Nelson Price House

"Jnlpri" On State - Granted Land

From The News Messenger Bicentennial Edition,
Thursday, July 1, 1976, Page 15-H - 17-H

By Nadine Allen

The Nelson O. Price house at 107 Wharton St., S.E., Blacksburg, has been duly named "Jnlpri," pronounced Jay-Nell-Pri. The name was derived from the granting of lands while the county seat was at Fincastle from an ordinance reading "persons granted one or more acres shall be termed an estate and my duly be named." Thus came the name "Jnlpri" with the J standing for Jeanne (Mrs. Price), the NL (short for Nelson-Nelson O. Price), and PRI (short for Price).

At least one very important historic event is connected with this estate. Wharton Street was named for General Gabriel C. Wharton, who was a member of the Virginia Legislature and reside in Richmond. He telegraphed the news of the Morrill Land-Grant Act script to establish a college of agriculture and mechanical arts that had been won by the Preston-Olin Institute of Blacksburg. The message was sent to Christiansburg in March 1872 and relayed by a messenger on horseback to President Thomas N. Conrad (Captain). The message arrived as the oil lamps and candles were being lighted in the late afternoon.

Conrad was residing in this house at the time, receiving room and board from Mr. And Mrs. W. B. Conway, then owners of the estate. A Methodist minister, he was given room and board so he "better service his church" and remained at the estate after he became president (or principal) of Preston-Olin Institute, after much haggling with the school's financial standing and the Board of Visitors. He later (after losing the principalship) molested in print (Montgomery Messenger) and verbally any action taken by the school. He was asked to leave the Conway home for degrading the college.

The Prices have searched their deeds in the Montgomery County courthouse, Christiansburg, and have recorded information concerning their estate dating back to Oct. 30, 1840 when the property was sold to James R. Kent by Charles and David G. Thomas. They plan to pursue the records further in Fincastle.

This first deed reads "a four room log building 37'x70' and parcel of land in southeast Blacksburg and the grounds thereon consisting of one acre more or less from established poles by the allocators." This indicates the house was standing prior to the above date.

Kent sold the property Sept. 3, 1853 to James M. Evans (the family of Mrs. Frank Robeson (Mary). The deed noting the sale of property from Evans on May 12, 1857 to Giles D. Thomas, Julia E. Thomas and Martha contained the first mention of the street being called Wharton Street.

The deed of Feb. 12, 1869 when Thomas sold the property to Julia E. Conway and husband, W. B. Conway, and Lorena E. Johnson noted that the sum of $900 was to be paid yearly with two payments until the total was reached.

It was at this time that a concealed stairway and an extra room was built to the rear of the house. The extra room was two story with fireplaces both up and down. At the head of the stairs was a wide hall with a door leading to a double porch.

The Conways conveyed the "six house of six rooms" to Lorena Johnson (a seamstress and a general housekeeper), Oct. 10, 1891. "This deed is made for services rendered the family and includes the contents of the house for the sum of one dollar." Lorena Johnson and her husband, M. P. Johnson, conveyed the property to Walter R. Price and Lucie M. Price, Oct 4, 1900 for one dollar and other considerations (which was $1,000).

The house had been covered by siding during Conway's ownership. The prices added another room to the rear of the house to be used as a kitchen (saving the dining room for company). To this new addition a porch was added for the lattice work. The foundation of the new room was with stones from the home (Indian Run Farm) of Walter Price which was built in 1820 and hauled to the site by wagon.

The Prices came to the home as bride and groom. He was superintendent of buildings and grounds at Virginia Tech, serving the college for 52 years.

Nelson Osborn Price and Letitia (Jeanne) Wainwright Price inherited the property Feb. 9, 1954. Mr. Price sleeps in the bed in the room where he was born 68 years ago.

He retired July 31, 1973 after 42 years service to Virginia Tech in the department of agriculture and chemistry (now bio-chemistry). County the years earning his B.S. and M.S. degrees, his years of service, his father's years service and the attendance of his brothers and sister, the family claims a total of 124 years of service to Virginia Tech.

The house was remodeled in 1955 with most of the changes being made to the lower floor. The last room (kitchen) to be built on was removed due to the foundation sagging and the rocks now form rock gardens on the property.

A new chimney had to be built as the original one did not meet town specifications. This proved to be wise as it was discovered the house had burned between what was the old kitchen and the dinning room and smothered itself out.

The double porch was removed and columns were placed from the base of a terrace to the roof. The hall partition was removed and allowed the closed stairway to be opened into the living room.

What was once "the parlor" with the doorway opening onto Wharton Street is now sealed and a fireplace removed (original chimney unsafe), is now the dining room which is reached by two steps leading from the living room.

Off of this room were servants' quarters with a concealed stairway leading upstairs and with a trap door opening into a bedroom. This was removed and the partitions were moved. The floors were laid first and the partitions were then made and placed on the floors, inserted by wooden pegs. This is now the kitchen.

The front of the house is made of large walnut logs with the outer walls being 12 to 14 inches thick. The original logs have the original mortar between them. The second floor consists of three bedrooms, a small hall sitting area and bath. All of the plaster in this area is the original.

The house is furnished in Early American, with some family pieces and others from early woodworkers from the area. They have attempted to keep the furnishings as the original ones were to enhance the wide 12 to 14 inch pine planks of the floors. Most of the rugs are handmade.

This house has been recorded by the Virginia Historic Landmark Commission, file no. 60-43.

Last Update: February 25, 1998