The Clarke House

The Clarke House

The property at 218 Jefferson Avenue was once part of the R. C. White estate. White purchased the first part of his holdings on Jefferson Avenue in 1872 when he acquired 80 feet of frontage from William S. Patton, for which he paid $600.00. The Monticello Terrace Apartments at 212 Jefferson Avenue now stand on that piece of property.

Monticello Terrace Apartments
Monticello Terrace Apartments, once known as the Clarke Apartments. This location is where the R.C. White house once stood.

Prior to the apartment building there stood a house of presumably eight rooms built on a central hall plan, typical for Colonial style homes prior to the Victorian architectural era. The home was present when the Whites acquired the property.

Robert C. White was born in 1824 and married Eloise T. Butler on his 25th birthday, February 20th, 1949. The couple had one child. Mary Ellen White was born in 1850 and married Fred Clarke, Jr., of Buffalo, New York in December of 1877. When the White’s purchased the home on Jefferson Avenue, their daughter and her husband moved in as well.

In 1886, Mr. White’s son-in-law, Fred Clarke, purchased the neighboring lot that is now known as 218 Jefferson Avenue. It may be supposed that the house that was built there was constructed within the year or two that followed. Three years later, in 1889, Mrs. White and her daughter purchased a third lot at 226 Jefferson Avenue.

By 1900, according to Census records, the White’s moved out of their home and into the Clarke’s large house next door at 218, which they then shared with Fred and Ellen’s three boys, Arthur, John and Walter.

Mr. White, who worked as a tailor, passed away in 1908. His obituary describes him as “one of Danville’s most venerable and respected citizens” and “the oldest resident native of this city, having been born within its limits on February 20, 1824.” Mr. White was an elder of the First Presbyterian Church and a senior member of its session at the time of his death. It’s probably no coincidence, therefore, that he purchased some of the first land to become available adjacent to what was then First Presbyterian at 200 Jefferson Avenue. In his will of 1888, Mr. White bequeathed all of his property to his daughter with the condition that his wife should be able to consider a portion of the house at 218 Jefferson Avenue her home, where she would be able to live in comfort for the remainder of her life.

In total, five sons were born to Fred and Ellen Clarke, including two sons who did not survive childhood. Robert White Clarke died at the age of nine, and Frederick Thomas passed just before his first birthday. Arthur Harris married Susan Paul McComb in 1910 and the couple relocated to West Virginia where he had gone to school and where he later became pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Hinton. John Alfred left Danville in 1906 and became a professor of Latin and French at Elon College in North Carolina, and Walter Feildhouse married Inda Payne in 1916 and moved to Washington, DC where he worked for the Bureau of Standards.

It was also in 1916 that Fred Clarke, a druggist, died of congestive heart failure at the age of sixty-four.

Ellen Clarke’s passport photo 1921.

In 1921, at the age of sixty, Ellen devised her will, leaving her property to her three surviving sons. The following month, she and son John applied for passports, intending to travel to Sweden to see relatives and then to England to do some tourist travelling. Mrs. Clarke’s passport application, which was filed on February 11, 1921, describes her as having a round face, with a small nose and round chin, gray eyes and dark hair. She was five feet tall. The application was signed by longtime mayor Harry Wooding, who witnessed for her character. They had been friends for fifty years.

Ellen Clarke died in 1930 at the age of 80, leaving her property, including the apartment building at 212-216 Jefferson Avenue, and the rental property at 226 Jefferson. 218 was turned into a rooming house.  The room numbers remain attached to doors on the second floor.

When son John Clarke died in 1946, the property was shared by his two brothers. And then Arthur passed away in 1950 and left his portion of the property to the several colleges and theological seminaries he was affiliated with in West Virginia.

In 1964, unable to keep up with the maintenance of the properties from Washington D.C. Walter sold the property, including the three lots and the buildings to Shields Realty for $22,000.

In 1966, Emory and Jeannette Meetze acquired the property, though it doesn’t appear they held onto it long, and likely never lived in it. The house, despite it’s dilapidated condition, had been lived in until Danville Redevelopment and Housing Authority acquired the property a few months ago. When representatives of Friends of the Old West End entered the house for the first time, it was found in a fairly sad state. The large house has suffered from years of water damage, but impressive mantels, woodwork, and plaster work remain. It was clearly a house meant to impress, and will again with the right owners. We look forward to watching the transformation unfold!