Tobacco and Trolleys: Industry and Transportation
Antebellum Architecture
Richmond's African American Heritage
The Continuing legacy of Historic Preservation
Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary


City of Richmond
Department of Community Development

Constructed between 1750 and 1753, Wilton is an impressive example of a colonial-era plantation house that once hosted esteemed guests such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the Marquis de Lafayette. Originally located on a 2,000-acre tobacco plantation several miles downriver from Richmond, the large two-story brick house is one of the most significant of the James River plantation mansions. Associated with the Randolphs, a family prominent in colonial Virginia affairs, Wilton is among an important group of mid-18th century houses with architectural designs related by plan or detail. The others include Westover, Elsing Green, and the Nelson House, although Wilton has the distinction of having the only known fully paneled interior in Virginia. Its plan and dimensions are similar to nearby Westover, which dates from approximately 20 years earlier.

The Randolphs played an active role in Virginia life beginning with their arrival and settlement at Turkey Island in present-day Henrico County c. 1645. William Randolph III built Wilton between 1750 and 1753. Randolph’s son Peyton was the second owner. William Randolph III’s cousin, also named Peyton, is the most famous member of the Randolph family. He was a key figure in early Revolutionary politics in Virginia, serving as Speaker of the House of Burgesses from the 1760s until his death in Philadelphia in 1775. He presided over the first informal meeting regarding non-importation agreements in 1767, was chairman of the First Virginia Convention, and was elected president of the First Continental Congress. In the words of one scholar, he was “president of every important Revolutionary assemblage in Virginia.” Peyton Randolph married Lucy Harrison, whose father Benjamin Harrison (occupant of Berkeley Plantation) was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

historic Wilton

Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries

William Randolph’s son Peyton’s daughters inherited the house in 1775 when he died. The Randolph family owned the property until the mid-19th century when Colonel William Carter Knight bought it. The house sat vacant for some time. In 1933, the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in the Commonwealth of Virginia moved Wilton to its present site on a bluff overlooking the James River in response to the development of the area surrounding its original location. Contractor and restoration consultant Herbert Claiborne oversaw the move.

The property opened to the public as the Wilton House Museum in 1952. Its largely original interior showcases 200 years of American history with a collection of 18th and 19th-century furnishings, textiles, glass, ceramics, and silver. The museum’s mission statement is “to preserve the circa 1753 historic house, its collections and environs as an example of the late Colonial and early National periods in Virginia by sharing the stories of those who contributed to the history of Wilton Plantation during the first three generations of Wilton Randolphs.”

Plan your visit

Wilton is located on the north bank of the James River at 215 S. Wilton Rd. in the West End of Richmond nestled in a residential neighborhood of hills and large homes. The Wilton House Museum is open to the public Tuesday-Saturday 10:00-4:30, Sunday 1:30pm to 4:30pm. Regular admission is $10, seniors/AAA/students $8, adult group tours $6, student group tours $2.50-$5, and children 6 and under free.  For information call 804-282-5936 or visit the Wilton House Museum website.

Wilton is also featured in the James River Plantations Travel Itinerary. Historic places featured in that itinerary can be visited easily in conjunction with a trip to Richmond.

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