NICHOLS GALLERIES ARE OPEN:
Seven days a week by chance or appointment and Thurs. to Sat. 11am to 5pm, Sunday 1pm to 5pm. We are also open most Holiday Mondays.
History of Barboursville
Frederick Nichols Studio and Nichols Gallery Annex are located in Barboursville, a small village near the intersection of Routes 20 & 33 in Orange County, Virginia.
In the early 1900’s, before Virginia Route 29 and Interstate 64 were built, Barboursville sat at the intersection of two major north-south, east-west roads, routes 20 and 33, also known as Constitution Highway and Governor Spotswood’s Trail. There was a train depot there, and at one time Barboursville boasted seven hotels and boarding houses, two livery stables, a post office, and three stores.
1n 1975, landscape artist Frederick Nichols and his wife, Beth, were searching for a place to have a home and art studio when they stumbled upon Barboursville. It was a quaint village that had seen better days, but offered exactly what the Nichols’ needed – a reasonably priced building close to the inspiration for Fred’s art, the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 1976, Beth and Fred purchased the Williams General Store and began what became a yearlong renovation, turning the store into a home, gallery, and working studio. In the fall of 1977, the Nichols moved into their new building, and Fred began producing his paintings and silkscreen prints, while Beth assumed the role of managing the business of marketing art.
By the time the Nichols arrived, Williams Store had been closed for five years, the depot was gone, and most of the boarding houses were either private residences or apartment buildings. Only three businesses remained: A Sheepman Supply store, Auto Repair shop, and an Antique Shop. However, the transformation of Barboursville into a cultural center had already begun. In 1973, a theatre group, began producing plays in the old Barboursville school building, which had closed several years earlier when the county began consolidating schools. The Four County Players is now recognized as Central Virginia’s oldest, continuously-operating community theatre.
In 1997 the largest of the hotels and boarding houses in Barboursville was placed on the market. Built around 1900, the Estes-Sparks Hotel was a landmark building for the village. Originally a hotel, it became a boarding house around 1940. As traffic through Barboursville declined, so did the need for a hotel, and in the 1960’s the building became a private residence. By 1990, it had been converted to apartments.
Earlier in the 1980’s, the Nichols had exhibited the work of other artists in their gallery. By 1997, Fred had achieved international recognition and was flourishing as an artist. Eager to expand their gallery and once again exhibit the work of other artists, the Nichols purchased the Estes-Sparks Hotel, and in 1998 held their first show, “A Celebration of the Landscape,” featuring the work of over 20 Virginia artists. Since opening, Nichols Gallery Annex has exhibited the work of over 50 artists from the mid-Atlantic region.
At about the same time Sheepman’s Supply closed, and their building was purchased by Ceramic Artist Paula Steedly, who opened a gallery representing the work of other American Craft Artisans. The gallery also offers workshops in clay, metalsmithing, and jewelry making.
Artists were not the only ones to see potential for Barboursville. While Beth and Fred Nichols were busy turning Williams store into an art enterprise, the Zonin Family, proprietors of the largest wine company in Italy, were planting the first vineyards in Barboursville. By the mid-1990’s there were three wineries on the outskirts of the village of Barboursville, bringing with them increasing numbers of tourists.
Today there is much for the visitor in the area surrounding Barboursville. In 1983 Montpelier, the Home of James Madison, 10 miles north of Barboursville, was given to the National Trust, and opened to the public a few years later. There are numerous Bed and Breakfast’s and restaurants in the area, many of which can be found by browsing the websites listed below.
Things to do in the area:
(Listed in the left column)