Text by Joanne M. Anderson
Photos by Amodeo Photography
The construction crew for the beautiful Free Classic Queen Anne home built for Alexander Black in Blacksburg in 1879 did not have to concern themselves much with wiring for illumination. That was the same year in which Thomas Edison tested the first electric light bulb and demonstrated incandescent lighting. It would be a few decades yet until fixtures with light bulbs hit the market.
Alexander Black was the great-great-nephew of the town’s founder, William Black, who planned the original 16 squares. Alexander was the proprietor of a hardware store and founded the National Bank of Blacksburg. He had his home designed with many of the popular, Victorian-style, architectural elements of the day ~ gingerbread trim, steep, cross-gabled roofs, exquisite towers, vertical windows and large rooms.
Expansive front porches on both sides of the front door offer pause at the grandeur of this design. The fancy components in the trim and colors are softened by wood flooring and a sky blue painted ceiling. High quality oak rockers — singles and doubles — generously donated by Linkous Auctioneers evoke a quiet reminder to rock away some time frequently.
Wallpapers inside have been selected in vintage patterns to coordinate with the dark cedar green and dusty cabernet burgundy exterior colors. Wood trim is intricately carved and molded in every room and staircase. Original, painted tin ceilings overhead and meticulously refinished floors underfoot recall an earlier century of grandeur and attention to detail. What mostly likely was the front parlor is now a gift shop with regional crafts and fun, functional pieces with the Alexander Black House etched into or printed on the materials ~ glasses, travel mugs, regular mugs, note cards, ornaments and tiles, for example. Pottery, jewelry, books, decorative accents, candles and bonsai plants are also for sale.
Two large rooms host rotating art exhibits with Diane Relf’s “Rust” exhibit being replaced on Nov. 3 with “The Vietnam War in Blacksburg featuring Vietnam Combat Art” display. [See sidebar for details.] Another large, covered porch out the back door provides a more quiet, off-street place to relax. Small wood models by Dave Nickerson reside in a glass cabinet and include historic buildings like the Price House, Blacksburg Presbyterian Church, Five Chimneys, Town Hall, Blacksburg Motor Company and Bennett-Pugh House.
You can take a peek into the night life, as in sleeping, in a fully-furnished bedroom replete with a circa 1900 carved bedroom set with a marble top dresser and a tall wood secretary with book shelves, desk drawers, cubby holes and a writing surface. Lace curtains throughout are typical of the period, with heavy drapes added in winter. A variety of small items like a grooming set, place setting, silverware, spectacles and linens are present.
The house was moved to this spot on a knoll from across the street, where it faced Main Street, in 2002. More than a decade of planning and fundraising has gone into its restoration, and it opened as the Alexander Black House & Cultural Center in August, 2014. The house, dubbed “Blacksburg’s Living Room,” is available for special events as the Blacksburg Museum & Cultural Foundation strives to carry on Alexander Black’s own tradition of welcoming townspeople into his life and his home. There is no admission fee.