Thomas Reynolds House & Tavern | Warren County, NC | c. early 1800s
This historic home might have an unusual design but learning its story paints a better picture of why its layout made sense. And while it’s been empty for many years, it may get another chance at renewed purpose if someone who is willing to rehabilitate it will step up to buy it.
Boom Era Town: Warrenton, NC
Platted in 1779, the town of Warrenton sprung up along trade and transport routes that connected Petersburg and Richmond Virginia to parts of North Carolina.
The land in Warren County lent itself to tobacco and cotton farming that, as a result, created a wealthy plantation economy in the area. While most residents lived outside of town, people began to build townhomes and businesses inside the Warrenton city limits where the county courthouse and government dealings were handled.
This wealthy planter class influenced the architecture, economic, and educational history of the town- cosmopolitan tastes inspired an impressive collection of antebellum homes. With the demand for elaborate homes, skilled crafts and tradesmen were drawn to the town where work was plentiful.
Thomas Reynolds Comes to Warrenton
One such craftsman was Thomas Reynolds who relocated from Petersburg, VA to Warrenton sometime in the very early 1800s. When he arrived in Warrenton, it was still a very new city, with winding paths for roads. But at that time, there was already a tavern, a courthouse, a hotel, a church, and various other businesses that were created during this Boom Era.
Thomas came here to pursue his chosen skill of cabinet making. Back in those days, craftsmen like him were in high demand, especially in a place like Warrenton where wealthy home builders would spare no expense to have the finest furnishings.
It seems that Thomas was quite a businessman, having opened his cabinet shop near the business district of town, as well as building this house that also doubled as a tavern for travelers. Its proximity to the hustle and bustle of this boomtown meant the tavern was in an ideal spot to capture the traffic of travelers along the stagecoach routes, as well as locals who gathered here to socialize.
Taverns in this Era
In those days, taverns would serve meals and drinks to customers, and for out-of-town visitors, they also offered simple accommodations for overnight stays. In fact, Warrenton was so well visited in those days that there were at least 3 other taverns at the time that Reynolds Tavern was open.
The general layout of these buildings included large open floor plans downstairs, in this case with two rooms, and a narrow staircase that would lead to a sleeping level on the second floor. People back then didn’t expect private rooms so accommodations typically included a mattress stuffed with hay on the floor.
But the taverns weren’t just for travelers, they served an important purpose for locals as well. Taverns were a popular spot for men to gather where they could talk about politics, gossip about local news, and entertain themselves with card games and gambling on horse races. One newspaper article I found mentioned dance classes that were hosted at a tavern for young students in town, although I can’t confirm if it was Reynold’s Tavern or not.
Thomas Reynolds, Successful Cabinet Maker
It seems that Thomas prospered in his new city, opening his cabinet shop, building this home and tavern in 1804, and marrying Martha Pergeson in January of 1807. In 1810, Thomas advertises for an apprentice and on February 27, 1811, a record appears for James St. John to be ‘placed as an apprentice to Thomas Reynolds, to live and serve until December 20, 1813, at which time James will be 21, to learn the art and calling of a cabinet maker.” Thomas would advertise again for an apprentice in 1833.
House Rehabilitation Needs
Over the years, changes were made to the structure and it was eventually adapted into a private residence by the 1890s. It’s been empty for many years but is available for purchase to an ambitious person or family who would be willing to rehabilitate it.
The front and first floor have been remodeled over the years but the rear retains much of its original character. The building sits on the original early 1800s stone foundation, and also original to the house are the roof dormers, winder stair, 9/9 sash windows, door and window surrounds, center chimney, and original wide wood floors on the second floor.
The building will require a full rehabilitation, including structural/foundation work, restoration carpentry, and all new systems. It’s a contributing structure in the Warrenton National Register District and is eligible for tax credits.