Panorama of the Big House

A Little History

The Big House in 1955
A young John LaPrelle standing in front of the old iron-smelting furnace in 1955.

The Big House is a large three-story farmhouse, located on a mountainside near Rural Retreat, Virginia. It has an interesting history. It was probably built in the early 1870's for the manager of White Rock Furnace, an iron-smelting furnace that operated on the property until the turn of the century. The "Iron Master" needed a large house to lodge out of town guests who came to the furnace on business.


The Big House in 1962
This picture shows Sandy LaPrelle (then Sandy Newlin) and her family on the Big House porch in 1962.

The LaPrelle family has owned the house since the early 1940's. Plumbing and electricity were added sometime in the late 1940's, as well as the large front porch. While the A.R.E. Camp (sponsored by the Association for Research & Enlightenment, the Edgar Cayce foundation) was getting started in the early 1960's, the volunteers who built the first latrine and worked to make the road passable stayed at the Big House. With the Camp going strong in the 1970's, the house became a summer site for A.R.E. Atlantic University sessions. Through the years, the A.R.E. has used the house for numerous programs and events.