historic red country farmhouse surrounded by green trees

The Lock-Keeper’s House on Virginia’s James River

Situated in one of the most peaceful settings imaginable is a charming little red country house known to those with a knowledge of local history as “The Lock-Keeper’s House.” This house serves as a tangible reminder of a bygone era in central Virginia, when the James River was a passageway for traders and travelers.

History of the Lock-Keeper’s House

river next to train tracks next to historic red house surrounded by green trees

Built in 1836, the original purpose of this building was to house the lock-keeper responsible for serving Lock Number 7 of a canal constructed along the James River. The canal was part of a plan created by none other than surveyor George Washington to connect Richmond, Virginia to West Virginia. (You can read more of this truly fascinating history here.)

red country house behind train tracks

 By 1836 a lock was needed to move the traffic around the rocks at Cedar Point so Lock Number 7 was constructed.  The Lock-Keeper’s house was built alongside the lock for toll collection, invoice and cargo checking and as a tavern for the passengers of canal boats.  The house was in use for these purposes until the late 1800’s when the Richmond and Allegheny Railroad laid tracks on the old towpath of the canal.  Railroads led to an end of the canal era but the house stayed in use as a home for the railroad section masters.  The house was finally sold into the private sector in the 1960’s.




The house is three stories tall, with the whitewashed stone foundation on the bottom and red siding rising up two more stories.

two story historic house with bright red front door and stone steps

The historic details I love about old houses are remarkably preserved. Original doors, doorknobs, that kind of thing add such simple and elegant touches that give this house such a presence.

close up view antique red storm door with handmade handle

Downstairs: Kitchen

The kitchen is on the ground floor and those walls make it cool and almost crypt-like. I love these thick, thick walls!

interior window set in thick stone walls

The kitchen has brick arched cabinets atop brick floors and the result is disarmingly charming.

kitchen made of brick cabinets with white painted stone walls

Downstairs: Living Room

On the other side of the main floor from the kitchen is a spacious living room. There are, as you would guess with an older house, fireplaces everywhere you turn.

living room with corner gray couch and blue fireplace mantle

I love the beautiful (slightly uneven) wood ceiling beams. They give this space so much warmth.

couch in living room with brick floors and yellow vintage rug

Well Worn Staircase

This is one of my favorite staircases ever. In our staircase here in Charlottesville, there is a slight groove in the middle of the stairs which I love. This staircase though has not one groove in the middle, but two grooves on either side of the middle. You can see exactly where peoples’ feet have walked up and down these stairs for years and years. Isn’t that awesome?

staircase with footsteps worn into wood surrounded by white hand railing

Second Floor: Painted Floor Love

I adore the beige painted floors on the second floor. There are two main rooms on the second floor; another living room area and a bedroom on the other side. (Be sure to check out this rifle just hanging out on deer antlers in the living room. In case you would’ve missed that had I not pointed it out, ya know.)

fireplace mantle with shotgun hanging on deer antlers

If you ever want to add instant character to your house, boom just paint the floors beige. It just adds so much!interior wood door with beige painted wood floors

Simple Lock-Keeper Bedroom

The room being used now as a bedroom is filled with light and has this cool staircase tucked away in the corner. (I love staircases that go up two steps and then you meet a door. It reminds me of my grandparents’ stairs going up to the third story.)

interior staircase hidden by doorway in historic house

This bedroom is simple and feels warm and inviting. The vibe of the whole house is relaxed overall, and I love the simplicity of the furnishings in this room that lend to that relaxed feeling.

bed with metal frame next to antique wood dresser

Enclosed Sunroom Looking Over the James River

Off the bedroom and living room is this super sweet porch turned sunroom. Does this make you want to break out a guitar or what? (Or at least make you wish you knew someone who could break out a guitar?)

James River View in Sunroom

The windows look over the railroad tracks and beyond that, the peaceful, peaceful James River.

windows looking at James River Virginia

The Flooring of the Third Floor

There are two more bedrooms on the third story (this place is deceptively large!) and my favorite feature up there was definitely the floorboards. There were so many pieces of wood that seemed fit together like puzzle pieces instead of the usual straight parallel boards running from one end to the other. Don’t you wish you could know what happened to make people change the floor so much up there? Man, if walls could talk. At one point in time this house was also a tavern and an inn for travelers.

Lock-Keeper's House floorboards

This house is a charmer inside and out. Some believe it is one of only two remaining lock-keeper houses in Virginia! Its current owner is actually moving and I know the next custodian of the house will cherish it and its peaceful setting along the James River just as much. 🙂

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