David Wiley Anderson, Architect [1865-1940]
Well-known throughout Virginia for his residential, commercial and institutional architecture, Anderson was an extremely popular architect practicing in Richmond's Northside suburbs during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Born in 1864 in Albemarle County, Virginia, Anderson was the son of a respected contractor in the region. Excelling in mathematics and drawing in school, he spent his summers working with his father where he became interested in architecture. Although he never received a formal education in the subject, he moved to Richmond in 1889 and found a job working for architect George Parsons. After working in Parson's firm for six years, Anderson opened his own architecture practice in 1895.
Anderson's lack of formal architectural training can be discerned in his often-exuberant designs in which he combined features from several popular styles of the time. This trend is especially true of his residential dwellings where he experimented with the Late Victorian and Colonial Revival styles of architecture. His designs tended to be a mix of complex building forms combined with the symmetry of Colonial Revival architecture and the stylistic detailing of Colonial Revival, Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque. Though his tendency to mix architectural styles may have been due to his lack of formal education, it was also not an uncommon practice during this era, as a wide variety of architectural styles were being built simultaneously. Many architects of this period experimented with combining the stylistic details of these variant styles, and D. Wiley Anderson's designs are an excellent example of this trend.
Anderson's unique and eclectic style became extremely popular with the Northside's residents, and by the late nineteenth century, he was one of the principal architects working in the area. By the first decade of the twentieth century, Anderson had designed dozens of estates in the Northside suburbs of Ginter Park, Highland Park and Barton Heights. By the second decade of the twentieth century, his popularity was spreading, and he was hired to do several public buildings, both in and outside of Richmond. In Richmond he drew up the plans for many public buildings, including a large number of churches. He entered a competition to design a renovation to the state Capitol building in Richmond, and although his design did not win, it increased his popularity with many people in Richmond who had favored his proposal. Anderson's design for the Capitol featured a number of Colonial Revival elements, and by the second decade of the Twentieth Century many of his designs began to feature similar elements of that style.
In the mid-1920s, Anderson shifted his focus to his inventions. In 1923 he began trying to patent his idea for a new type of brick called "Multifix bricks." A type of flashing brick, they were designed to aid "in attaching any suitable roofing material to the wall, that will effectively, and thus prevent leakage, at a minimum cost." Anderson struggled to find buyers for his new invention, and unsuccessful, he again shifted his focus. In 1919, he moved to his farm in Fluvanna County, Virginia and began developing plans to turn it into a resort and spa. For much of the 1930s, he sketched plans and endeavored to get companies to back his idea for "Albevanna Springs," but he died on April 7, 1940, with much of his plans unfinished.
The mark that D. Wiley Anderson left on Virginia architecture was much more significant than his inventions, and he is credited with designing many well-known public and private buildings throughout Richmond. The eclectic, exuberant style of his early years, and his eventual shift to a more Colonial Revival influence in his later years made him popular as a designer of houses, churches and other public buildings, perhaps because he was able to adapt his style to changing trends and varying needs. Spanning nearly twenty years of his career and clearly demonstrating his talent and evolving style, four of D. Wiley Anderson's estates still stand on Hermitage Road. These include Holly Lawn (4015), which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Rosedale (4016), Montrose (4104), and Shadyhurst (4106). Also credited to Anderson is the Deep Run Hunt Club, a Queen Anne style structure that is no longer standing, which was located behind the properties on the western side of the 3800 block of Hermitage Road.
In one of his earliest works on Hermitage Road, Anderson combined the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles to create a truly eclectic design for the Rosedale estate. On the central facade he employed a four-bay design, that at first glance appears symmetrical, but because of the even number of bays, the entry door is in fact, off-center. This quasi-symmetrical facade was then juxtaposed against complex building and roof forms, and embellished with a mixture of Colonial Revival and Queen Anne stylistic detailing. Dating to 1897, it is located at 4016 Hermitage Road and was built for Lewis Ginter's close friend and associate, John Pope.
In 1898, Anderson employed the Richardsonian Romanesque style for the Montrose estate (4104), built for the Edmund Strudwick family. Characterized by ashlar stonework, battlements, and Romanesque arches, it is the only structure of this style on Hermitage Road. For Holly Lawn (4015), he used the Queen Anne style. Built in 1900 for Andrew Bierne Blair, it is one of his purest examples of a Queen Anne-style dwelling on Hermitage Road. Anderson's later work reflects his shift to the Colonial Revival influence, and is evident in his design for Shadyhurst (4106). It was built in 1899 for J. Clements Shafer, a private secretary to Lewis Ginter, and is his purest high style Colonial Revival dwelling on Hermitage Road.
Anderson's designs on Hermitage Road serve as an excellent example of not only his evolving career, but illustrate the changes in architectural trends from the late nineteenth century through the first two decades of the twentieth century. Although his Hermitage Road designs represent only a small portion of his work across Richmond, they exhibit all of the characteristics for which he is known. These large estates are further evidence of his popularity among the wealthy, and they provide a particularly interesting demonstration of his work.
Notes and text excerpted from: Hermitage Road Historic District
† National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Hermitage Road Historic District, nomination document, 2005, Washington, D.C.
Prepared by: Lisa C. Wood, Hermitage Road Historic District Association; Bonnie Alberts, Catherine Easterling and Robert Taylor, University of Mary Washington; Sevanne Steiner, Savannah College of Art and Design; formatting by Jean McRae of Virginia Department of Historic Resources.