Three Hills

348 Three Hills Lane, Warm Springs, VA


Three Hills

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Located on a hill at the outskirts of the village of Warm Springs, the county seat of Bath County in western Virginia, the estate known as Three Hills is significant at the statewide level under Criterion B in Literature for its association with nationally-renowned author Mary Johnston, who had the house built in 1913 as her private residence. Johnston, the first best-selling novelist of the 20th century, was best known for her popular historical romances featuring heroes and heroines of colonial Virginia. While Johnston faded from the canon of American authors in the midtwentieth century, her stature has risen with the scholarly rediscovery of her early involvement in the women's suffrage movement in Virginia. Johnston lived in three residences in Virginia, two of which survive: her townhouse in Richmond's Linden Row (listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1971); and Three Hills which encompasses the latter and most productive period of Johnston's life and career and where she wrote sixteen novels and her one book-length work of nonfiction. Johnston lived at Three Hills from 1913, the year the dwelling was completed, until her death in 1936, representing the period of significance. Three Hills is also significant at the local level under Criterion C in architecture. An excellent example of the Italian Renaissance style with a Colonial Revival interior, the main house at Three Hills was designed by well known Richmond architects Carneal and Johnston and built in 1913, a time when many wealthy residents living in the Warm Springs Valley preferred the Neoclassical or Colonial Revival style to represent their tastes in architecture and lifestyle. Best known for designing public, commercial, and industrial buildings in the Richmond area, Carneal and Johnston designed few rural estate dwellings, and Three Hills is the only known example of their work in western Virginia. In addition to the main house, a remarkably intact assemblage of early-twentieth-century secondary resources complete the complex including a small formal boxwood garden (a contributing site), a stone and brick chimney (a contributing structure), and three Craftsman-like cottages (contributing buildings) that were built in the 1910s and 1920s for Johnston, in one of which, Garden Cottage, she wrote many of her works. Non-contributing resources include a 1960s well house, a 1960s Ranch-style house, and a 1997 frame conference facility, all non-contributing buildings; a 1950s water tank and a late-twentieth-century wooden gazebo (non-contributing structures).

Update Log 

  • August 10, 2014: Added by Dave King