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Hagan Hall

Preservation Movement Rolling

By BRENDA TAYLOR
Editor

Historic preservation is a major national movement now. President Carter, as well as Congress, is responding to the call from the grassroots level to protect and preserve America's historic sites.

This year, the Carter Administration unveiled it's long-awaited National Heritage Program "to protect places of cultural, historic and ecological value." The program will operate under the Secretary of the Interior.

President Carter's 1979 budget requests $69.3 million for the new National Heritage Program. The budget recommends $45 million for the National Park Service's historic preservation grants-in-aid, the same amount as this year.

Under the new heritage program, the National Register of Historic Places will be expanded and three new categories added-neighborhoods, cultural landscapes and networks (a series of related sites such as canals or lighthouses.)

An Endangered Building Revolving Fund will be established, and a reorganized advisory council—the Council on Heritage Conservation–is proposed.

Federal agencies will have to determine that there is "no prudent or feasible alternative" to a proposed action which may adversely affect a nationally significant property, similar to what is required now of the Department of Transportation. Conservationists hail the new safeguard as "a significant step forward in our protection of cultural and natural resources."

Under a proposed Heritage Community element of the new program, local governments will be encouraged to preserve historic and natural areas by means of special incentives.

That Capitol Hill also is responding to increased interest in preservation was evidenced last year by the appropriation of $45 million to the grants-in-aid program. The year before, the program was appropriated only $17.5 million.

Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. General Services Administration have pledged support of preservation.

HUD Secretary Patricia Roberts Harris has assured preservationists that community development block grant (CDBG) funds will continue to be used for historic preservation purposes.

Also, owners of residences listed in the National Register can now borrow up to $15,000 for improvements on their houses, under a new loan program sponsored by the Federal Housing Administration of HUD.

The General Services Administration is fully committed to a program of historic preservation including the recycling of old buildings for federal use, according to administrator Jay Solomon. Solomon said his agency's "primary concern" will be the consideration of old buildings first when GSA is looking for lace.

Two rulings by the U.S. Department of Transportation last year prove that nationally the historic preservation movement is making inroads.

Secretary of Transportation Brock Adams turned down the use of federal funds for an interstate highway that the state of Tennessee wanted to build through Overton Park in Memphis.

Earlier in the year, the Urban Mass Transportation Administration refused to grant $6 million for a transportation complex in Columbus, Ohio, because the city had permitted the demolition of the Union Station Arcade.

Obviously, the present administration is committed to preservation; the federal government has established important new preservation programs. The amount of money available for historic preservation has increased dramatically.

However, officials stress that state and local governments have to be the leaders in the preservation movement. The support has to come from the grassroots: private businesses and citizens must be the vanguard of the movement, emphasizes Robertson Collins, a trustee.

 
Hagan Hall

By DAWN SCOTT
Press Correspondent

Ever heard of Hagan Hall? In spite of the fact that I was born in Scott County and grew up here, it was not until recently that I learned of the imposing structure or of the distinguished man who once lived there.

After learning of the old home, my curiosity became so great I felt I must seek it out, not only for the historic value it held, but also because I have always had a great love for old homes.

My insatiable curiosity plus some imperative information brought me to a section of Dungannon, called Hunters' Valley. There I found what I so ardently sought; situated on a hill stood the old two-story brick home known as Hagan Hall. The house towers formidable solitaire against a peaceful forest that serves as a muted backdrop.

Though the house is in a state of disrepair, it is not hard to imagine a time in bygone days when it bustled with life and entertained statesmen, industrialists, and even presidents of railroads.

Entranced by the Hall's austere dignity, I ascended what must have once been a brick walkway. As I gazed up at the Georgian architecture, my mind began to see what the eye cannot--things out of the past that had faded long ago. I let my thoughts and feelings emerge without restraint. I was carried back to the 1800's ...A resurrection had taken place. The aging porch no longer sagged, the windows that once gaped with hollow eyes, dark and cavernous were now hung with creamy lace curtains that gently played with a spring breeze through the opened sashes.

Stimulated by my fantasy, I entered the house. I found myself in a great hall. I paused as I placed a hand upon the rail of a carved stairway that curved up to the second floor. The rail had been worn smooth, perhaps by small hands that held on while tiny, tripping feet descended. I listened--the silence was deafening. Then there seemed to be a noise. Was that the laughter of children?

The silvery sound seemed to float down the stairwell like phantom water running over smooth stones. There was a presence in the house; I felt close to the past.

The past was majestic at Hagan Hall and so was the man who built it. Patrick Hagan was an extraordinary man, I learned. A multi-millionaire, an author, an industrialist, a brilliant barrister, and a commonwealth's attorney, Patrick Hagan--or Colonel Hagan as he came to be known-excelled in all he undertook.

One wonders why such a remarkable man would choose to live in what was then a rugged, roadless mountain wilderness of Southwest Virginia. The answer to this can be found in the land itself.

The land was obtained by Patrick's uncle, Joseph Hagan, at an auction in Richmond. Thirty-four thousand acres were purchased by Joseph for 10 cents an acre.

When it was discovered that the land contained springs of sulfur water, Joseph brought his invalid wife to live here in hopes that she would recover, for at that time sulfur water was believed to have miraculous healing powers.

Joseph Hagan was a man of destiny in his own right. Of landed gentry, he had been a student for the priest hood in Ireland, studied engineering, medicine, and law and surveyed a large portion of the City of Richmond.

After settling in Dungannon, Joseph sent for his nephew Patrick. Patrick Hagan had made his way from Ireland to America and had gone into partnership with his brother in a grocery business in Richmond.

