Sections:

Photo Gallery: Poplar Hill Gardens Circa 1930s

Photo Gallery: 2021 Mansion Exterior

Photo Gallery: 100+ Years of Poplar Hill as a Working Farm

Photo Gallery: Coorporate Neglect - Exterior Buildings 2001 - 2009 

The Gardens of Poplar Hill

 "The garden, the most attractive in Southside Virginia, though beautifully situated, has grown in beauty, through the exquisite taste, the painstaking care and energy expended upon it."
                  - Sally  Bruce Dickinson (Historian and author)


India Dunnington was an avid gardener. When designing his 1897 renovation of the mansion her husband Walter included plans for a beautiful conservatory. This special room, encased in glass, had a heating system tied in with the radiators that supplied heat to the house. This allowed India to keep special plants like her prized lemon tree, remembered by many who knew her.

Garden Club Sees Poplar Hill Blooms:   Farmville Herald – Volume 58 Number 152 7/7/1950

"The Longwood Garden Club met Monday, June 26 with Mrs. W. G. Dunnington at her home Poplar Hill. The exhibits were arrangements in natural containers. Mrs. Thomas O. Hardy won first ' place in this exhibit and Mrs. Anne Newman won second. After delightful refreshments club members visited the gardens of Poplar Hill. The lilies, that the late Miss Betty Knight had raised from seed, were in full bloom."

Photo Gallery: Gardens Circa 1930s

Photos Courtesy of the Dunnington Family (All photographs are protected by copyright.)

Photo Gallery: Exterior 2021/2022

Almost entirely overgrown with passion flowers, poison ivy and Virginia creeper, there is virtually nothing left of the once beautiful gardens. Ghostly roses peak through the volunteer saplings and brambles. The magnificent conservatory is still standing, surrounded by shattered glass and slate.

Photos Courtesy of Ryan Murtagh and Heather Beach (All photographs are protected by copyright.)

100+ years of Poplar Hill as a working farm 

During the Dunnington years Poplar Hill had a working dairy and large garden for growing vegetables. Hogs were raised for butchering each November. Although tobacco was not grown at Poplar Hill, Mr. Dunnington was a broker and bought the tobacco for his flourishing business from local farmers.

Mr. Dunnington hired several different farm managers over the years to oversee the day-to-day operations. After his passing in 1922, India Dunnington hired Francis J. Dowler as the farm's manager. Mr. Dowler remained in that position until India's death in 1960. Along with his wife and children, Francis lived on the farm in a tenant house. His daughter Virginia (Dowler) Dickhoff is sited in several references with fond accountings of growing up at Poplar Hill.

When the property sold at auction to the Bolt family in 1960, Glen Bolt, along with his son Nelson, turned Poplar Hill into a working cattle farm. The newly cleared land became pasture for 500+ head of cattle.  Many barns and outbuildings were built by the Bolts adding to the functionality of this beautiful property. There is even a homemade pen next to the furnace in the basement where bottle fed baby calves were kept warm during the winter. The cow/calf operation was active up until the property sold again in 2000.

The Dunnington Family Years

Photos Courtesy of the Dunnington Family  (All photographs are protected by copyright.)

The Bolt Family Years

After purchasing the property in 1960, Glen Bolt and his son Nelson cleared a portion of the land for pasture. They added many functional outbuildings and turned Poplar Hill into a working cattle farm. Nelson built many of those buildings himself.

Photos Courtesy of Nelson and Marsha Bolt (All photographs are protected by copyright.)

Years of Corporate Neglect

Initially outbuildings were left to crumble. Eventually almost all were destroyed. The bank barn was burned to the ground. The log cabin that was once used as a school house was purchased by a third party, disassembled and moved. The one shed that was spared once housed 16,000 square bales of hay. It is now used to house golf carts.

Photos Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. (All photographs are protected by copyright.)

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"It has been said that, at its best, preservation engages the past in a  conversation with the present over a mutual concern for the future."
- William Murtagh 


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