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Views of the rural landscapes, fields, and farmhouses of the Green Springs Historic District
Photographs courtesy of Scenic America: Deborah L. Myerson

From the earliest days of settlement in the Piedmont, the Green Springs area has been known for its exceptional fertility, prosperity, and beauty. The Green Springs Historic District is six and one-half miles long, four and one-half miles wide, bounded by Route 15 and Route 22 in the western end of Louisa County. Its farms, buildings, and families represent many generations of agricultural, architectural, and social history.

Contrasted with the surrounding hilly land with its thin soil and scrub woodlands, this 14,000-acre bowl, a geological formation that defines Green Springs, is composed of lush, rolling pastures. In the 1720s a group of Quakers settled near Camp Creek, followed soon after by several Hanover County, Virginia families, who established major farms and, over succeeding generations, intermarried, adding farmhouses and manors through the mid-1860s. Altogether, more than 250 original 18th- and 19th- century homes, barns and other outbuildings survive. The area has been farmed continuously for more than 200 years and the fertility of the land has made possible its remaining unspoiled today. In the 19th century Green Springs was famous for its abundant wheat crops. In 1841 Cyrus McCormick chose to test his reapers on the wheat fields of Green Springs.

Landscape surrounding Bracketts, located within the Green Springs Historic District
Photograph courtesy of National Historic Landmark Program

Two families in particular, the Morrises and the Watsons, built a number of plantation houses in the area. One of the earliest settlers, Richard Morris, built Green Springs in 1772 (visible from Route 617). The house is a fine example of Virginia formal vernacular style, with four exterior chimneys. Here Morris entertained his good friend, Patrick Henry. In the 1790s Morris developed the springs for which the district is named into a popular spa. Other notable Morris family homes includ Sylvania, Grassdale (visible from Route 15), and Hawkwood–designed by well-known architect Alexander Jackson Davis for Richard Overton Morris in the 1850s. Ionia Farm on Route 640 was built by Major James Watson in 1770. It is one of the best preserved story-and-a-half plantation houses of its type in Virginia. Other Watson-family properties include Bracketts (Route 640) and Westend (Route 638).

These and numerous other buildings form an assemblage of rural architecture of outstanding variety and quality embellishing this gently civilized countryside. After the Civil War, when coaches and carriages, as well as money were less abundant, a neighborhood place of worship became necessary. At the intersection of Route 640 and Route 613 is St. John's Chapel, built in Carpenter's Gothic style in 1888 by the Overton, Morris and Watson families. Prospect Hill, the plantation home of the Overton family, is now a secluded country inn on Route 613. Also within the Green Springs Historic District is Boswell's Tavern, one of Virginia's time-honored rural taverns.

The Green Springs National Historic Landmark District is located on Rte. 15, 1.5 miles north of I-64, from exit 136, in Zion Crossroads, and east of the intersection of Rtes. 15 and 22 at Boswell's Tavern. The district is a National Historic Landmark. Call 434-985-7293 (ext. 404) or visit the website for further information.


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