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Ludwell-Paradise House

Ludwell-Paradise Housel

A two-story brick home on the north side of duke of Gloucester Street, the imposing Ludwell-Paradise house was built as a townhouse by wealthy planter-politician Philip Ludwell III. It dates from approximately 1755 and is still an elegant private residence. The Ludwell-Paradise House was the first building the Reverend Dr. W. A. R. Goodwin of Bruton Parish Church and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. obtained as they launched the restoration of Williamsburg.

  • Built as townhouse by Philip Ludwell III
  • Georgian architecture
  • Virginia Gazette printed in the home when publishers lived in it
  • First building obtained by Dr. Goodwin and John D. Rockefeller Jr. for restoration

Early Georgian architecture

A hip-roofed, five-bay early Georgian home with a 60-foot facade, the house stands one foot high for every 2.2 feet it is long. Laid up in Flemish bond with glazed headers, the Ludwell-Paradise House has a traditional central hallway with staircase, but it is not typical of the genre.

The bricks used in the top and bottom floors appear to have come from different kilns, an indication that the builder's plans changed during construction and more bricks had to be fired. The suggestion is supported by an unusual lean-to addition at the rear that is walled by bricks on two sides but clapboarded in the back. The lean-to may have been an afterthought, but it is an integral part of the 1755 fabric, not an addition.

Ludwell-Paradise House - rear view

The home succeeded another home built on the site between 1680 and 1690, and one or both of its chimneys may be from that first building. It is two rooms deep on the first floor, but just one room deep on the second – a feature usually restricted to 17th-century Virginia construction.

The jambs of the doors and the windows – spaced more widely than normal because of the length of the facade – have rubbed brick edging. The low-pitched roof has no dormers. The cornices have conventional block dentils with moldings. Some of the restored Ludwell-Paradise House's original solidity is apparent in the exposed beams of the basement.

Ludwell owned Green Spring plantation and was a member of Governor's Council

The house's first owner, Philip Ludwell III, was a member of the Governor's Council. Ludwell also owned Green Spring plantation in adjoining James City County and eight other farms. His father, Philip Ludwell II, had been a member of the House of Burgesses and one of the city's original trustees in 1699.

Virginia Gazette once printed in the home

Philip III's eldest daughter, Hannah Ludwell Lee, inherited the house, but she and her husband William Lee (brother of Richard Henry Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence) spent most of their time in Europe and they rented out the Williamsburg brick home. Among their tenants were William and Clementina Rind, who arrived from Annapolis, Maryland in 1766 and printed one of the city's Virginia Gazette newspapers in the home until Clementina’s death in 1774.

After the deaths of William and Hannah Lee, their daughter Portia Lee Hodgson eventually inherited the brick house. In 1805 she rented it to her widowed aunt, Lucy Ludwell Paradise, when Lucy returned to Virginia from England. Like her sister Hannah, Lucy and her scholarly husband John Paradise had spent most of their married life abroad. Sometimes called “Madame Paradise” or “Lady Paradise” by her Williamsburg neighbors because of her foreign manner, she had a habit of entertaining callers in a carriage rolled to and fro on the back porch by a servant and gained a reputation for eccentricity. Eventually in 1812 she was committed to the Public Hospital, a mental institution. The house remained in the family.

Rockefeller secretly purchased home in 1926

In 1926, a few days after Rockefeller secretly commissioned Dr. Goodwin to draft plans for restorations in Williamsburg, the Ludwell-Paradise House came on the market for $8,000. Rockefeller, who insisted his name not yet be connected with the restoration, had twice visited the city, explored it, and seen the home. On the first trip, Goodwin had taken a shine to Rockefeller's small son, David. In a pair of letters written December 4, Goodwin informed Rockefeller of the opportunity. Rockefeller wired a reply from New York that arrived at 11:28 a.m. December 7. It said:

"Authorize purchase of antique referred to in your long letter of December four at eight on basis outlined in shorter letter of same date. David's Father."

The restoration of Williamsburg was underway.

The Ludwell-Paradise House is not a Colonial Williamsburg exhibition site.

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