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House Built in 1700s Faces Demolition

"We knew it was old, but we didn't know about any historic value," he says. "It's all covered with aluminum and it's all tore up inside."

Jennie Dotts, executive director of ACORN, says the group is negotiating to purchase the property from the developers, who are planning to build 44 homes in the Forest Hill subdivision known as Westower Ridge.

Nolde says he's looking into whether it's feasible to sell the property without significantly affecting development plans. He's already offered to donate the house to ACORN, but ACORN says that moving the house is too expensive.

Dotts is holding out hope that Nolde will sell the house and the land.

"The house dates back to the founding of Richmond," Dotts says. "It's like an oasis, it gives you just a real window into life at an earlier time. It's sort of magnificently ruinous."

In a memo, Calder Loth, senior architectural historian at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, writes that the house isn't particularly grand, but was a "residence of the gentry class" that's one-and-a-half stories with an English bond foundation, and a "closed-string stair with an open well, square pine newels and a generously molded pine handrail."

After briefly visiting the property in May, Loth says he determined the house to be of 18th-century vintage, but further study is needed to pinpoint the exact date of construction. There are only about a dozen 18th-century houses still standing in Richmond, Loth says. The Captain Woodward House on Williamsburg Road is believed by many to be Richmond's oldest structure, built before 1780.

The Patteson-Schutte house was originally in Chesterfield County, but sits on land that was annexed by the city of Richmond.

"It's a rather upscale house for its time and place," Loth says. "The Pattesons, their ancestors, are prominent Richmond ancestors, related to the Branch Family." — Scott Bass

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