Friday, January 27, 2012

The Shirley Plantation

You would think that living in such a historical state like Virginia all of my life that I would have been to see every nook and cranny the state has to offer.  And I think it's fair to say I have seen a good part of it.  But it seems that what I most often overlook are the things in my very own back yard.  I have been much better about that in the last couple of years and I'm so glad about that.  Sunday Mark, Emma and myself went on a little morning trip to Charles City County.  Our destination: Shirley Plantation.  I have passed this site at least a few dozen times and each time I think to myself "I really want to go there sometime". 

The long drive leading to the plantation


The Shirley Plantation stakes claims on being the first Virginia Plantation and dates back to 1613.  It also boasts that it is the oldest family owned business in North America.  Cool!  The plantation is located on Rt. 5 in Charles City County and only about a 20 minute ride from Richmond.  You travel down a very long drive to get to the home site and pass through crops of cotton along the way.  In the winter you see only the remnants of the crops from the previous season.  The construction on the home began in 1723 with the Hill-Carter Family.  Over the years as various family members took ownership changes were made.  Some added things to the grounds and house, while others removed things.

To start the tour you need to purchase a ticket in the gift shop.  The gift shop is run out of what was once the "laundry house".  Like most plantations that were built back in the day things like the kitchen, laundry, cellars and even guest rooms were kept apart from the main house.  You will get a map of the property when you purchase your touring ticket.  We were given a small card with a time on it and instructed to meet our tour guide on the front porch of the mansion at the time on our card.  Tours run everyday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  They are closed major holidays.  Tours were $11 per adult and children are $7.  Emma was free :)

The drive right before you reach the mansion.

The main house and a two of the out buildings.

The main house.

Just a closer view.

Our tour guide.

You can't take any pictures once inside the house.  So I will just have to tell you the house was beautiful.  The first thing you notice is that you can on the first floor and look up all the way to the third floor.  The stairs are not circular but built so that it's open to the top.  There were cute stories that our tour guide shared with us about the families that have lived here and events that have taken place.  There is so much history in every inch of the house.  The top two floors are still occupied by the family and are not available for touring. 

The back of the house.

A view of the James from the house.

Now that is an old tree!

After the tour of the house we were free to walk around the rest of the grounds on our own.  The other buildings include an ice house, kitchen, laundry house, stable, and a few other buildings.  The majority of the buildings are symmetrical and built to have a matching building.  If you check out the website to the plantation you can get a view of the grounds from the air and understand what I mean about matching building.

The kitchen.

Can you imagine having
to cook with that oven?

The ice pit in the ice house.

Some farm equipment on display.

There are gardens on the property but being the middle of the winter it is not in it's prettiest state.  And from what I understand there is a small cemetery on the property but not on the tour.

The gardens.

We probably went on our tour on the coldest day of the year!  But even so it was an enjoyable visit and I'm so glad we finally made time to stop by. 

One last look at the mansion before leaving.

This weekend we are looking forward to going on the Heart of Virginia wine tour and then going to a birthday party for a good friend.  As always it will be a busy weekend for The Busy Bryants.

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