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Recently we had one of the staff historians for the Staunton Historic Society do some research on the Spotts-Coffman house. We have been very pleased with the results and will be sharing some of it on this website as well as informing visitors during the house tours. Our first episode is below.
Big and Little Kalorama
The land upon which the Spotts-Coffman house sits on was once part of the Kalorama estate. This site had a manor house and additional outbuildings and was started in 1756. By 1771, it was owned by Patrick McDavid and was subsequently sold to Daniel Sheffey in1805. Daniel named the manor house "Kalorama" which is Greek for "fine view". As it sits upon a hill in what is now considered the Gospel Hill historic district, until the property was divided into building lots and houses constructed surrounding it, there must have been a very fine view. The manor house still stands but has been extensively modified throughout the years. It was once Staunton's city library and now serves as a private high school. It is located across the street from the Hotel 24 South in Staunton.
After the death of Mr. Sheffey in 1830, the Kalorama manor house became a boarding school for young women and was headed by his widow, Maria, and their five daughters. The school, which was the first of it's kind in Staunton, eventually became known as the Virginia Female Institute and was the forerunner of the Stuart Hall Academy.
In approximately 1860, one of the five daughters, Margaret, who was now a widow and had a crippled daughter to care for, decided to have a house built on the property for themselves. Margaret's unmarried sister, Ann Louisa, came to live in the house shortly afterwards. This house became known as "Little Kalorama" and is substantially the house which is now the Spotts-Coffman house. In 1873, the sisters sold the house and the now subdivided lot upon which it stood, to Henry P. Dickerson. Dickerson referred to the house as "New Kalorama" and the two names were used interchangeably in the following years.
Henry was a farmer and had a farm outside of Staunton. Apparently, he had financial problems and placed the house for sale in 1885. Even though the house was advertised as "having eight rooms with gas and water upstairs and down. It has a stable and the usual outhouses, all in good repair", the house did not sell by 1886. Ann Sheffey, the mortgage holder, sued Henry, with the result being that the house and land was put up for auction. The auction was conducted in 1887 and the winning bidder was John McQuaide.
John McQuaide was known as "Captain McQuaide" due to his service to the Confederacy. After his marriage to Sarah McMahon in 1874, he joined his father-in-law, Edward McMahon, in his dry-goods business. He subsequently bought into James Bumgardner's Distillery, which produced wines, liquors, and famously, rye whiskey. It was the result of the business successes that McQuaide was able to purchase the house.
McQuaide was active in various organizations in Staunton and is credited for getting brick pavement to replace the dirt roads and establishing a paid fire department.
The McQuaide's had seven children, however only three lived to survive their parents who died months apart in 1899. The three children, John, Frances, and Raymond, were still young and had to have guardians appointed for them. The fate of John and Frances are unknown, but Raymond was given to an elderly relative in nearby Rockingham County, and by 1910 was working as an electrician for the motion picture business in Norfolk, Virginia.
As a result of the McQuaide estate debts, the house was again put up for auction and "Little Kalorama" was purchased by John M. Spotts in September 1900. The Spotts family, including their only child, Charlotte, had the house for eighty-eight years. What they did to it, and their lives during that time, is the subject for another episode which you can get to by clicking here.
The Society for Victorian Arts and Culture
22 South Coalter Street, Staunton, Virginia 24401, United States
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