Robert Cross was born into a Clarke County farming family in 1926, the eighth of ten children born to John and Gelettia Cross. After the Civil War, his grandfather’s family moved to Oklahoma, but his grandfather, William Cross, stayed behind and staked out a one-acre plot on the edge of an area known as Webbtown. That plot and the plot next to it, which his father purchased from an ex-slave in 1905, now front on Route 7 near Wickliffe Road. In 1926 his father purchased 130 acres to farm in the area of the Wickliffe Church. Over the years, the farm has been slowly sold off; his brother retains the remaining land where the original farmhouse still stands unoccupied.
While growing up, Mr. Cross helped work the farm with his father and siblings. He remembers his father complaining that Robert was always using good nails and wood for his “constructions” which his imagination was already beginning to visualize. He left school in the eleventh grade and began working in a brick yard. Always in the back of his mind was the wish that he could become either an architect or a highway engineer. These inclinations can be clearly seen in his model construction. However, his life went in other directions. He is a veteran of two years in the U.S. Army, 20 years as a janitor at the Shenandoah Valley Bank, and 16 years as an aide to the driver’s education program at the Dowell J Howard Center.
Mr. Cross began constructing his model buildings in 1954 and continued until 1974. He worked exclusively with found materials and his own rich imagination. Each model took approximately six months to complete. This exhibit represents the body of his work, which has only been on display once in Newmarket in the 1950’s. Two additional models are “The Library”, owned by the Josephine School Community Museum, and an exact replica of the Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, in Winchester where it is on display.
Robert Cross’s miniature wooden structures go on display at the Barns of Rose Hill on January 15, 2012. The exhibit is sponsored by the Josephine School Community Museum and the Barns of Rose Hill.