Charles City County: Shirley Plantation

aerial of Shirley Plantation

Courtesy of Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Shirley is a premier example of an colonial Virginia tobacco plantation and is the oldest plantation in Virginia, dating to 1613. The property was patented to Edward Hill in 1660 and remains in the possession of his family today. The main house, forecourt dependencies, formal brick farm buildings, and two demolished three-story bedroom houses were built ca. 1736 for Elizabeth Hill. In 1736, Hill, the heiress of Shirley, married John Carter, the son of Robert "King" Carter. Robert Carter was the wealthiest and most politically influential man in mid- 1700s Virginia. Carter's children also married into prominent families who owned other plantations, such as Berkeley, Westover, and Brandon.

By the 1770s, Charles, John Carter's son, inherited Shirley. He remodled the interior and added fine woodwork, poriticos, new outbuildings, and replaced the roof tile with slate. By this time, Shirley was considered to be the seat of the Carter family. By the end of the 1700s, Shirley had become the largest agricultural operation in the state. Charles Carter's daughter, Ann Hill Carter, was born at Shirley in 1773. She married Light-Horse Harry Lee and gave birth to General Robert E. Lee.

Shirley is the oldest family-owned business in North America, dating to 1638 when Edward Hill I established a farm on the banks of the James. Today, the 800 acre plantation is still home to the 10th and 11th generations of the Hill-Carter family. The plantation is located at 501 Shirley Plantation Road Charles City, VA 23030. Shirley was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 1, 1969 and the Virginia Landmarks Register on November 5, 1968. For more information or to visit, please call: (804) 829-5121 or visit ShirleyPlantation.com.

Last updated: August 16, 2017