History of Rippavilla

In 1811 Nathaniel Cheairs, III purchased 300 acres behind where the current house stands. He built a large wooden house on the property and raised ten children. His tenth child, Nathaniel (Nat) F. Cheairs, IV was born on the property in 1818. Nat later built Rippavilla and inherited the land from his father.

Work began on Rippavilla in 1850 with the smoke house and the kitchen being completed in 1851. Immediately, Nat began construction on the brick home we know Rippavilla. By the end of 1855, Cheairs family resided comfortably in their new home. At the time of its completion the house had a porch that covered the back of the fi rst and second stories. The porch at the carriage entrance and the front porch were originally wooden and the carriage entrance porch only extended as far as the columns.

In 1893, Nat sold the house and 1,200 acres to his younger son, William, for $40,000. William kept the house until 1920 and in the meantime added the four-car garage and garden walls on both sides of the house.

In 1920, William sold the house out of the family to the Whitfi eld family of Alabama, this time for $200,000. While the Whitfi elds only owned the house for about six years, they made many changes to the house. They installed electricity, plumbing and connected the home with the kitchen and smoke house. They also enclosed the bottom portion of the porch to make a serving room, and added several bathrooms and closets, as well as the sunroom on the south side of the house. The Whitfi elds opened up the rooms in the main portion of the house by putting in larger doorways. They changed the staircase to its current design and put in 1.5-inch hardwood floors on top of the original 4-inch poplar fl oor. Th e Whitfi elds sold the house in 1926 and aft er that it changed hands four or fi ve times with no other major changes being made to the house. The land was farmed and at times cattle was raised on the land until 1985 when Saturn Corp. leased the property.

On May 28, 2009, General Motors completed donation agreement transferring ownership of 98.77 acres to Rippavilla Plantation, Inc. Visit http://www.rippavilla.org/ for additional information and events.

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19 Jul 2017

By Kathy Fox