Sunnyside Home

Sunnyside Home

While researching the Overbey family, we came across the Sunnyside Home. Sunnyside was a home for aged women sponsored by the Virginia Synod of the Presbyterian Church.  Both D.A. and W.D. Overbey served as Sunnyside trustees. The chairman was Rev. C. W. Maxwell of South Boston.

The Commonwealth chartered Sunnyside in 1912. From that time, it helped aged women to meet their needs individually. In December 1920, the publication Presbyterian of the South announced that a home was needed, that $2,000 had been pledged, and that many of the Presbyterian churches had included Sunnyside in their budgets. In July 1921, the Greensboro Daily News revealed plans for a $100,000 facility in Danville. A twelve-room frame dwelling was to be erected at the southern extremity of Virginia Avenue on land donated by John T. Watson. The Watson-Fitzgerald Brick Corporation owned much of the land in that area.

While early information is scarce, The Bee reported the Sunnyside Home to be a year old in December 1922. Many donors helped with the construction and operation of the home. Of particular note that year was the donation of an entire Thanksgiving dinner by Mrs. D.A. Overbey while Mrs. F.X. Burton had a water heating plant installed at Sunnyside.

Changes came in 1929 with the reading of the will of Mrs. F.X. Burton, the former Alice Shelton. The widow Burton was widely thought to the wealthiest person in Danville, her husband having been in both the tobacco and textile industries. Her estate was valued at $705,000 – over $10.5 million in today’s money.  Of that, her Main Street mansion at 723 (pictured above) and $10,000 for maintaining that property were bequeathed to the Sunnyside Home. It was clear that Mrs. Burton wanted her home to be occupied by the old ladies.

The trustees were somewhat overwhelmed by this gift.  They discussed the cost of operating the mansion versus the Virginia Avenue property. It was not clear whether they could sell the mansion under the terms of Mrs. Burton’s will. While the mansion was commodious, its bedrooms were not immediately useful for twenty old ladies. Ultimately, the trustees determined to sell their property on Virginia Avenue and use those proceeds to add twelve rooms to the rear of the mansion to be used as dormitories. That addition was nearly completed and dedicated on September 11, 1929, as “The Allice Burton Home.” It was occupied on November 23, 1929.

In 1947, the Virginia Synod decide to sell the Alice Burton Home. By that time the land had been zoned semi-commercial and was becoming more valuable. The Synod also voted to establish a new Sunnyside Presbyterian Home for aged men and women, location unknown.  It was not until 1953 that Massanetta Springs, near Harrisonburg, was chosen as the new location and ground was broken. The residents of Main Street’s Alice Burton Home were transferred there on October 15, 1955.

In 1957, the site was proposed as the location for a new city library with the building to be razed. However, it was not until 1961 that this property along with the adjacent Williamson home (see Now and Then #1) were acquired and razed by First Federal Savings and Loan Association for a new banking office. That building is now occupied by PATHS – Piedmont Access To Health Services. The F.X. Burton home sold for $75,000.

  1. There is more shortly to come about her! Another of her descendants (I’m assuming someone closely related to you) reached out to us with family letters. Look for it this Thursday (4/16/2020). Thank you for reading!

  2. If I an able to go to Massanetta Springs in May, I’ll check to see if that house is still there.

  3. Alice Burton was my mothers Aunt, My mother was named for her, Alice Burton Barnes , of Sutherlin Va.. my mother passed away several years ago, but this story was very interesting to me!! I live in South Boston Va.

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