334 West Main Street - Talbott-Jordan House

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The house at 334 West Main Street (GPS coordinates, N 36 degrees, 34.691”, W 070 degrees, 24.702”, Elevation 567’) has a rich heritage. It was one of the first houses built in Danville of which J. Bryant Heard was one of the architects. Although early deeds for the property have not been searched, the house seems to have been built for Frank Talbott, Sr. between 1910 and 1917. In 1910 Frank Talbott, Sr. was living at 120 Broad Street, but by 1917 he was living at 334 West Main Street. The house with two-story, rectangular hip-roofed massing, small Doric porches and wood-shingle siding was modeled after the Rothsay house in northeastern Bedford County near Forest on which the firm of Heard and Caldwell had been the architects for its rebuilding in 1914 after a fire had destroyed the original structure in 1912.

The Talbott family has an interesting history. The parents of Frank Talbott, Sr. were Thomas Jefferson Talbott (1832 – 18 September 1884) and Mary Matilda Pace (1841 – 21 May 1891), daughter of Greenville T. Pace of Henry County. One published source indicates that Thomas Jefferson Talbott’s father was James Talbott of Talbott and Sons, early locomotive builders of Richmond, Virginia probably because he was associated with him from an early age and therefore assumed to be his son, but this is in error. His father was Samuel Talbott, a brother of James and Charles.

The Talbott family has been traced back to Sir Robert Talbot whose son Richard Talbot was a loyal supporter of King Charles I in the English civil war of 1640-1649 when the name was spelled Talbot. When Oliver Cromwell defeated Charles I and took over the government and confiscated the Talbot estate, Richard Talbot received a land grant from the Proprietary Government of the Province of Maryland and established his home there. The Talbots added a “t” to their name making it Talbott and remained in Maryland until Charles, James and Samuel moved to Virginia in about 1840. Samuel Talbott died in 1841 when Thomas Jefferson Talbott was only eleven years old. The Talbott and Sons firm built the first engine to run over the Richmond and Danville railroad which was completed in 1856. This railroad played an important role in the transportation of men and supplies from Danville to Richmond during the Civil War and was the railroad over which the Confederate Government moved from Richmond to Danville near the end of the war. Young Thomas Jefferson Talbott was at the throttle of the first locomotive to run over the Richmond and Danville railroad. He served as an engineer for the Confederacy during the Civil War from 1861 to 1865 and later moved to Danville where he was a manufacturer of tobacco as a member of the firm Pace, Talbott & Company until his death. In Danville he served as president of the Tobacco Board of Trade and as president of the City Council. Children of Thomas Jefferson Talbott and Mary Pace other than Frank were Carrie who died at age 6, Nannie Hughes who married Charles H. Dorsey of Galveston, Texas, bore him 5 children and died in 1900; Greenville Pace; Lucy Hall who, married Harry W. Thomas of Danville; Sarah G. who died in infancy; Thomas Stokes who died July 1, 1891 at the age of 23 years; Mary Pace who married Barclay A. Hamlin and died in 1894 at the age of 22 years; and Watts who died at age four.

Frank Talbott, Sr., (10 November 1870 – 3 January 1929) the first occupant of 334 West Main Street was born in Danville where he attended private schools. He entered Randolph-Macon College in 1885 where he remained until 1889 before returning to Danville where he worked at the Post Office for a few months before being appointed secretary and treasurer of the city’s water, gas and electric departments by city council in 1890 where he served under C. A Ballou who was then city engineer. He succeeded Mr. Ballou as superintendent of public utilities in 1902 and retained that post until city government was reorganized on December 31, 1927 at which time he withdrew from the office of superintendent of public works and accepted the position of city counselor. Although never officially designated city manager he in fact held that position for over 25 years. He was a strong believer in municipal ownership of public utilities and was an important factor in the retention of Danville’s public utilities rather than selling them to outside firms. He married Grace Lindsey of Danville on December 8, 1891, but she died within a few years leaving him with two daughters, Olivia Lindsey, born April 21, 1893, who graduated from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in 1914 and married Hulse Hayes of Circleville, Ohio and Mary Pace (May), class of 1916 at R-M WC, who married L. O. Crumpler of Danville. On November 15, 1898 he married at Newport News, Virginia, Ida Wright Lipscomb (17 September 1878 – 5 August 1951), daughter of Rev. B. F. Lipscomb, a member of the Virginia Conference Methodist Episcopal Church South and an early pastor of Mount Vernon Methodist Church, and his wife, Sarah A. Wright of Smithfield, Virginia. Frank Talbott, Jr. (24 June 1900 – 15 March 1988) was the only child of this marriage.

