Friday, July 15, 2016

The James River Plantations: Richmond, VA.

Since 1929, the Garden Club of Virginia has united people from all over to experience the beauty of over 200 private homes and gardens in cities and towns across the state of Virginia!  This union is known as Historic Garden Week and nearly 30,000 visitors make the drive near or far in search of an afternoon of leisure, conversation, friendship, history and art!  Each of the participating cities or towns is designated a special day in April, with special events, but folks are encouraged to visit as many cities and places as they'd like during the entire week:)  The purchase of tickets aides in the restoration and preservation of more than 40 of Virginia's historic public gardens, and for folks like us, we want to continue to enjoy these beautiful places for years and years to come!
Since we are in Summer, full swing, it's important to note, that you can visit most places in this post, anytime of year and enjoy their beauty.  I hope once you follow our itinerary, you will create your own, and GO! ;)

My very dear friend Ruth and I set out on our journey early on the morning of April 27th to make the long trek east to Richmond Virginia to experience The James River Plantation Tours of Historic Garden Week.  Our journey began at the Riverview Farm which was a fantastic way to greet our day:)  Owned by the Nordt family, now named The Nordt Family Farm, this beautifully, historic place featured many different houses, barns, working farmlands, gardens and a charming tree house, all just steps away from stunning views of the river!

The main house is grand and tall, almost overlooking the entire property.  Upstairs the house exudes beauty!  There are fine antiques that decorate the rooms but it also has a lived in, comfortable atmosphere.  In the basement the family turns their merino wool into handcrafted blankets but they don't stop there, apart from raising sheep, they raise horses and chickens, and they also grow corn, soybeans, cotton, wheat and hay!

Facing the water, what a perfect way to read a good book in the morning or late afternoon!

Ruth spotted the tree house, we couldn't resist climbing up and taking in the views from the top!

The reflecting pond turned swimming pool creates the perfect place to take a cool dip after a hot day:)

This was another home on the property, small and humble, this little gem was just as beautiful!

The barns burst with life and energy!  You could hear the call of the animals, the horses neighing, the chickens clucking, life surrounded you:) 

Quite possibly my favorite home was this even smaller cottage owned by two artists, a husband and wife duo, who also had a small studio across from their little home!  It was like a little slice of heaven!  Be sure to check out the beautiful works of Robert Walz on his website!

Enthralled by our first encounter we were ready for more!  Our next stop was Shirley Plantation, this would mark my second visit here, but Ruthie's first.  Shirley Plantation is still owned, operated and worked by the same family that's been running it for 11 generations!  Shirley Plantation is the oldest family-owned business in North America, established only six years after John's Smith's settlement at Jamestown in 1607!    

The mansion dates back to 1723, built as a wedding present for Elizabeth Hill and John Carter:)  Ummm, I'd take a gift like that any day of the week!

The tour here covers the first floor which includes a bedroom, parlor, dining room and large entry way and staircase.  Filled with period antiques, it captures your heart as you walk through the front doors.  Walking the rooms you are instantly transported back in time to the early American way of life!

Be sure to get a closer look at the dining room windows!  You notice the scratches of names into the glass by many of the girls in the family:)  Very Cute!

I can't tell you how much I want to host a dinner party al fresco under this ivy covered patio!!!!  What a perfectly romantic spot to socialize:)

After Shirley we wanted to take in a tasting at Upper Shirley Vineyards, but sadly they were closed for a private event that day so we must return!  Be sure to check their opening times, what a perfect way to end a day at Shirley considering the vineyard is just next door!

Upper Shirley was a grounds only tour but included some beautifully shaded walks and a wonderful little spring house!

Lunch was enjoyed at a little local spot on our route to more pretty places and could even be considered part of our history tour too, since it was built in 1872! Cul's Courthouse Grille, serving it's customer's Southern cuisine since renovations in 2009, began as a general store across from the Charles City Courthouse.  Do try the fried green tomatoes:)   

After lunch we continued our day, following fields of green to our next destination!

Westover Episcopal Church, completed in 1730 served it's community as a gathering place of faith, but as time sometimes brings change, change took hold of Westover.  Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 both effected the church in many ways and as the interest in religion declined, the church was misused as a barn.  It was also damaged by troops during the Civil War.  It wasn't until 1833, that Reverend Parke Farley Berkeley began repairing the church and with help from the Harrisons and Carters, owners of Berkeley and Shirley Plantations, restored it to it's former glory!  It has been used for faith as you see it now since 1867:)  

Berkeley Plantation  I have also visited before, but it was a first visit for Ruthie and it shouldn't be missed!  It marks the spot of the first official Thanksgiving in 1619 and is also the birthplace of Benjamin Harrison V, signer of the Declaration of Independence and three-time governor of Virginia! This place has seen A LOT of history, including the childhoods of two presidents, William Henry Harrison and his grandson Benjamin Harrison!

The Georgian mansion was built in 1726, and made from brick fired on the plantation.  Be sure to check out the initials of the owners Benjamin Harrison IV and Anne which appear in a date stone over the side door!

Terraced gardens filled with manicured boxwoods and 100 year old tree's take you from the house to the stunning views of the river.

Our last and final stop for the day was up this beautiful drive to the exquisite house you'll see in the following photo!!!

Westover Plantation was the perfect way to end our perfect day!  Built around 1730, this mansion is one of the finest examples of Georgian Architecture in America!  William Byrd II, author, diarist and Colonial Leader and Founder of Petersburg and Richmond, built this very house and made it a home.    

Be sure to look up once you enter the house, the ceilings are as beautiful as the antiques gracing the tables!

It's funny what will appeal to each individual visitor, and for me, this hidden closet sink was my favorite part of the house, and one day, when I own my own historic home, I will be needing one of these! :)

Tapestries, fine silver, Chinese porcelain and many other curiosities tell a story of a life well lived, well traveled and full of grace! 

The library was another room that filled me with peace and awe, and I'm a sucker for a good archway and a Colonial grandfather clock!

The gardens were just as beautiful as the house, bursting with many types of flowers and greens, my favorites are always the peonies!

I hope you enjoyed these places on screen, but they are much more stunning in person, so pack up a SMARTWATER and a few KIND bars, grab your Bestie and GO!  And as always, Enjoy<3

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