Orange (County)

VLR Listing Date


NRHP Listing Date


NHL Listing Date


NRHP Reference Number

DHR Board of Historic Resources easement

Rockwood, situated on a knoll overlooking the Southwest Mountains in central Orange County, is a two-and-a-half-story frame and unpainted weatherboard dwelling set over a brick English basement. Built around 1848 for Colonel John Willis, a nephew of President James Madison, the asymmetrical structure with its sharply pitched, offset, cross-gable roof is unusual for houses of the period in central Virginia. The building’s Gothic Revival influence suggests that Willis followed new architectural trends in the design of his house, especially those promoted by Andrew Jackson Downing for “cottage residences” appropriately fitted to country homes. Rockwood also displays elements of the Greek Revival style such as the classical treatment of the front entrance with its wide rectangular transom and sidelights. Located within the boundaries of the Madison-Barbour Rural Historic District, the 300-acre property adjoining Madison’s Montpelier estate still retains its rural character and is primarily devoted to agricultural use.

Last Updated: March 24, 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

Photo credit: DHR, 2007

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