The Taylor-Whittle

House

1791

 

The land on which the Whittle House stands was first owned by Thomas McKnight, a Scotch Tory merchant whose lands were confiscated by the Commonwealth. In 1788, the land was deeded to George Purdie, a merchant from Nansemond County. It is thought that Purdie built the house about 1791, but it is not known if he ever lived there.


In 1802, when the house was first put up for sale, the advertisement appearing in the Norfolk Herald stated that it was the residence of John Cowper. The house was purchased by Richard Taylor on December 15, 1802.


Upon Taylor’s death, the house was inherited by his daughter, Sarah Alexine Taylor Page, whose husband, Captain Richard Lucien Page, was probably the best known person to live there.


Son of William Byrd Page, and Anne Lee Page, sister of “Light Horse” Harry Lee, Richard Lucien Page was born at Fairfield in Clarke County. In 1824, he entered the U.S. Navy as a midshipman, and was with Commodore Perry when Japan was opened to trade. He served in the Mexican War, and at Virginia’s secession from the Union, he resigned his post as a member of the Retiring Board at Gosport Navy yard and was appointed aide de camp to Governor Letcher. Page organized the State Navy and superintended the erection of the fortifications at the mouth of the Nansemond River. He was the head of the ordinance depot in Norfolk until the Confederates abandoned the city.


In 1864, he was put in command of the outer defenses of Mobile Bay. He was finally forced to surrender and was imprisoned until 1865. From 1875 to 1883, Page served as Norfolk’s Superintendent of Schools. Page died in 1901 at age 92.


The house was passed on to Page’s daughter, Elizabeth Clavert (Page) Whittle. Shortly after the Civil War, Elizabeth, married Captain William Conway Whittle, who served as the executive officer on the Confederate raider, Shenandoah. Whittle went into exile in Argentina for three years after the war until a general amnesty was declared.


Whittle returned to Norfolk and captained a steamboat that plied the waters of the Chesapeake Bay between Norfolk and Baltimore. He was also a founder of the Bank of Virginia.


They remained in the house until Captain Whittle’s death in 1920 at the age of 82


Their descendants occupied the house until it was bequeathed to the Norfolk Historic Foundation. The Foundation took possession of the house in 1972 and City of Norfolk has maintained the house.


The house has served as the offices of the Norfolk Historical Society and the Junior League of Norfolk-Virginia Beach until 2011.


The house sustained damage during Hurricane Isabelle and was considered unsafe for occupancy.


An assessment of the Taylor- Whittle House was prepared for Livas Group Architects by Craig Morrison AIA in May 2012 for the City of Norfolk. It is currently under review.

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A Brief History of the House