Watch now: After finding their dream Victorian home in Danville, the couple ‘marry’ with a house built in 1889 | Local News
For a couple from Danville, fairy tales do come true after all.
Chris and Zenaida Herbon, who met while Zenaida was performing as a fairy at a Renaissance fair, exchanged their wedding vows in a ceremony at a Queen Anne Victorian house built in 1889 on Chestnut Street in Danville on Tuesday afternoon.
The couple, who moved to Danville from out of the area, had always dreamed of restoring a historic home.
“Unbeknownst to each other, Chris and I have always had the same dream,” Zenaida, 39, told the Danville Register & Bee via email last week. “When it came time to go shopping, we knew we wanted a Queen Anne Victorian, but we didn’t know where.”
After researching, the couple fell in love with Danville’s selection of Victorian homes and the convenience of being close to family, she said.
In the late 1800s, the property at 126 Chestnut St. was gifted to Mae Talley, a niece of William T. Sutherlin and his wife.
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“The house she [Talley] designed is considered one of the most architecturally significant homes in the city and is considered one of the most striking homes downtown,” the couple said in the email. “Well that we read this we didn’t realize at the time the impact this house had but since the purchase almost everyone who finds out that we bought it has a story of how they have always wanted to live there or wished they could but because they grew up driving or driving past they loved it so much.
Sutherlin, who was both alderman and mayor of Danville, had made his fortune from tobacco, banking, textiles, real estate, and railroad development.
During the Civil War, he served the Confederacy as district quartermaster, his ill health preventing him from active service. The Sutherlin Mansion, built in 1859, bears his name and currently houses the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History.
While researching the Talley house, the couple discovered that there had been a wedding at the house 100 years ago. They were supposed to get married at another location, but they couldn’t pass up a chance to “‘marry’ everything together involving the house on such a fantastic occasion and anniversary,” Zenaida said.
“So we canceled our other wedding venue and moved everything local,” she said.
The couple legally married last year in a small private ceremony at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
restore the house
With Zenaida’s background in art and design and Chris’ experience as a finish carpenter, the couple will be ready to get to work restoring the home.
“We looked at several [homes]including some who were already ready to move in, but seeing the Talley, we absolutely fell in love with its full potential,” Zenaida said.
Zenaida, 39, was born in New York but moved out growing up because her father was a US Marine.
“We eventually settled just outside of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which I consider my hometown and always love to be close to,” she said.
Chris, 40, grew up just outside of Detroit and can’t wait to experience Southside Virginia’s more temperate climate.
“I didn’t enjoy the harsh winters anymore and I’m delighted to be further south where the weather is much milder and we can enjoy all four seasons,” Chris said.
The Herbons’ Talley House project will include wiring and plumbing work, as well as the repair and replacement of gutters and water-damaged areas.
“Once this is complete, the entire first floor will be fully restored to Victorian style,” Zenaida said. “We are hoping to find original photos of the interior of the house at the time so that we can retain as much of the original beauty that the house once had.”
The Herbons will design the bedrooms on the second and third floors to reflect the other decades the house has stood, she said.
“We’ll be bringing back themes like art deco, ’40s vintage and Hollywood regency design-era glamor,” she said. “A third-floor treat will be the Train Room, in which Chris designs a miniature model of Danville and the wreckage of the Old ’97, as well as other train details to accent throughout the home.”
The back of the house and a coach shed behind the house will be restored.
Mae Talley, openly divorced at a time when such situations were rare, lived in the house for several years with her son, Herbert. She taught music lessons outside the conservatory to support herself and her son.
“Many families have since owned the house, including a partner in the Danville Hardware Company and a man who worked with Reynolds Tobacco Company,” Zenaida said.
The house had been empty since 1984 – almost 40 years – until Chris and Zenaida bought it, she said.
“From what we can find, it changed hands a few times during its empty period, but everyone abandoned the project and moved on, leaving it in the hands of the city thereafter, c That’s how we came to acquire it,” she says.
As for Tuesday’s ceremony, it featured a combination of themes that intertwined with Zenaida and Chris’ respective legacies. The bride’s attire included a Native American Taino headdress and the groom wore a kilt to reflect his Scottish background.
A handfasting with a gold coin attached was wrapped around the couple’s arms during the ceremony on the porch of the house.
“It was Chris and Zen’s way of combining Taino and Scottish cultures to bring their union closer together, because not only where they go but where they come from is important to both of these people,” said the man who officiated the ceremony to the participants.
Some guests dressed up in Renaissance-themed outfits and the event included, for a whim, two attendees dressed as dinosaurs.
Chris and Zenaida met while she was on tour as Spark the Fairy at a Renaissance Fair event just outside of Atlanta. Chris ran a rose business, for which he is now a consultant.
The couple bought a cottage in Pittsylvania County on the outskirts of Danville and have lived there since June. They will live there while they restore the pastel yellow, sky blue and purple house on Chestnut Street, which they expect to take about a year or two.
Everything about the house, including its towering turret, wraparound porch, quirky features and Mae Talley story appealed to the couple, Zenaida said.
The original fireplaces are still intact and include late 1800s” tiles with fleur-de-lis detailing that reminds us of our time in New Orleans and the ribbon and bow pattern in the tiles of the veranda, which adds the perfect feminine touch,” she mentioned.
“The house also has the two sets of original pocket doors intact, which we were shocked and delighted to discover,” she said. “We also liked that the demo had already been done indoors, so there was no disaster to clean up before we could start the restoration.”
The Herbons hope another couple will exchange vows at home in a century.
“We can only hope that one day, 100 years from now, another couple will want to do something similar,” they said.