Shirley Plantation is the first plantation in Virginia and was settled in 1613. I recently got to “meet” Lady Cessalye Sherley at historic Jamestown Settlement in Williamsburg. Lady Cessalye never came to Virginia to see the estate that her husband named for her. Her portrait is in the main gallery at Jamestown and her husband’s hangs beside her. I can’t say I blame the lady for remaining in England. At the time, Tidewater Virginia was a very dangerous place to live for new European immigrants.
Family owned by the Carters, Shirley Plantation today is a one-of-a-kind Colonial place--according to experts there is no other place that holds so many original colonial plantation buildings on original site. It is also the oldest family-operated farm in the country.
The Great House is spectacular and I have to think that its square build is one thing that has helped it survive the hurricanes of southern Virginia. When I was writing my novella "Return to Shirley Plantation" I tried to put myself I the character of my hero, Matthew, as he approaches this home. Even at the time of the Civil War, in 1862, the house and structures were already about 150 years old.
|covered well, back of smokehouse and storage|
Original buildings include a two-story brick laundry and a flanking kitchen across the Queen Anne Forecourt. In the forefront of the property are two--two story L-shaped brick buildings--the storehouse and the ice house.
The Flemish bond brickwork is spectacular on all the buildings. The bricks for the house and the buildings on the property were made onsite. Indentured servants are thought to have helped design and build the home and the outlying buildings on the property.
The kitchen is housed on the first floor of a two-story brick building to the right of the property and closer to the house. On the side of the Great House there is an entry/exit door used to go to and from the kitchen. The modern day kitchen is in the basement of the house.
One of my favorite buildings is the dovecote. Colonists ate young doves (squab.)
The Carter family still owns the home although they were not the original owners of the property. Carters married into the Hill family and have occupied it for hundreds of years. Depending upon the time of year, various crops are growing in the fields all around Shirley, bordered by the James River. For instance in Charles City County right now the second crop of winter wheat is growing. There are a consortium of farmers who harvest many fields throughout the area, including the vast acreage at Shirley.
This National Historic Site has no equal for the colonial era fan. Many books have been written that include Shirley Plantation’s history as well as pictures of its beautiful buildings and property.
|bend in the James River|
Shirley Plantation is currently open for visitors. Groups and individuals and tour groups (as well as special interest groups) are welcome. The seasoned traveler to the area knows that this is not always the case. A plantation may or may not be open to the public any given year dependent upon any number of factors. In fact Shirley recently had to close for a couple of days for a super special upcoming project that cannot yet be disclosed (not even to the wonderful Debbie Lynne Costello, co-founder of this blog, who tried to stop there whilst on a trip through Virginia recently!) And the plantation was closed recently for a wedding for the family member who actually lives (yes lives!) in the house, upstairs. This is after all, a family estate. Felicitations to the happy couple and congratulations to Shirley Plantation on their 400th anniversary!
Bio – Carrie Fancett Pagels, Ph.D.
Carrie Fancett Pagels (www.carriefancettpagels.com) debut release Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance, is a Kindle Civil War best seller. She contributed to God’s Provision in Tough Times, releasing in June 2013 http://www.amazon.com/Provision-Cynthia-Howerter-La-Tan-Murphy/dp/1938499441/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1358266747&sr=8-1&keywords=cynthia+howerter
Her short story Snowed In: A Northwoods Christmas will appear in Guidepost Books “A Christmas Cup of Cheer” in October, 2013.
Carrie Fancett Pagels
Facebook Author Page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Carrie-Fancett-Pagels/317053071710640?fref=ts
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Carrie has graciously agreed to give away a copy of her novella, Return to Shirley Plantation to one lucky commenter! Winner will be announced tomorrow AM.