Bleak Hill

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NRHP Listing Date


NRHP Reference Number


Bleak Hill reflects the farm life of a Franklin County political family during the 19th and 20th centuries. The property once belonged to Peter Saunders, Sr., one of the county’s founding justices. At his death it passed to his son, Judge Fleming Saunders, who built a house about 1815 that burned in 1830 (after the fire, the family lived in a slave cabin for a while). His son Peter Saunders, an attorney, inherited the property. He and his wife, Elizabeth, built the house that now stands, a strong example of the Italian Villa style, completed by 1858. One of their sons, Edward, served on the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. Another son, William Dabney Saunders, continued to farm at Bleak Hill while serving as a professor of dairying at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. The Bleak Hill property is also important for its two rows of extant ca. 1820 outbuildings including a brick law office, brick summer kitchen, a frame schoolhouse, and a log smokehouse. A laundry, slave quarters, dairy, and icehouse once stood in the rows as well.

Last Updated: June 2, 2023

Many properties listed in the registers are private dwellings and are not open to the public, however many are visible from the public right-of-way. Please be respectful of owner privacy.

VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark

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