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Historical Background

Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

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Colonials and Patriots
Survey of
Historic Sites and Buildings

National Historic Landmark BERKELEY PLANTATION

Location: 7 miles west of Charles City, south of Va. 5, Charles City County.

Harrison's Landing, a part of the Berkeley Hundred grant of 1619, was the site of the first Thanksgiving service in America, December 4, 1619; of an Indian massacre in 1622; and of Civil War Gen. George B. McClellan's army supply base in the Seven Days' Battle campaign. One of the early owners of Berkeley Plantation was Giles Bland, who was executed for complicity in Bacon's Rebellion. Benjamin Harrison, the third of this name in Virginia, next acquired the property. His son, Benjamin IV, began building the present mansion (later to be General McClellan's headquarters) in 1726. Benjamin V was a Governor of Virginia and a signer of the Declaration of Independence; Benjamin VI installed the handsome interior woodwork; his brother, William Henry, who went to Ohio, became famous as soldier and politician and, as President, revisited Berkeley Plantation as did William Henry's grandson—President, Benjamin. The mansion is a plain early Georgian building of brick, two stories, with a massive roof, two tall chimneys, and six widely spaced dormers. The interior features notable woodwork and plaster-tinted walls. Flanking the house are two dependencies, altered to two stories about 1800. The plantation, acquired by the present owner's father about 50 years ago, was restored beginning in 1937 and is open to the public.

NHL Designation: 11/11/71

National Historic Landmark CARTER'S GROVE PLANTATION

Location: 6 miles southeast of Williamsburg, James City County, on U.S. 60.

This Georgian mansion was built by Carter Burwell in 1750-53 to the design probably of Richard Taliaferro. David Minitree, of Williamsburg, was the contractor-builder. The interior paneling was expertly restored in 1927-29 and certain alterations were made, including an 11-foot elevation of the rooftree, the addition of dormers, and reconstruction of the dependencies. Carter's Grove is privately owned and not normally open to visitors.

NHL Designation: 04/15/70


Location: 2 miles north of Cismont, Albemarle County, on Va. 231.

In 1765, Dr. Thomas Walker built the original 1-1/2-story framehouse at Castle Hill, 15 years after his discovery of Cumberland Gap. He owned about 17,000 acres of surrounding land. The present main house was built about 1840 by William Cabell Rives, U.S. Senator and Minister to France under President Andrew Jackson, who married one of Walker's granddaughters. The earlier structure is joined to the rear of the later brick building by a short passageway. The property is privately owned.

National Historic Landmark CHRIST CHURCH

Location: 3 miles south of Kilmarnock on Va. 3, Lancaster County.

Christ Church is an outstanding example of its particular architectural style and period, and is unusually well preserved. It combines typical early Georgian features with several which are unique, and is valuable also for the integrity of its interior furnishings. Robert "King" Carter, leading Virginientrepreneurur of his generation, built the present Christ Church at his own expense in 1732. His tomb and those of other members of the Carter family are here. The Foundation for Historic Christ Church, Inc., was established in 1958 and has laid careful plans for restoration and preservation of the church and its surroundings. The 1-acre church tract and 12 surrounding acres are owned by Christ Church Parish, Irvington, Va. The church is recognized as a Registered National Historic Landmark under the architectural category in the National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings.

NHL Designation: 05/30/61

National Historic Landmark GADSBY'S TAVERN

Location: 132 Royal Street, Alexandria.

The older portion of this brick building, known for years as City Tavern, was built about 1752 and used intermittently by Washington as military headquarters during the French and Indian War. A taller brick addition was built onto the two-story tavern in the last decade of the 18th century. Washington reviewed the Alexandria militia from the tavern steps in November 1799, one of his last public appearances; and a quarter century later a reception was held here for Lafayette during his triumphal tour of the United States. The tavern has been restored and is open to visitors.

NHL Designation: 11/04/63

National Historic Landmark GEORGE WYTHE HOUSE

Location: Palace Green, in Williamsburg.

