Norwood, 2002. Photo courtesy of Archer Minardi.

Home Site – Nelson County, Virginia

Norwood or Old Norwood was built in 1856 by William Daniel Cabell (1834-1904), son of Mayo Cabell, grandson of William Cabell Jr., great grandson of Col. William Cabell, Sr. The property was originally part of the Union Hill estate.

The property is located in Nelson County, Virginia 1.5 miles east of Norwood on Route 626. It is designated as part of the Norwood-Wingina Rural Historic District by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.


The two-story frame house with gable roof overlooks the James River.  The original eight   room house was an L-shaped cross-wing type with Greek Revival vernacular character.  An addition was added in 1870 making it a T-shape house. There was another addition in 1937 and in 1968 the front entrance was moved to the side and a portico with two-story columns was added.  Another major renovation was completed in 1988. The original servants quarters and office remain both of which were probably built about 1856.

In the fall of 1865, William D. Cabell opened a school for 47 boys, returning home from war, in his home. By the school’s second year, there were 73 students.  Because of the school’s size, additional buildings were necessary. On the west side of the house, a two room office was built at the same time as the house. There is an end chimney and there is a four-paneled door. On the north side of the house, the professor’s house was built in 1865. It was one room with two windows and a chimney at the end. Between the professor’s house and the office, there was a two-story building that had four rooms with a center chimney and a porch across the front. It was built in 1865 and was used by both the professors and the students. There were also four or five dormitories and an assembly hall. In 1872 the school was incorporated and became a college but closed in 1884 due to low enrollment.

Norwood School etching circa 1875. Courtesy John Heilmann

Edward Marshall Cabell attended the school in the mid 1870’s and described the school in his personal recollections as follows:

“The site of the school buildings at Norwood consisted roughly of two wooded hill-slopes, separated from each other by a ravine which was spanned by a long, wooden bridge. On the western slope were the public hall. the classrooms. and some of the dormitories or cottages On the eastern stope the dining hall and other dormitory cottages were located. The cottages were scattered quite widely about in suitable locations, and bore such names as “Noisy Hall”, “Sleepy Hollow”, “Middle Cottage” and the like. It was a pleasant sight when the bell of the dining hall sounded for meals, to see all the boys at the school streaming from the different cottages to the bridge on their way to the dining hall. After the meal was over they would come trooping back to their rooms or linger for a time about the bridge chatting and smoking.”

The house was destroyed by fire December 9, 2012, but the outbuildings survived.

Timeline of Norwood Ownership

  • 1854- 1878: William Daniel Cabell took ownership of Norwood from his father upon graduating from the University of Virginia. He ran a plantation until the end of the Civil War.
    • General Sheridan & his cavalry camped at Norwood and Union Hill in March 1865. 
    • 1865-1878 – William D. Cabell opened a private prep school for boys in 1865 enrolling 47 students the first year. He operated Norwood school until leaving in 1878 for Washington D.C. where he opened Norwood School for girls with his wife, Mary Ellet Cabell.
  • 1878 -1884: Norwood School was sold to Thomas A. Seddon and R.H. Willis. Thomas A. Seddon was the husband of Elvira Bruce Cabell, William Daniel Cabell’s half-sister.
  • 1936-1956: A summer camp.
  • 2012: Home destroyed by fire.

Additional Photos

Norwood, 2002. Photos courtesy of Archer Minardi

1968 Photo of Norwood, Courtesy of John Heilmann