Katherine Graves ~ Assistant Editor
Historic Sandusky, which includes a home that became headquarters for the Union for a brief time during the Civil War, is owned by Lynchburg College and is free to LC students, staff and faculty all year.
LC purchased Historic Sandusky in February 2016 after a five-year partnership, according the property’s website. The property is a “historic house museum and archeology site,” said Gregory Starbuck, adjunct professor of history at LC, director of the LC/Historic Sandusky Partnership and executive director of Historic Sandusky. The site serves as a learning lab for all students.
“The house really came into prominence during the Civil War. 1864, during the Civil War, was when the war came to Lynchburg. There was a two-day battle that’s simply called the battle of Lynchburg. The house was commandeered by the Union army [and] the Union general David Hunter who made it his headquarters,” stated Starbuck, who has worked in museums for 30 years in Maryland, Georgia and Virginia.
The house was the Union army headquarters during the Battle of Lynchburg, which occurred on June 17 and 18, 1864.
“There’s lots of interesting, exciting stories about what happened in the house, around the house. The barn was a hospital, and there were wounded soldiers. There’s blood-stains on the floor of one of the rooms, all the things you would expect to happen in a house near a battlefield,” stated Starbuck.
The Union forces left Lynchburg the morning of June 19 because the people of Lynchburg tricked Hunter into believing that the Confederate reinforcements were arriving by train by gathering at the train station and cheering as one train with empty boxcars went back and forth into the station, according the Historic Sandusky’s website.
“The house was built in 1808 by Charles Johnston. He named it Sandusky because, when he was a younger man, he was captured by indians out in Ohio–Sandusky, Ohio. He was held prisoner for four or five months and eventually got his freedom and literally on his 21st birthday was freed and came back to Virginia. And a couple years later, [he] decided to build the house, Sandusky, and name it after that place in Ohio where he’d been a prisoner and got his freedom.”
Johnston worked with Thomas Jefferson, furthering the site’s colorful history.
“During the time before he built Sandusky and after, he was a business associate of Thomas Jefferson’s. He brokered a lot of Thomas Jefferson’s tobacco sales. Jefferson grew tobacco at Poplar Forest; It was one of the ways he kind of made money. So Charles Johnston was his agent for buying and selling tobacco [and] shipping it,” Starbuck said.
Johnston had to sell the house in 1918, the year of the first depression or the Great Panic, stated Starbuck. The house was then purchased by five or six investors. One of the investors, Isaac Otey bought out the other investors, and he and his family owned the home from 1821 to 1841. The Hutter family owned the house from 1841 to 1952. In 1952, the Atkinson family purchased the property and owned it until 2000, stated Starbuck.
In 2000, the Historic Sandusky Foundation was formed to buy the house and begin the restoration process, Starbuck said. Then LC bought the property.
Starbuck expressed that the exterior renovations on the house began five years ago.
“We redid the roof. We took all the windows and shutters out and off the house, scraped them, cleaned them, did paint analysis to determine the original colors, painted them the proper colors. We took the front porch literally off the house and rebuilt it brick by brick from the ground up,” Starbuck stated.
After finishing the exterior renovations, the group began work on the interior restoration, but the majority of the original house remains intact. In 2014, Historic Sandusky debuted their formal parlor. In 2015, they debuted their family parlor. This year, they will be debuting their entry hall at their annual Christmas Open House.
The Historic Sandusky house will be hosting its annual Christmas Open House on Saturday, Dec. 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free to the general public.
The event will have refreshments catered by LC, Christmas music, a Civil War craft for children and a visit from Santa Claus. Starbuck stated that about half of the items in the gift shop will also be on sale for half off.
Historic Sandusky is located at 757 Sandusky Drive, just eight minutes and 2.7 miles from campus.
If you are interested in learning more about Historic Sandusky, you can visit their webpage. For more information about the Christmas Open House, you can visit the event’s Facebook page.