The J.C.M. Merrillat House, built in 1851, is a two-story wooden board-and-batten residence situated on a hilltop surrounded by a large landscaped garden in Staunton. This was created for Dr. Jacques C. M. Merrillat from Bordeaux, France, who came to Staunton as administrator of the Virginia School of the Deaf in 1850. The central gable and dormer windows, containing diamond panes, are decorated with elaborate bargeboards and finials. The one-story porch is supported by columns and huge carved brackets.
The main entrance has a four-paneled door with transom and sidelights. The design corresponds most closely to Andrew J. Downing’s “Gothic villa.” The porch, for instance, illustrates Downing’s concern that people should enjoy fresh air and contact with nature. Although it is not known exactly how Merrillat learned of these ideas, he might have been influenced by Downing’s articles in The Horticulturist, a popular gardening and landscape design magazine. Other “Gothic villas” derived from A. J. Davis and A. J. Downing’s patterns were built in and around Lexington in 1848-56, so Merrillat House is not really a unique survival, as suggested by the National Register.
Kathleen G. Arthur