The Holt-Ashwell House was constructed in the early 19th century in New London, VA, and it is unknown who first built it. The lot that the house rests on can be traced to the founding of New London in 1754. The lot is connected with Mary Draper Ingles who was captured by the Shawnee Amerindians during the French and Indian War and escaped her captors. For about two years after her ordeal, she lived in New London with her husband William who is listed as the original owner of this property. In 1826, an emancipated black man named Andrew Holt, purchased four lots, including the one where the house sits now. Holt donated part of his property for the construction of an African American church in 1851, and the building that stands there today is the 3rd church to be erected on the lot.
Backstory and Context
The Holt-Ashwell house belonged to Andrew Holt in the early 19th century. Holt was an emancipated African-American who worked as a baker, most likely from this location. He was successful enough to purchase the freedom of his wife, Judy and two sons, Burwell and Dennis. Records show that he was twice charged with holding "an unlawful assemblage of negroes" in his home in 1842 and 1851. The charges were dismissed and shortly thereafter, he donated a lot near his home for the construction of a church for African-Americans. The current church building was constructed in 1930 and is the third structure on that lot.
Investigations of the Holt-Ashwell House indicate it was likely built in the mid-19th century, but there are elements of earlier construction incorporated into the building. The five-room, two-floor structure has a painted-on faux brick finish on the exterior. The house was unoccupied when it burned in 2017, though it did sustain significant fire damage. The owner subsequently donated the building to Friends of New London and plans for restoration are still under consideration.
Gilbert, Rachel. "Andrew Holt and the African American Methodist Episcopal Church." chronologyofnewlondon.wordpress.com.
Smith, Rachael. "Organization Begins Restoration Work on African-American Church in New London." The News & Advance, March 23, 2017.
Talley, Amelia. "Free Man of Colour." Friends of New London Library, 2009.