Owners Chris Walker and Cliff DeVito purchased the Forest Oaks estate in 2011 and have been diligently working on restoring the property since then.
It was love at first site when the owners first walked into the Manor House, in-spite of the amount of work that would be needed to bring the property back to its original beauty. The transition from their home in Phoenix, Arizona to a rural Virginia lifestyle was seamless since both Chris and Cliff were looking for a change from the desert southwest climate. The
four-season climate, lush vegetation and history of the region was a natural draw. Restoring Forest Oaks has become a passion as is sharing the estate’s beauty and history with the public.
The Manor House was built in 1806 by Matthew Houston who was a cousin of Sam Houston of Texas fame.
The house served as a store and tavern as well as home to the Houston family and the home base for the sprawling plantation. In 1812, Houston expanded the house and incorporated a two-story center hall with a full arched ceiling reminiscent of the nearby Natural Bridge. The house stood virtually unchanged until 1916 when it was purchased by Curtis Walton and his aunt Lilly who transformed the original federal style structure to the grand mansion that it is today.
The two-story center hall remained, however, the arched ceiling was removed and replaced with stunning oak woodwork and arches which were brought from England. In addition, the Walton’s built three Greek revival cottages on the property, one of which served as their temporary home as the Manor House was renovated. Two of the cottages have been restored as vacation rentals and the third is scheduled for restoration in 2017 as an antique and country store.
Thomas Jefferson purchased 157 acres of land including the Natural Bridge from King George III of England for 20 shillings in 1774. He called it “the most Sublime of nature’s works”.
Jefferson built a two room log cabin, with one room reserved for guests, beginning its use as a retreat. While President, in 1802, he personally surveyed the area. Many famous guests stayed here, including John Marshall, James Monroe, Henry Clay, Sam Houston, and Martin Van Buren. Natural Bridge was one of the tourist attractions of the new world that Europeans visited during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Vacationing guests from all over the world took day trips from Natural Bridge on horseback or horse-drawn carriages to explore the countryside. The Natural Bridge has remained under private ownership until 2016 when it was acquired by the Commonwealth of Virginia as a state park. The historic and scenic location will now be preserved for posterity and remain open to the public just as Thomas Jefferson had desired.