’d find in “alleyways in Rivermont and Richmond,” Driskill says.
Inside, there are subway tiles, vintage-style light fixtures, marble and hardwood floors, period fireplace mantels, a large soaking tub, and seemingly miles of wainscoting. Driskill, a self-described “traditionalist from the get-go,” says it’s all “dead-on 20s.”
The Preserve at Oakwood is located immediately behind Oakwood Country Club, on what was once the club’s golf course. In his book, Lynchburg: An Architectural History, S. Allen Chambers writes that the club was founded as “Oakwood Gun Club,” and was originally headquartered on a “15-acre tract near Rivermont Park.”
“When the members decided to have a golf course,” he writes, “they sold their first property and purchased the former Clopton Farm, consisting of 100 acres at the end of Rivermont Avenue and extending alongside Boonsboro and Link Roads beyond.”
The 57 acres on which The Preserve now sits was once part of this farm. There, the Reverend James C. Clopton, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lynchburg, lived with his wife and children in a house called Greenwood.
According to historian and Lynchburg College professor Clifton Potter, who currently lives in Greenwood with his wife, Dorothy, the clapboard farmhouse was built in about 1845. It was originally a “two-over-two,” Potter says, explaining that this means two chambers over two chambers, with a central hallway running the length of the house.
Potter said the family likely grew corn, for food and silage for the cows, but beyond that, not much is known about the farm. “It’s hard to tell because the whole area’s been built over and doing an archeological survey would be almost impossible,” he says.
Clopton died in 1864 but his wife, Mary Ann, and two unmarried daughters, Fannie and Cornelia, inhabited Greenwood into the 20th century. Over time, they sold off the farm. In addition to the club, the land is now home to Virginia Baptist Hospital and many residences.
Several years ago, when Oakwood Country Club was suffering financially, it closed the golf course. Eventually, the club sold the rolling green landscape to developers, and The Preserve at Oakwood was born.
The project is currently in Phase One, which includes 12 single-family home lots, most of which are more than a half-acre in size. Once a house is built on the property, Phase One buyers can expect to spend $375,000 to more than a half-million dollars on their dream home.
The Trolley Court house, for example, was listed at $569,000 at press time, and included an option to buy it furnished by Lynchburg interior designer Moyanne Harding. Although he doesn’t expect all of the homes in The Preserve to be of that caliber, Billy Flint, exclusive real estate broker for the development, said it “will set the tone” for the neighborhood.
“Hats off to Ron and Scott,” Flint says of Driskill and Custom Structures’ owner Scott Elliott, praising them for their vision and commitment to historical accuracy, which often comes with a higher price tag. “A slate roof in today’s dollars is off the charts. I’m really proud of them.”
Infrastructure for Phase Two, which will consist of 12 Craftsman-style townhomes and six cottage-sized lots, is expected to be finished by Thanksgiving. Additional phases are also planned. There could be as many as 60 townhomes—the developers are calling them “villas”—before it’s all said and done.
About 20 acres will remain undeveloped. “We wanted to see the old fairways of Oakwood Country Club, even if they weren’t playing golf,” developer Bryant Hare of Hopkins Brothers says. “We wanted to see them maintained as the green space that everyone was used to seeing since the club was built.”
The green space was one thing about The Preserve that attracted Forest resident Sandra Sloan and her husband, Bob Martin. The couple bought a Phase One lot and plans to have a home built soon, perhaps something Craftsman-esque.
“[We were] attracted by the location and the green space,” says Sloan, a manager at B&W mPower. “We like the idea. It’s one of the last places in the city that’s open like that, and buildable.”
Another thing that appealed to them was Oakwood Country Club’s proximity. The clubhouse, pool and tennis courts are within eyeshot of The Preserve. Sloan envisions her son and daughter walking there in the summertime to take tennis lessons or swim in the pool.
“They are just literally steps from our door,” she says, speaking of their future home.
The developers also see the country club as an asset and foresee a partnership between the two entities. “One thing we will do, once we have people up in the villas, is provide Oakwood Country Club with a golf cart,” Hare says.
Residents who are club members could have the cart pick them up for dinner, he suggests, or bring them “a couple of club sandwiches. That’s one of the amenities we hope to work out with the club.”
Sloan said she and her family plan to join the club. She also says she looks forward to being more pedestrian than when she lived in Forest and put “thousands of miles on our car, going to sports practice, and dance and school and [my children’s] friends’ houses.”
When asked if she had seen the Trolley Court 1920’s-style house, Sloan said she had. Driskill had given her a tour while it was under construction. She calls it a “really nifty house” and praises the attention to detail. “The historical features and what they did with that were amazing,” she says.
To learn more about this neighborhood, visit preserveatoakwood.com.