Situated among scenic rolling hills and fields, Bloomsbury is the oldest extant dwelling in Orange County, Virginia. The two wings of the home date 1722 and 1797, each with the architectural features of their times. On July 20, 1722 Colonel James Taylor (“the elder” or 1st) obtained a land grant of 8,500 acres which included most of the modern Town of Orange to the Rapidan River. Family tradition is that he had the home built that same year. In the early 1700s most planter’s homes this far west of the James River would have been built with logs, which makes Bloomsbury’s frame structure unique.
The original structure is a Colonial-Georgian home consisting of a one and a half story frame structure built over a full basement. According to author and research scientist Ms. Ann Miller, this residence is considered small by our standards, yet it has a “delightful scale and perfect proportions”; not achieved by accident. Bloomsbury’s 1720s size and symmetry “reflects the sophisticated geometry utilized in even the simple houses of the Georgian period.” (Miller) the basement and chimney are laid in English bond (alternate courses of brick stretchers and headers), which was normally used in the 17th century and is unusual to find in an 18th century dwelling. It is unique in Orange County as well. The back portico (covered porch) is framed into the body of the structure and researchers from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation suggested it may be the earliest known such porch surviving in Virginia.
The home passed away from the Taylor family in 1791 when it was sold to Elias Langham of Fluvanna County, but no architectural changes were made the home. In 1797 Bloomsbury was purchased by William Quarles of Bedford County who enlarged the house with an addition matching the style of the original structure. In 1842, Quarles sold the home to Mr. Francis Jerdone and it remained in their family for 122 years. It is amazing that the home survived the American Civil War as many battles were fought throughout the area. Bloomsbury returned to the Taylor family in 1964 when Mr. Jaquelin Taylor purchased it from the Jerdone sisters as a wedding gift for his bride, Helen Marie Taylor. After her husband Jaquelin’s death in 1985, Helen Marie Taylor continued the preservation and conservation work of Bloomsbury. Today, Bloomsbury tells the story of Colonial America and the family that produced two American Presidents; James Madison, Jr. and Major General Zachary Taylor.
In the near future, visitors to this historic site will have an opportunity to walk through a lovely colonial home, beautifully restored and largely untouched by modern era technology and conveniences. Terracing of the original sunken garden remain visible though the boxwoods and flowering plants have been gone for decades. The Helen Marie Trust plans to have the garden authentically replanted and outbuildings referenced in primary source documents reconstructed.
The architectural structure of the home does not lend itself to wheelchair access at this time.