By Matt de Simone
Glencoe, located at 1088 Poor Farm Road in Fincastle, was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The name “Glencoe” was inspired by a main settlement in the Scottish Highlands.
James Madison Spiller, a Buckingham County native, purchased the land Glencoe was built on in 1857. Spiller was a contractor and lock builder for Cabell Lock and Dam and would often move around as he completed projects on the James River and Kanawha Canal.
The two-story brick home, originally completed in 1871-71, is owned by George Sydnor III. Some of the interesting features of the house are a dry moat featuring stone retaining walls that circle around the front to the south end of the home, a full stone basement, fireplaces in nearly every room, and a one-story side wing.
A brick smokehouse, two corncribs, and a couple of outbuildings that include a stable and a wellhouse behind the home. The front yard is formed by a stone retaining wall that extends from the dry moat surrounding the home.
According to a 1958 Historic American Building Survey (HABS) form completed by Betsy Speer, she described that Glencoe’s construction began “before the Civil War and finished after the war. It once served as a private school. Local residents attribute the moat to the eccentricity of the builder.”
The dry moat surrounding the home is most unusual. It is believed by historians that the moat was built to likely keep the living areas of the home dry due to the house’s low siting. Historians came to conclusion that stone, unlike brick, tapers moisture and thus makes a solid foundation for a brick building.
The estate became a part of the Virginia Landmarks Register in December of 2020. For more information on Glencoe and more of Virginia’s historical landmarks, visit dhr.virginia.gov.