We have a lovely home - one that
money did not buy - it was born and evolved
slowly out of our passionate, poverty-
stricken agony to own our own home.
The home of Edward and Anne Spencer at 1313 Pierce Street is a two-story modified Queen Anne style shingle residence. Its two-bay facade is divided equally between a recessed section, covered with a hipped roof, and a slightly projecting gable-roofed bay to the right. At the first floor, a front porch continues as a covered pergola along the side. The porch floor and front walk are painted a black and gray alternating pattern and original painted wicker chairs and lounges invite guests to sit and chat, just as they did during the 72 years the Spencers lived there. As attractive as the home is today, its importance is more about the former inhabitants than it is about the house.
The front hall of the house reveals themes central to Anne Spencer’s life. The use of color and mirrors bring the outside in, creating a garden of light and colors on the interior of the Spencer home. Edward’s innovations are evident even in this small space—there’s a phone booth tucked under the staircase, arched doorways, leading into the front hall and leading into the living room. Crown molding graces the ceiling and doorways. Photos of family complete for space with rows and stacks of books, illustrating Spencer’s love for the people in her life and her love of reading, thinking, and writing. A small photograph of Spencer dressed in Native American garb illustrates her pride in her own ethnic diversity and in her belief in the dignity of all people. A map of the Trail of Tears in an upstairs bedroom further underscores Spencer’s abhorrence of oppressive forces.
Designed and built in 1903 by Edward Spencer for his wife and infant children, the house was modified periodically as the family grew and their social lives expanded. Edward was a remarkably creative recycler of used materials, incorporating windows, doors, handrails, or other cast-off materials into useful components of his home. A screened porch was eventually enclosed as a cozy den, and the lattice from the porch was re-used to make an entry into the garden. Guggenheimer's Department Store in downtown Lynchburg had no more use for some sheets of copper that were in a window display. Edward used the copper to cover, shape, and enhance the recessed paneling below the chair rail of the dining room. Bright, red leather, padded doors, originally part of the all-black Harrison Movie Theater on Fifth Street, were re-used to enliven the kitchen and led to a side porch. Massive, oversized banister stair railings were salvaged and re-used in the attic “dormitory room” Edward re-furbished for the visiting grandchildren in later years. He also installed a second full bathroom there, which is modestly screened only with a simple hand-drawn curtain.
The Spencer home was exceptional in that it had an original full bathroom on the second floor amidst the three spacious bedrooms, a sun porch, and a nursery. There was ample room for the many distinguished visitors who were traveling through Lynchburg, were guests of Virginia Theological Seminary, or who came specifically for the intellectual gatherings so much a part of the Spencer hospitality. Four fireplaces warmed the house in winter and added to the cordial atmosphere the guests enjoyed year round.
The furnishings today are almost identical to what was in the home during Anne Spencer's time there, and include her favorite magazines, bed linens, and toiletries. Many have commented that it's as if she went out to the store and hasn't returned home yet. The paint and wallpaper are worth noting, for Anne Spencer loved color and used it without hesitation and in unlikely combinations. That abandonment of protocol was typical of Anne Spencer, whether in her personal dress (she loved to wear slacks long before it was acceptable for women to do so), her home décor, or the mix of colors in the plantings in her garden.
Contributed by Jane B. White
1313 Pierce Street • Lynchburg, Virginia 24501 • 434-845-1313 • The Garden Conservancy provides preservation assistance to the Anne Spencer garden