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Prospect Tavern

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As you stroll along the High Bridge trail through the village of Prospect, you will notice some old, impressive oaks trees in the area  of the gray picket privacy fence.  This was the site of the Prospect Tavern (Ordinary or Hotel) as it was known in the late 1700’s  and 1800’s.  The two and one-half story structure was originally built in 1789 by Charles Venable and was moved to Historic Noland Village in  northern Halifax County in the 1985-1986 time frame.  The home was owned by various members of the Venable family for over  100 years.  One of the owners, Robert V. Davis was the first station agent for the South Side Railroad (later Norfolk Southern) when it was  built about 1848.  Captain Davis, as he was called, served in this post until his death in 1903.  The home was later owned for a time by the Arthur Allen family, who also owned and operated the Allen Hotel and Allen’s Store.  The home was last locally owned by the John Henry Fulcher family.    According to notes done in the late 1930’s by Bessie Thompson for the W. P. A. Historical Inventory Project, this house prior to  1836 was “a very popular Inn, noted for its hospitality and its excellent food.  It was visited by many notables of that period.”  According to the brochure from Noland Historic Village, “during its life as a tavern, lodging was six pence per night, dinner was  one shilling six pence, and breakfast cost one shilling three pence.  If one had a horse, pasturage amounted to six pence per  night, corn and oats were seven and one-half pence per gallon, and fodder was one pence per bundle.  English currency was still  in circulation in those days.  A shilling was one-twentieth of a pound, and it took 12 pence to equal a shilling.”  Roughly it would  cost $3.82 for a night’s lodging at the historic equivalency of one shilling being worth $7.65  in today’s currency. Sonny and Phyllis Fulcher and family talked about the old tavern and home.  There was a dirt floor cellar that contained both an  “ice house” pit and a fruit cellar.  There were three main chimneys, one made mostly of rock as was a portion of the foundation.  The home was heated by five large fireplaces.  A separate kitchen structure stood to the back of the home. Sonny recalls that soldiers and other travelers had signed their names and written comments on the walls in the attic.  The attic  rooms were encircled by a crawl space supposedly used by slaves.  The beams were hand-hewn and assembled with pegs. The rooms had high ceilings with wainscoting and/or plaster walls with  chair rails. Enclosed, winding staircases led to the upper levels. Working shutters were at the long windows.     Located in the front yard was the bucket well, close to a hundred feet deep, that was “considered the best water in the  community.”  The watering troughs still exist that were used by the teams pulling the stage coaches that stopped at the tavern.  According to Bradshaw’s History of Prince Edward County, stage operators were often the high bidders for mail routes.  In 1838,  Prospect is listed on the mail route from Prince Edward Court House to Lynchburg.  The polling place for Prospect District in 1856  was “at Davis” owned by Robert V. Davis.   The coming of the railroad ended stage coach transportation and the operating of taverns as layovers.  Now boarding and rooming houses took their place giving room and board to traveling salesmen, young teachers, and others who moved through the  community.    In the early 1980’s Roy Blanks and Randy Blankenship along with other members of the Blanks family began to restore Halifax  Church, the oldest Presbyterian Church in Halifax county.  A plan grew to recreate the village that once was the community of  Providence. Roy Blanks rode the countryside looking for old structures that would resemble those that had once stood near Halifax Church. He pulled into the Fulcher driveway one day and asked the family what were they going to do with the old home.  The Prospect  Tavern was soon bound for a new home and life. Randy Blankenship writes, “It took approximately one full year to disassemble and label the existing structure in Prospect and load  it onto a flatbed truck and move it to Historic Noland where it was reassembled from the ground up on the site where a former  tavern had stood.  Missing pieces and materials were reproduced to match the original as closely as possible.  The interior was  then furnished with pieces that would have been appropriate to the time it was in use as a tavern.” The Prospect Ordinary, at its new home in Providence, opens its doors to the public every year on the second Saturday in May for Noland Village Country Fair Day.