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Exploring Shirley Plantation — Charles City

Shirley Plantation is a witness to the Old Dominion’s grandeur and enduring history.

This tobacco plantation bears the stories of indigenous peoples, pioneers, and indentured servants. Its roots date back to the early 17th century when Sir Thomas West settled in 1613. In 1638, Edward Hill acquired a portion of the land, and for over four centuries, the Hill-Carter family has maintained the property, carefully preserving its rich history and architectural splendor. The exquisite period furnishings, stunning gardens, and the magnificent backdrop of the James River will enchant you. And if you want to explore the fascinating stories behind the walls and discover the secrets of the bygone era, let Pam’s expertise guide you.

THE GREAT HOUSE: Construction of the grand mansion and its outbuildings commenced around 1723 and was completed in 1738. This three-story Georgian-style structure boasts red brick walls accented by white trim boards. Pairs of elegant rectangular windows flank the central entrance. Inside, the house reveals a carved walnut “floating” or “flying” staircase without visible means of support. It seems to defy gravity, showcasing the era’s craftsmanship. Dormers and brick chimneys punctuate the roofline. A white pedestal at the center supports an overturned pineapple, symbolizing hospitality and welcome.

ESTATE GARDENS: The formal gardens are defined by boxwood hedges, creating a sense of structure and charm. A quadrant layout leads the way to a graceful grape arbor. Elongated rectangular planting beds may also be found with vibrant lilies, hydrangeas, and small shrubs. Majestic mature trees, including a remarkable 350-year-old willow oak, further enhance the grounds. These towering guardians shade the expansive lawn, creating a serene and idyllic setting for visitors to explore and admire.

PRESENT-DAY CHARM: Shirley Plantation remains the private home of the 11th and 12th generations of the Hill Carter family. However, they have made it available to the public. You can go on a guided tour to witness portraits and antiques on the first floor of the Manor. You’ll see original 18th-century buildings, exhibits, gift shops, and picnic areas outside. While the former slave quarters may have faded into history, one cabin still stands on the property owned by a neighbor. You can also explore the active farm, which continues to grow cotton as part of a crop rotation that includes corn, soybeans, and wheat.

Homes in Shirley Plantation — Charles City

5 Real Estate Facts about Shirley Plantation — Charles City

  • Indentured servitude was prominent in Shirley until the early 1700s when enslaved individuals became the primary labor force.
  • Slavery was officially abolished in 1865. The formerly enslaved individuals remaining in Shirley became wage laborers.
  • Shirley Plantation includes a storehouse, ice house, smokehouse, laundry, and a kitchen that invites exploration of the culinary traditions of the time.
  • It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1970.
  • Shirley Plantation, Virginia, is recognized as the oldest business continuously operating in the United States.
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Shirley Plantation — Charles City Map

The property is at the northern banks of James River off scenic Route 5. It sits at 501 Shirley Plantation Rd, Charles City, VA.

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It’s my good fortune to grow up in this beautiful region that has deep roots in American history. From an early age I’ve explored the gorgeous countryside of Central Virginia, often on the back of a horse. As a proud owner of a historic home, I’m particularly familiar with the quirks and charms of the older properties in our area. My experience with historic properties makes me especially qualified to assist you with the purchase or sale of one of these unique properties.


Things to do in Shirley Plantation — Charles City

Upper Shirley Vineyards

Taste Virginia's finest wines in a vineyard perched above a picturesque bend of the James River.

Malvern Hill Battlefield

A 953-acre historic farmland housing ruins of the Willis Church Parsonage and The Crew House.

Presquile National Wildlife Refuge

Witness the beauty of the diverse bird species that call this sanctuary home during refuge-sponsored events.

Charles City Dirt Riders

This facility offers an exciting space to hone your skills and enjoy the thrill of off-road biking.

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