200-year-old Reynolds Tavern, vacant for decades, could see new life

If you’ve ever dreamed of owning a slice of North Carolina history, a tavern and home preserved from the early 1800s is for sale for only $16,500.

From a distance, the Thomas Reynolds House, known locally as Reynolds Tavern, looks like an abandoned home. With orange ‘No trespassing’ signs and fading external features, it might be hard to guess this treasure harkens back to an era when Warrenton was one of the wealthiest towns in North Carolina.

Established in 1779, Warrenton was a town of artisans, artists and builders, many who traveled into the area from Virginia after hearing about the wealthy class of people living there. Those were the exact people, new settlers guessed, who could afford their handcrafted furniture and crafts.

Even today, the town has retained much of its historic character, with “impressive high-style town houses” built alongside “modest-scale dwellings and shops” – showing the defining line between the social classes that lived there: The wealthy planter class and the artisan class of merchants that moved to Warrenton to cater to them.

Other historic structures have been preserved throughout the town. Old school buildings, churches and even the original prison can be still be seen on main roads. An old cotton gin has been converted into a B&B. In one grassy lot, two tall stone chimneys with a vacant space in between begs the question of the ‘hidden history’ in the area.

Non-profits like Preservation NC or Preservation Warrenton often swoop in at the last moment to rescue centuries-old historic treasures before they are torn down for new developments – or simply fall apart after being left vacant or abandoned, sometimes for decades.

After being vacant for many years, the Reynolds Tavern is one of the rescued pieces of local history. It’s now on sale for $16,500, as the organization hopes to find a preservation-minded individual to purchase and restore the historic structure.

Vacant for decades: A peek inside Reynolds Tavern

Thomas Reynolds moved to Warrenton in 1804 to practice his craft.

“His location on Bragg Street near Market Street would have put him right next to the bustling activity of Main Street on busy postal routes from Petersburg and the Halifax and Salisbury train lines,” according to Preservation NC.

As late as 1833, he was running successful business advertisements, even searching for apprentices.

“In recent years research indicated that the structure may have served as a tavern; however, it appears as a residential dwelling in the 1896 Sanborn Map,” says information on Preservation NC’s posting about the centuries-old structure.

Inside, where very few people are allowed to see, much of the 1800s history remains intact – a dusty time capsule to another era.

Early 19th century features include the stone foundation, which has a name etched into it from the 1950s. Upstairs, the wide wood floors are quintessential of the time period’s architecture.

The home also features roof dormers, winder stairs, 9-over-9 sash windows, boxed eaves and a large stuccoed center chimney with fireplaces in each central room – an 1800s version of ‘central heating.’

“It would be a great little B&B,” said Richard Hunter, a lifelong Warrenton resident, who sits on the board for Preservation Warrenton.

“The building offers lots of good evidence of what it originally looked like — and how it wants to look again,” said Cathleen Turner with Preservation NC.

The group hopes to find a history-lover who isn’t afraid of a good restoration project.

“Peeling back the onion layers and getting to the important bits of this building,” said Turner.

Anyone restoring the home would also be eligible for tax credits that come along with historic restoration projects.

In a quaint downtown with so many other historic buildings that have been given new life, they believe this 1800s home or tavern could be another addition that helps keep the history of Warrenton – and North Carolina itself – vibrant and alive.

By Heather Leah, WRAL multiplatform producer

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