When Fortescue Cuming traveled through Spanish Feliciana in 1808, he recorded in his journal his visit with "Don Juan O'Connor," who had a "fine estate, and is building a very large and commodious house." O'Connor, who called his estate Spring Grove, was an Irishman who had grown rich and influential as a subject of the Ding of Spain. In building his fine house he utilized all the skills of Spanish colonials throughout the New World in dealing with a warm and humid climate. The thick brick walls of the lower, ground-level floor provide more than adequate insulation. The framed second story achieves protection from the climate by a wall filling of clay and moss called bousillage. The half-timbered framing practice was followed not, as in Europe, because of the scarcity of wood; trees were abundant in Spanish Feliciana, but in 1808, steam-powered saw mills were not.
John O'Connor hoped that his new home would be comfortable for his wife and two daughters, who lived in Philadelphia and were unused to the rigors of the frontier. He meant them to live in luxury, and ordered fine hardware and furnishings from that city. Unfortunately, O'Connor's enjoyment of his fine house was all too brief. Just before the outbreak of the Revolution of 1810, after a noon-time repast, O'Connor was seized with a fit of acute indigestion from which he succumbed -- but not before he graphically described his symptoms and the treatment given him by his friend and physician in a long codicil to his will.
O'Connor's daughters, who lived in his house only briefly, if at all, sold Spring Grove, 2039 arpents of excellent land with dwelling house, cotton gin, 37 slaves, plantation tools of all descriptions, to Bennett Barrow, lately come from Carolina to join other family members here. Re-named in the 1830s by Barrow's daughter-in-law, Rosebank remained in this family until after the Civil War. After its acquisition at sheriff's sale, the new owner gave the venerable structure a Victorian face-lifting epitomized by iron grillwork.
during the present century, the house fell on hard times, lying empty in a sad state of desolation for a number of years. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Rosebank was acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas H. McVea in 1973 and is seen today as a landmark which has become a young family's home.
Description in 1976
The ground floor has been renovated to create living space for its owners. In a slow, careful process, they will adaptively restore the upper floor.
The large center room gives rise to the legend that Rosebank was once an Inn. Note the empire sideboard and the inlaid dining table, both mahogany.
In this center room John O'Connor administered Spanish justice as Alcalde, or magistrate, for the Fourth district of Nueva Feliciana.
The smaller rooms flanking the center room have been stripped of plaster to reveal the solid brick walls. They are pleasantly furnished with Victorian, Chippendale, and Empire pieces.
Spanish officials were said to tax inside staircases and Rosebank's two outside stairways avoided this expense.
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