Frank Talbott, Sr. was very active in the business, civic and religious life of Danville. During World War I he headed Red Cross drives and the Third and Fourth Liberty Loan drives in the City. Although he never sought political office he was for many years identified with the element that opposed the old Virginia “machine” and was the center of many a stirring political campaign in the earlier days. He supported the temperance movement in Danville and took part in the bitter fights between the “wet” and “dry” supporters in the City. He was President of the Chamber of Commerce for many years, and was president of the American National Bank and the Union Mutual Building and Loan Association. He was chairman of the board of stewards of Mount Vernon Methodist Church and always took a leading part in the work of the church. He was a Mason, a Pythian, an Odd Fellow and a Red Man and a member of the Kiwanis Club. Upon his death Mayor Harry Wooding issued an executive order ordering the closing of all city offices for one hour during his funeral and also asked merchants of the city to do the same with which most of them complied. Notice of his death appeared on the front page of the Danville Register on January 4, 1929 along with a large sketch of him and the caption “Prominent Citizen Passes”.

After the death of Frank Talbott, Sr. his wife continued to live at 334 West Main Street with her son, Frank, Jr. until her death in 1951. She was an active member of Mount Vernon Methodist Church, co-founder of the Danville Public Library, a charter member of the Danville Garden Club and a member of The Wednesday Club. She was one of the founders of the Crippled Children’s Clinic and was among the group which founded the Wesley House which was a community center for religious and social activity for many years.

Frank Talbott, Jr. received a bachelor’s degree and a law degree from the University of Virginia and practiced law in the firms of Meade, Talbott and Tate and later Talbott, Wheatley and Talbott. He served as general counsel for Dan River, Inc. for 31 years until his retirement in 1973 and was Chairman of the Board of Directors for a short period. He was a contemporary of William J. Erwin who served as President of Dan River, Inc. for 20 years until he retired in 1973, the same year as Talbott’s retirement. In his book, “Dan River Runs Deep” published in 1982, Malcolm A. Cross covers the history of Dan River Inc. from 1950 to 1981. In this book the name of Frank Talbott, Jr. appears on 15 pages as he was an important factor in the management of the company during this period of growth and expansion which saw it build or acquire plants for the manufacture of carpets, corduroy, warp knits, denim, velour and chemicals with plants in five different southern states. In addition to his service with Dan River, Inc. Frank Talbott, Jr. was president of the Virginia State Bar Association in 1948, a former director of the Life Insurance Company of Virginia, Stratford College, Liggett Myers, Inc., American National Bank and Trust Co., the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Memorial Hospital of Danville. He served as rector and member of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia. He was a member of Mount Vernon United Methodist Church and the Danville Golf Club. He married Margaret Jordan (22 June 1901 – 4 May 1974) and they had a son, Frank Talbott, III and a daughter, Mrs. E. Allen Kelley who lived in Ridgefield, Conn.

In 1954 W. Bascom Jordan, Jr. (14 May 1911 – 2 December 1976) was living at 126 Sutherlin Avenue and Frank Talbott, Jr. was living at 334 West Main Street, but by 1955 Talbott had moved to 160 Linden Drive and Jordan had purchased and moved into 334 West Main Street where he lived until his death in 1976. Jordan was born on Sutherlin Avenue and lived there until he moved to 334 West Main Street. He was the great-grandson of Abner Anderson, an editor of The Danville Register and the grandson of Joseph B. Anderson who, as a young employee of the Register, carried Jefferson Davis’ final proclamation to the Confederacy to the newspaper office. He attended the Danville Military Institute and the University of Virginia where he received his L.L,B. degree. He opened a law practice in the Masonic Temple in 1935 and was elected to serve on Danville City Council in 1938. He served as a lieutenant in the U. S. Air Force from 1942 to 1945 after which he returned to Danville to continue his private practice. He married Anne Ferree and they had one daughter, Julia Anne Jordan who lived in Washington D. C. He was appointed U.S. commissioner (magistrate) in the City and served in that position for two decades. He served as city attorney from 1969 until his retirement in 1976. He was a member of the Rotary Club since 1936 and served as president of the club in 1940. He was a member of the Danville Golf Club and a member and past chairman of the board of Mount Vernon United Methodist Church. Men who no longer live in Danville still remember as boys being scolded by Bascom Jordan for cutting across his large unfenced back yard on their way to visit friends.

After the death of W. Bascom Jordan, Jr. in 1976 his house was purchased for Averett College by retiring trustee W. Curtis English in 1977 and became Averett’s Admissions Office. The house is now labeled “W. C. English Hall” although English never lived there. In 2011 four very large sycamore trees which had grown in front of the house were taken down. A section of one of these trees is being preserved at the Danville Science Center in the hope that a counting of the growth rings of the tree may help determine its exact age. Sacred Heart School has a website which indicates that 334 West Main Street was the former location of the Catholic school, but this is in error. The site of the Catholic School was 344 West Main Street, but that is another story.