He's working to restore his family's Virginia plantation house, dark times and all: 'It's for us to learn'

Posted at 9:31 AM, Mar 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-22 17:41:05-04

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, Va. -- Richie Blick is the proud new owner of an ancient abode on Wilson Creek Lane in Brunswick County, Virginia that has been empty and neglected for about 60 years.

”It's older than the United States of America. It is rough. But it is beautiful. It is beautiful,” Blick said. “The majority of the house is here. It has never had an addition. It has never had a bathroom. It never had a kitchen added.”

“The floor is missing of course,” he added. “There is plaster missing. Siding missing. Daylight coming through the holes.”

Blick Plantation

'It Is Priceless'

While some may see a monumental mess, Blick beholds a masterpiece.

”Oh this is in rough shape. I don’t know too many people who would consider this a gem. But I do,” Blick said.

The dilapidated structure and surrounding ten acres cost Richie $45,000.

“It is worth every penny of it. And I believe that it is priceless,” he said.

The Emporia native isn’t banking on future profits. He is investing in his past.

”This is the Historic Blick Plantation House,” Blick said.

Blick's roots run 11 generations deep on this property.

“It is so special to me to own a piece, a significant piece, of Virginia history and my family history,” he said.

Blick Plantation

Searching For Ancestral Home

For decades Richie Blick and his father Earl have been searching for their ancestral home which was built around 1760.

“It is still standing and nobody in the family had any idea it was still standing,” Blick said.

Scouring old maps, satellite images and old-fashioned detective work led Blick to this spot.

”It was so well hidden you could pass it and neighbors did not even know it was here,” he said.

When the property was on the market, Blick took action.

”We had to save it. Needed to save it because people were looking at it to tear it down,” Blick said.

A long line of Blicks from Revolutionary and Civil War soldiers to doctors and delegates lived there.

Blick plans to establish the Historic Blick Plantation nonprofit. He envisions an education center where students immerse themselves in tangible history.

Earl Blick is resting easier knowing the search for where it all started is over.

“Rich and I kept talking and said, ‘It’s got to be there somewhere,’” Earl Blick said. “I’m getting emotional. It is going to take some effort and work but I hope we can get it done.”

Blick Plantation

A Disturbing Past

The Blick family is not shying away from the house's disturbing past.

The former 1,000-acre plantation was also home to an unknown number of people who were enslaved.

"I do believe we have a lot to learn from it,” Richie Blick said. "To not repeat from mistakes from the past. This was a plantation so it does have some dark parts, I’m sure. But it is for us to learn from.”

Much work remains for Richie Blick.

The home needs to be Stabilized and weatherproofed.

The 50-year-old father of four is finding family history above and ‘below’ ground.

“These are the only four headstones in this cemetery out of a possible 300 people,” Blick said.

Many of Blick's predecessors are buried in the overgrown family graveyard just steps from the structure.

Blick Plantation

'Learn From It'

Harrison Blick, 17, and his siblings say they love climbing the branches of their family tree no matter how brittle.

“It is definitely in a much better shape than it was when we stumbled upon it and found it,” Harrison said. “To see this house, old and precious and tied to my family it is truly fascinating.”

Richie Blick is working with Preservation Virginia and the Department of Historic Resources to document and protect the fragile site. 
This project will take time and money.

“I don’t care if she shines like a fresh penny. That is not my intent. My intent is to leave it primitive and learn from it,” Blick said.

Blick is documenting his progress on social media where he is gaining a loyal following.

“There are people out there maybe even yourself that really wants to know where you came from and family history and what made you you,” Blick said.

Searching for family roots can be fraught with frustration. But Richie Blick is proving with patience and persistence you might just find a diamond in the rough that is home sweet home.

Blick Plantation

“It is a genetic pull. But it completes a lifetime search,” Blick said. “You just feel like you’re supposed to do this right now. I believe that we all have a destiny and we’re pulled to do something special in life. Perhaps this is mine. It was so much history here. Pure American history here.”

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