George Wythe pursued here the brilliant career that gave him a permanent niche in American legal history: member of the House of Burgesses, mayor of Williamsburg, Revolutionary statesman, and first professor of law in an American college. The house was built for Wythe in 1755 by his father-in-law, the noted Virginia architect, Richard Taliaferro, and he lived here until 1790. It is a simple, rectangular brick house with hip roof, based on William Salmon's Palladio Londinensis (1734), and is one of the exhibit homes of Colonial Williamsburg, which as a historic district is eligible for the Registry of National Historic Landmarks.

NHL Designation: 04/15/70


Location: Va. 3, at the crossing of the Rapidan River, Orange County.

Alexander Spotswood (1676-1740) bought 85,000 acres in Spotsylvania County, of which the Germanna tract was the first, while he was Lieutenant Governor and actual executive head of the Virginia government. In this capacity, between 1710 and 1722, he carried out his famous Blue Ridge expedition and promoted many reforms and improvements. He established a colony of German immigrants on the Germanna tract in 1714, partly for frontier defense but mainly to operate his newly developed ironworks. Germanna was the seat of Spotsylvania County from 1720 to 1732. Spotswood erected a palatial home and, after the Germans moved away, continued the ironworks with slave labor. In his later years he served as Deputy Postmaster General for the Colonies.

The site of Germanna now is mostly open fields with intervening thickets of second-growth timber. Traces of the terraces of Spotswood's mansion are still discernible. The Memorial Foundation of the Germanna Colonies in Virginia owns about 270 acres, and the rest of the original tract is in various private ownerships.

National Historic Landmark HANOVER COURTHOUSE

Location: 18 miles north of Richmond, Hanover County, on U.S. 301.

Patrick Henry came to prominence when he successfully pleaded the Parsons' Cause in Hanover Courthouse in 1763. Still used as a courthouse, the building is a one-story, T-shaped brick structure with an arcaded piazza across the front. The small, contemporary clerk's office, and other appurtenances typical of a small Virginia courthouse group are nearby. Henry lived across the road at Hanover Tavern for some time after his father-in-law acquired the building in 1760, and Lord Cornwallis stayed there briefly during the Yorktown campaign. The tavern is a rambling, two-story frame building over a high basement, built in stages beginning in 1723. It is now used by the Barksdale Theater.

NHL Designation: 11/07/73

National Historic Landmark MOUNT VERNON

Location: 7 miles south of Alexandria, on the Potomac Riven, Fairfax County.

More than a million Americans visit Mount Vernon each year, making it with the White House one of the best-known residential houses in the United States. Washington inherited Mount Vernon upon the death of his half-brother in 1752, and it remained his home until his death in 1799. Both he and his wife Martha are buried on the grounds.

Official duties kept Washington away from his home for long periods, but by 1787 he succeeded in completing his program for enlarging the house and developing the grounds in accordance with a plan he drafted before the War for Independence, the plan which has been adhered to painstakingly by the present owner, the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union. The original 8,000-acre plantation was divided into five farms, four of which were subdivided after Washington's death so that only the 500-acre Mansion House Farm remains as an entity. The association acquired title to Mount Vernon in 1858 from Washington's great-grandnephew.

House, outbuildings, and grounds, where a large number of original Washington possessions may be seen, are well maintained and open to visitors every day of the year. Mount Vernon is classified as a Registered National Historic Landmark in the study spanning the years 1783-1830.

NHL Designation: 12/19/60


Location: 12 miles south of Alexandria, Fairfax County, on U.S. 1.

George Washington, as a vestryman of Truro Parish, was instrumental in choosing the location for the "new" Pohick Church in 1772. He attended services here while residing at Mount Vernon, until the beginning of the War for Independence. The building is typical of the late Georgian parish church of Virginia, having a simple rectangular plan with no tower, resembling Christ Church in Alexandria. It has a low-pitched hip roof with modillioned cornice, and was constructed of brick with sandstone angle quoins and door trim. The symmetrical facades show an unusual feature—rectilinear windows on the first floor and arched windows on the second. Badly damaged during the Civil War, the church has been restored and is used for regular services.

