Shown is an illustration of Lewisburg’s Davis Mansion, just off Echols Lane. The house was built circa 1903 for Dabney Carr Terrell Davis, Jr. and his wife, Mary Rhett Davis. In 1904, the house was appraised for tax purposes at $4,000. At the time, it was the highest appraised building in Lewisburg and held that record for a number of years until it was eclipsed by the Laing House.
A native of Charlottesville, Dabney Davis attended the University of Virginia. He moved to Lewisburg where he opened a law practice and married Mary Miller Mathews in 1896. The marriage was short-lived as Mrs. Davis died in 1897 and is buried in the Lewisburg Cemetery behind the Old Stone Church.
Dabney Davis moved to Charleston where he practiced law and married Mary Rhett Elliott. They purchased land on the south side of Lewisburg where they built their home and moved there upon his retirement. After Dabney Davis died in 1945, his widow and the executor of his estate sold the mansion and surrounding property in 1947 to real estate developers. The mansion and 3.58 acres were separated and sold to the Bowling and Caldwell families. In 1948, John North Caldwell of Lewisburg and W. Rufus Bowling of White Sulphur Springs converted the mansion into the Oak Terrace Hotel. It was named for the natural terraces and fine oak trees on the property. For awhile, the hotel was managed by John Turner, and his hotel restaurant was a popular dining spot. The hotel eventually closed, and the house once again became a residence.
The residue of the Davis property was surveyed into lots called Seneca Estates. When the Davis Mansion was sold by the developers and in order to protect their development, the property was saddled with a restriction that the real estate could not be sold to or occupied by any person of African descent for a period of fifty years. This restriction was all too common in residential developments.
Illustration from the Dr. John F. Montgomery papers courtesy of Mary Montgomery Lindquist.
Sources: The Greenbrier Independent, The Charleston Gazette, Beckley Post-Herald, The People of the Old Stone Cemetery: The Obituaries by Morgan Donnally Bunn.