Creel House (100 East Oxford)
The beautiful 100 East Oxford in 2005. Notice the knee braces on the roof corners and the 4-over-1 vertical divided windows. The front two windows on each level on the side represent the original house. To the rear of that, with matching siding and windows, is the sympathetic more recent addition.
A House for Benjamin and Annie
Benjamin Kemper Creel was born to Benjamin F and Arabella Creel at Strawberry Hill farm, a little north of Charlottesville in October 1890. The country life apparently held little appeal for the young man and at age 21 he moved north to live with his cousin Raymond, a locomotive fireman, on north St Asaph street. Benjamin immediately also took a job as an engine fireman, shoveling coal into the boilers. In Alexandria he met Annie Travis, daughter of Asher Travis, a machinist who owned the house at the north-west corner of Clyde and Oxford. He was quickly smitten and they married in August 1918, Benjamin switching over to work at the shipyard to stay close to home. They had planned to move into her parents' house, but instead rented out a room from Thomas Burns on Lloyd (now Custis) Avenue.
When the vacant lot across Clyde from the Travis house became available Benjamin and Annie moved quickly, purchasing it in November 1920. They then moved into the Travis house to supervise construction of their own house early the next year.
The new house was a classic American four-square with a low-pitch full-hipped roof with wide overhangs supported by knee brackets at each corner. The design was a bit of a hybrid, having very nice vertical 4-over-1 windows more suggestive of arts and crafts than a standard four-square. There was a full-width front porch supported by tapering pillars and plain ballustrade. It had a full basement on a foundation of concrete blocks finished to resembled large stones.
Great, if fleeting, news came with Annie's pregnancy and in January 1921 she gave birth to Benjamin Jr. Tragically he lived only four days before succumbing to acute bronchitis. The birth also seems to have stressed Annie's health. She had suffered from mitral insufficiency, a heart defect, diagnosed two years earlier, along with rheumatism, and her health went into precipitous decline. She passed away at her parents' house at 8 AM on April 7th. She was 24 years old.
Front view of the house in 1990
The Next Generation
Broken hearted, Benjamin continued the construction of new house at 100 East Oxford. He moved in later that year, with his widowed mother Arabella. The loneliness would not last long. His two sisters, Zaidee and Mary Lee introduced him to their best friend and classmate at Lynchburg College, Bertha Naff. They fell in love and married in October 1924 in DC. This one would last.
Perhaps because the house was closely associated with Annie, or for financial reasons, the new couple did not set up their home there. Instead, they bought the west half of the new duplex at 303 LaVerne Avenue and rented out the larger house on Oxford.
The tenants did not stay very long. James Stone, a plumber, and his wife Annie lived there to 1929. Then Randolph and Anna Morris moved int with their four sons and one daughter until 1931; and finally Clifton Coflin, a locomotive engineer, his wife Hattie and their three sons and two daughters.
Bertha had been busy in the meantime herself. In March 1926 she gave birth to daughter Ellen, then in November 1929 to son Austin. It was time to move back to the larger house on Oxford, and they did so in 1933. To round out the family Bertha gave birth to Betty Lee in September 1936. They all lived there in the East Oxford house, with Benjamin's mother Arabella, for the next ten years.
Ellen Creel in her 1943 GW HS photo
A New Chapter
In September 1943 Benjamin and Bertha sold the house to Donald and Mae Harlow. To give the Creels their fair share of the story, they moved to 10 West Mount Ida and, in 1948, to 118 East Hume. Ellen had already moved out in 1945 when she married fellow Del Ray resident William W Walter, who she met at the Del Ray Baptist Church, and later they worked together as inspectors at the torpedo factory in town. Son Austin was to prove the star of the family, however. Probably conscious of the fact that his father had only a fourth-grade education, he was quiet and studious and was eventually rewarded with a PhD from Yale. He moved to Gainesville, where he joined the faculty of the University of Florida, serving as professor and then chair of the Department of Religion from 1977 until retirement in 1990.
The sale in 1943 began a series of relatively short ownerships. Donald, a brakeman with RF&P and Mae, a clerk at People's Drug Store, bought the house with a $5,500 mortgage in September 1943. They sold it to Jesse and Ann Twilley in June 1947, the Twilleys taking out a $7,700 mortgage. They, in turn, sold it Esther and RL Raynes in September 1951, who sold it to Floreed Carter, a widow, in January 1957. She died shortly thereafter and her estate sold it to Helen and Edward Glacey in May 1959. They held onto it for ten years, not selling until August 1969.