Patrick Hagan came to the Virginia mountains at his uncle's bidding. Patrick had a great love of books which was instrumental in his becoming a lawyer. Under the tutoring of his Uncle Joseph and the guiding hand of Col. Joseph Strauss of Tazewell, Patrick became accomplished in Latin, English and law. He passed his exam and was admitted to the Bar in Scott County in 1854.

In 1870, Hagan started to work on the 17-room Hagan Hall. The house was constructed from bricks that were made on the spot. It wasn't finished until six years later. The house contained a study and library that held some of the finest law books this side of Richmond. Hagan was an impressive lawyer. He was involved in many cases, some that went before the Supreme Court of the United States. One case he was connected with has the distinction of being the only case ever recorded in which a man was tried and hanged on circumstantial evidence.

The case involved Dan Dean, on trial for the murder of Harry Fugate in Scott County. The trial lasted for four years. Patrick Hagan swore he would never take another criminal case if he lost that one. But the case was lost.  A flint from Dean's flint lock was found next to the body of Fugate. This must have been a great disappointment to Hagan after never having lost a civil case.

The disappointment must not have lasted long for, it was on to better things for Patrick Hagan. He became the commonwealth's attorney and was twice re-elected.

As Patrick Hagan's fame grew, so did his wealth. He, his wife, and eight children lived a gracious life at Hagan Hall. The lonely old mansion remains stately, though ravaged by time and assaulted by nature. How I wish I could have seen the house as it was described to me by Ann Francisco, the step-granddaughter of Patrick Hagan.

She remembers visiting the Hall at age three. She reminisces that they arrived at the house in a surrey, an open carriage pulled by horses. The lawn was spotted with strutting peacocks, while large Saint Bernard dogs roamed freely about. The mansion appeared huge and beautiful as did its interior. She recalls eating at a massive table with all the family gathered round. "I don't remember exactly what we ate, but I do remember it was delicious," she recalls. "I was fascinated with the indoor plumbing, especially the large footed tubs with running water. The furnishings were all so beautiful. I can recall the fireplace mantles were made of black marble imported from Italy.

They had numerous servants, cooks, maids, and even butlers. My only regret is that I was not old enough at the time to remember more, and that I had not ask more questions about my heritage.

Now the marble mantles have disappeared. It is said that through the years some of the tenants who lived in the house actually burned part of the beautiful hand-carved woodwork for firewood.

After I left the house and closed the door behind me, I knew the things I had seen and the feelings I had experienced would not be confined behind a closed door.

My sleep was interrupted that night by dreams of rooms with high ceilings, rotting silk wall covering , curving stairs, and of phantom laughter echoing against silent shadowed walls. No one who visited the house could fail to experience profound effects.

I was glad my curiosity had brought me to Hagan Hall, yet I felt a sadness, for the house can only be restored in one's imagination ..Its falling into decay truly marks the end of an era of gaiety, peaceful existence, and gracious living that seldom comes in a harried, troubled modern world.

Like so many historic homes that have crumbled, few are ever restored. Hagan Hall has extensive damages. The cost for repairs would be great, but the loss is far greater.

The Hall is used now for a summer camp for children. Rev. Ralph Flanary is supervisor over the property. Rev. Flanary has tried to restore one bedroom in memory of the Hagans, but funds are not available for full restoration, he says.

In years to come, someone will mention Hagan Hall and someone like me will be led by curiosity and find themselves at the foot of a hill where only a few bricks remain in a heap. The quest for local history in Scott County might very well end here, for the imagination can go just so far.

Yes, the death of a house is a sad thing. I will regret its passing, but for me, my close encounter with Hagan Hall brought me closer to a way of life and to a great man that has faded into the past.

 

Hagan Hall in Hunter’s Valley

June, 1978

Conservation minded residents throughout Scott and adjoining counties will be thrilled to know that Hagan Hall is to be restored, overhauled and in a manner of speaking have its face lifted.

The Rev. Ralph Flanary, of Dungannon has bought the old building along with some three hundred acres of the rugged mountain land which surrounds it.

Plans for the full development of the project have not yet been made public but it is said camping facilities, recreational equipment, like swimming, boating, fishing, horseback riding, archery, tennis, volleyball -- are each and all to be given ample attention.

Hagen Hall will be offered as a campsite for young and old alike and will be staffed and operated 12 months a year.

It is said the highway department, the soil conservation organization. and other similar bodies plan a wholehearted and enthusiastic cooperation.

The old building was constructed about 100 years ago by Patrick Hagan, a great Virginian and a great American who came here from his native Ireland when he was a lad of 16.

He came to Scott County by way of Richmond, Tazewell County and Lee County. He was briefly in business with his brother in Richmond. Next he was studying law in Tazewell, a pupil of Joseph Stras, a man deeply learned in the law.

Mr. Hagan was admitted to the bar in Scott County in August 1854. The following month he was admitted to citizenship by order of the superior court of Scott County.

Patrick Hagan was Attorney for the Commonwealth in Lee county for two terms after having filled the remainder of his partner Jonathan Richmond's term when Mr. Richmond died prematurely.

Patrick Hagan was a brilliant lawyer, who was particularly skilled in pleading and in land titles. In this branch of the law he achieved almost national distinction.

Mr. Hagan was an astute business man. His investments in coal and mineral lands together with his lucrative law practice brought it about that while yet a young man he was considered one of the wealthiest men of Virginia. He was a very finely educated man in addition to his knowledge of the law.

His generosity for both private and public causes of a worthwhile nature was well known.

It is altogether fitting and proper that the home of which he was so fond should be preserved of by the people of his adopted county of Scott and state of Virginia.

 

 

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