Historic Edgemont house side view


Edgemont was built around 1796 by James Powell Cocke (1748-1827) on a tract he acquired from Robert Nelson. Born at Malvern Hill, he served as a justice for his native Henrico County before moving first to Augusta County and then to Albemarle County in search of a healthier climate free of malaria. At Edgemont, he operated a 1,600-acre farm and a nearby gristmill and is buried in a small family cemetery on the site. In 1825 he sold the dwelling and 875 acres to Martha Ann Cocke, the widow of his son James Powell Cocke, Jr. 

Although Jefferson’s role in the design of Edgemont is uncertain (alas, no drawings survive), this sophisticated structure clearly bears his stamp. It shares many similarities with other houses he designed, including the home of William Madison, brother of James Madison, at Woodberry Forest in Orange County. 

The living room and entryway of historic Edgemont

A 1796 letter from Jefferson to Wilson C. Nicholas provides a clue to his involvement:

“I now enclose you the draught you desired, which I have endeavored to arrange according to the ideas you expressed, of having the entry, not through the principal room as in Mr. Cocke’s house, but at the cross passage.”

It is likely that “Mr. Cocke’s house” is Edgemont, where the main entrance opens into a reception hall.

Edgemont also bears the mark of another distinguished architect: Milton L. Grigg (1905-1982). After working in Williamsburg and serving as restoration architect for Monticello, he would restore and embellish Edgemont for two owners, Dr. Graham Clark in 1938 and William Snead in 1946.

Among other alterations, Grigg completed Edgemont’s Palladian design scheme by adding two of the house’s four Tuscan-columned porticoes. On a foundation discovered at the two-level east facade, he built a striking colonnade-over-arcade entry that echoes those of two other Jeffersonian landmarks, Pavilion VII at the University of Virginia and Poplar Forest.

Edgemont is on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register and is part of the Southern Albemarle National Register Rural Historic District.


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Stephen T. McLean

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