Home Site- Nelson County, Virginia

Montezuma circa 1890 – Robert A. Lancaster

Located near Norwood, Montezuma was built around 1790 by Col. William Cabell (1730-1798). The home was originally named Spring Hill due to the many springs on the property but the name was changed to Montezuma as it was built over an Indian burial ground.

The house is about ½ mile east of Norwood or two miles from Union Hill on Route 626 in Nelson County, Virginia. It is designated as part of the Norwood-Wingina Rural Historic District by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.


The Piedmont Virginia Federal house, built in Flemish bond, is a two-story home with a 1½-story wing capped by a gable roof. The gable roof on the 1½ story wing has a half-gable dormer to provide light for the rear stair hall. The windows have nine over nine sashes and it has four interior end chimneys. There is a Roman Revival dwarf portico and the Cross of Lorraine doors have original iron locks. Victorian wooden window hoods have been added to the exterior. Both the exterior and the interior of  Montezuma exhibit strong Jeffersonian influence. “Because of his friendship with the Cabell family, Thomas Jefferson is often associated with the design of Montezuma.”

The first floor of the sophisticated interior of the main house has four rooms with a short      passage. There are two side passage staircases. “The house retains all of its fine wood-work, including mantles, doors and built-in cupboards in several locations. Much of the woodwork has never been re-painted and still exhibits the original painted ‘graining’ in many locations. Graining is the art of painting ordinary woods, like pine or tulip poplar to resemble more desirable species of wood. Montezuma has at least three different motifs: in one area several of the doors are painted to look like tiger maple with birds-eye maple panels; in another location, a wonderful little library, the doors, cupboards and wainscot are done to imitate panel-work made of plain and quarter-sawn oak. Lastly is an odd little room of the rear entrance, now converted to a bathroom, in which the doors and a large built-in cupboard are painted to look like figured mahogany.” The southeast room, which was probably the dining room, has the finest woodwork. “A pair of arched openings flank the mantel; one is a deep cabinet with glazed doors above and solid doors below, while the other marks the entrance into the wing. This arched entrance is notable for the cabinets and drawers found to the side of the pilasters which form part of the architrave. The arch’s intrados, like the pilasters on which it rests, is reeded. The molded keystones and gouge work further enrich the arches.”

The first-floor mantels are simple while the second-floor mantels are more elaborate “embellished with reeded pilasters and panels, swags and frets.” The southeast bedroom has crosset molding on the mantel and wall of troy molding is found on the mantel in the northwest bedroom.

Timeline of Montezuma Ownership

  • Although it is said that Col. William Cabell built Montezuma for his son Hector (1768-1807), his son Landon (1765-1834) was living at Montezuma in 1794 prior to moving to Nassau Plantation.
  • 1798 – 1807: Hector Cabell and his wife Paulina, daughter of John Cabell resided at Montezuma from at least 1798 until his death in 1807.  Since Hector died without heirs, the property was inherited by his surviving brothers.
  • 1807-1813: Landon Cabell. In 1813, Landon sold Montezuma to Thomas Stanhope McClelland.
  • 1813 – 1835: Thomas Stanhope McClelland and his wife, Margaret Cabell McClelland (1785-1863), daughter of Col. William Cabell, Jr. lived in the home.
  • 1835-1865: Margaret Cabell McClelland lived in the home until her death.
  • 1865: Sold at public auction to the Hubards whose son William married Elizabeth Cabell Callaway, granddaughter of Anne Carrington and Col. William Cabell, Jr.
  • 1920’s: The Somerville’s, descendants of Col. William Cabell, acquired the property in the 1920’s and retained ownership until 2009.

Additional Photos – Exterior

Montezuma (Virginia Dept of Historic Resources)

Montezuma, 2014. (Photos courtesy of Scott Smith)

Additional Photos – Interior

Montezuma, 2008 (Photos courtesy of Archer Minardi)