National Historic Landmark SCOTCHTOWN

Location: 1 mile north of Negro Foot, Hanover County, on Va. 685.

Scotchtown was the home of Patrick Henry from 1771 to about 1777, and later of Dolley Payne, the future Mrs. James Madison. Henry lived here and was a member of the general assembly in March 1775 when he spoke the words, "Give me liberty or give me death," at an assembly session in Richmond. He left from Scotchtown for Philadelphia to serve in the First and Second Continental Congresses and, as Governor of Virginia, he met at Scotchtown with George Rogers Clark to discuss Clark's proposed campaign against British posts west of the Appalachians. The house was built probably about 1719 and has particularly noteworthy paneling. It is 93 feet long and 35 wide. The main floor is bisected by a large central hall running the width of the structure. Each end is divided into four rooms, with one chimney serving each group of rooms. The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities acquired the house in 1958, has finished most of the structural restoration work, and is concentrating now on furnishings and landscaping.

NHL Designation: 12/21/65

National Historic Landmark SHIRLEY PLANTATION

Location: 17 miles southeast of Richmond, Charles City County, on Va. 5.

Shirley Plantation was one of the earliest Virginia tobacco plantations, originally settled in 1613 and producing for export by 1616. Col. Edward Hill II acquired the property in 1660, and his descendants own it still. Edward Hill III built the present house perhaps as early as 1723. His great-granddaughter, Ann Hill Carter, was Robert E. Lee's mother. More than 200 slaves lived at the plantation in the early 1800's, when it was part of a complex of about 170,000 acres. The house is Georgian, with two-story porticos on both main facades; a double-hipped roof with a single pineapple finial; gabled dormers on all four sides of the roof; and a square, three-story, brick central bulk with deep, denticulated cornice. The interior contains an unusually large entrance hall, a hanging stair rising three flights, full paneling in several rooms, and mantels, overmantels, and ornate broken pediments over interior doorways. The house has all original furnishings, and portraits of prominent members of the Carter family. About eight of the original dependencies remain. Shirley Plantation is open daily to visitors, although it is still an agricultural operation and a private home.

NHL Designation: 04/15/70

(Hite's Fort)


Location: 2 miles north of Stephens City, Frederick County, on U.S. 11.

Jost Hite, an Alsatian, came to America in 1710 and settled in Pennsylvania before obtaining contracts in 1731 for 140,000 acres in the Shenandoah Valley. Next year he settled 16 families on Opequon creek, south of present Winchester, thus initiating the westward movement of German settlers from Pennsylvania, an important aspect of late colonial development. Springdale is a two-story structure of gray stone, built by John Hite in 1753. It is in good condition, privately owned, and not open to visitors. A short distance south of the house are some crumbling, unstabilized stone walls believed to be the remains of Hite's Fort, built by Jost Hite soon after he arrived in Virginia.

National Historic Landmark TUCKAHOE PLANTATION

Location: 7 miles west of Richmond, Goochland County, on Va. 650.

Thomas Jefferson spent 7 of the first 9 years of his life and began his schooling at Tuckahoe, home of his cousins, the Randolphs. Through his mother, nee Jane Randolph, Jefferson inherited a firm standing in Virginia society, and at Tuckahoe the intellectual curiosity was aroused that remained with him all his life. The house was constructed between 1712 and 1730, with its present H-plan achieved through the construction of a T-shaped addition onto the earlier central-hall house. There are elaborately carved interior woodwork of pine and black walnut, a delicate stairway, and small formal entrance porches on the land and river facades. A number of original outbuildings survive, including the schoolhouse in which Jefferson studied. The plantation is privately owned.

NHL Designation: 08/11/69

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Last Updated: 09-Jan-2005