One of Concord's oldest homes is now on the market after over 100 years of being in the ownership of one family.
The home, affectionately known as Ritchie Hill, has been a part of the Ritchie family's history since 1906 when Charles F. Ritchie and his wife, Lily, bought the home.
Originally, the house stood on 12 acres. Charles Ritchie was a teacher in Albemarle and worked in a hardware store before he moved to Concord. When he married Lily, he opened Ritchie Hardware Store in downtown Concord, and the couple lived with Lily's parents.
When Charles and Lily could afford a home of their own, they bought Ritchie Hill, which, at the time, was considered to be "in the country," said Robert.
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"The acreage allowed them to have a cow and a couple of pigs, as well as chickens and a large vegetable garden to feed their growing family," he said.
Over the years, the land was divided to provide lots for Charles and Lily's children. Today, the home, with its large porches and unique architectural details, still offers four and a half acres of land.
Ritchie Hill is situated in downtown Concord, at 391 Union Street, and is built on the largest tract of land available in the downtown historic area.
Robert Ritchie, 60, and his three siblings, Elizabeth, Heath and Douglas, grew up in the house with their parents, Robert Lee Ritchie Sr. and Mary Elizabeth Morrow Ritchie, their aunt, Margaret, and their grandmother, Lily Patterson Ritchie. The siblings inherited the house together from their aunt, Margaret E. Ritchie, when she died in 1997.
"After her death, my brother, Heath Ritchie, and his family moved from Chapel Hill so that there would be someone in the house with our mother," he said. "The four of us maintained the house together and decided it was time to find someone who needed - or just wanted - a five bedroom house with two kitchens and two large living rooms... "
It has been a joy to watch the homes along North and South Union being sold and lovingly restored. We hope Ritchie Hill will be next."
Robert fondly remembers his childhood at Ritchie Hill. His stories of life growing up at 391 Union Street are rich with descriptions of eating his grandmother's chicken and dumplings every Sunday and family gatherings.
"It was paradise for any kid...family reunions were a weekly affair," said Robert. "Uncle Pat would dress as Santa and take presents to Jackson Training School every Christmas. You could hide a lot of Easter eggs in the big front yard, play football until dark and then continue with 'Capture the Flag' when the streetlights came on. The big front porch has seen many parties, teas, bridge clubs and wedding parties."
Some of his favorite features of the house are its enormous porches.
"The porches make the house unique in Concord, and who knows how far you would have to look to find another house like this one," Robert said.
The porch spans over 1,800 square feet, and there are also two upstairs sleeping porches.
"From the sleeping porch upstairs, you can see the house next door and then look back on an unbroken tree line that hides any other signs of civilization," he said. "I built a little deck back in the woods to make it easier to get down the hillside.
"Even in winter, when the leaves are off the trees, you can sit on that deck and feel like you are up in the mountains, with the nearest city miles away."
When he was a child, Robert enjoyed the grand porch because it was "big enough to roller skate or ride a bike." And they didn't have to worry about the rain spoiling their fun because of the porch.
Christmas was a time full of celebration and tradition at Ritchie Hill.
"Pound cakes and Dad's rum cake were always around, with cookies and boiled custard to round out the menu," said Robert.
The Ritchies also had a tradition for finding and decorating the perfect Christmas tree.
"The cheapest Christmas trees were the cedars that grew wild around Concord," he said. "As the county got more civilized and Dad had to buy a tree like everyone else, he would put the tree and its stand on top of a round children's size table that made it look taller than it was, in a room with a 10-foot ceiling, and gave us a lot more room for presents."
Robert and his siblings also helped decorate outside.
"We would string popcorn and cranberries into garlands to hang on the camellia bushes outside for the birds and the squirrels."