The Tannery House
Photo: Al Mach
This early Victorian-inspired home was built in the very early 1900’s by John J. Chipley, who sold it to the Union Tanning Company. The tanning company, whose operation was nearby along the South Fork Road, used the house as a residence for supervisors or superintendents until the early 1950’s.
The house originally had eight rooms and two porches on the front and two porches on the back. Later with the coming of electricity and indoor plumbing, the back porches were enclosed. The hall steps to the attic contain original wallpaper. The most noticeable change to the architecture, besides the addition of the bathrooms, was the sectioning off of the third floor attic. When the house was first built, one could look down all three flights of stairs.
The Union Tanning Company made a great impact on the economy in this area. Tanneries were not only businesses but a way of life much like the early coal mining towns. There were three tanneries in this area, one in Petersburg, Lost City and of course the one at South Fork. You can still see remains of the old vats used for tanning hides on Still Run Road. The very early tanning process could take up to a year to process a hide into good leather.
Tanneries were like small villages. Each one of our tanneries had a Presbyterian Church built close by. They had schools and company owned houses. Smaller, more economical homes were built for the workers to rent. More elaborate homes were purchased for the bosses. At one time, the tannery homes on the South Fork were all painted yellow.
In an old letter from the Union Tanning Company dated April 3, 1917 we were able to ascertain that the superintendents were salaried at $12,500. However, if they preferred a home that was purchased for the company employees, they would get additional monies to cover the rent. Until the early fifties, this home was rented by superintendents of the Potomac Tannery on the South Fork Road.
The current owner, Kriston Strickler, is restoring the home and furnishing it with period and eclectic pieces. “From the early age of sixteen, it was my dream to own a Victorian home. I started collecting a hodgepodge of furniture, memorabilia, and Victorian pieces from ‘Rio Mall’, auctions, flea markets and yard sales. My dream was realized in 2004 when I was able to purchase this house. I have since been restoring it one room at a time. It takes a lot of time and effort but it will be worth it to see it back to its original glory. We need to preserve our history so the younger generation can respect the quality of workmanship and pride that our ancestors had,” noted Strickler.
Open Courtesy of Kriston Strickler
Directions: House is located at 311 Winchester Avenue near the railroad crossing. Watch for a green flag.