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How this man is rebuilding pieces of history in Dinwiddie: 'I call it therapy'

How this man is rebuilding pieces of history in Dinwiddie: 'I call it therapy'
Posted at 10:48 PM, May 04, 2022

DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. -- History often has a way of disappearing, especially when it's left outside and neglected.

One Dinwiddie man has made it his mission to preserve some unique wooden history that others have left behind and forgotten.

"I always liked history and I like American history and I like early history," Curtis Rice said.

In 2001, Rice decided to build a cabin. It wasn't a replica, but the real deal.

"All of the original middle parts of the log building are there. The floorboards, the ceiling, the logs, it's all original. That was the first one," Rice said. "It's probably very unique in the fact that it's a Dinwiddie County cabin because I don't know of another one. That may be the last one left from the original settlers."

The cabin was dismantled and brought here and rebuilt to last for generations to come.

"With proper care and somebody comes along after me and takes care of it, it should go on for a hundred years or more, forever," Rice said.

How this man is rebuilding pieces of history in Dinwiddie: 'I call it therapy'

It was then that Curtis got on the road to find more log buildings to bring here.

"We tagged the logs, took them down and re-erected them exactly in the same positions that they were in," Rice said.

Curtis understands and appreciates the workmanship needed to build these cabins hundreds of years ago.

"These marks, they would put a couple on the ground and lay it on the ground and they would straddle it with this tool and peck on it until they got this shape and condition to make it basically a beam. Then they would notch the beams and build the cabin," Rice said.

For Curtis, it's not all about the structure but the love of the wood.

"Most of these are red oak, white oak, some poplar even. There's a couple of Walnut logs, which is extremely rare, and a few pine, but very little pine," Rice said.

As the years turned into decades, his collection grew, coming from across the Commonwealth.

"It came from Appomattox County, about a mile from the surrender site, and it was on a large farm there," Rice said.

But it's not just the wood or log buildings that are rare and unique.

"This door is blacksmith made and a contractor redid it. Probably in the 1950s, they turned a window into a door, so these were window bars from the original Chesterfield County Jail," Rice said.

Years later, the thrown-away piece was given to him.

How this man is rebuilding pieces of history in Dinwiddie: 'I call it therapy'

"If I'd put it on this building and I told him absolutely."

There are also other pieces that have been reclaimed from history.

"This was a local wagon, sold from Ritchie Hardware in Petersburg, Virginia and got it from the son of the original owner who bought it new in 1920," Rice said.

Now at 72, Rice is still expanding his log building empire, nestled on almost an island-like location, isolated from the rest of the world.

"I come down here and they call it work but I call it therapy, man."