Visitors to homes and gardens in Middlesex County on Friday, April 27, during Historic Garden Week, will experience a double-facetted tour. They will visit handsome homes, gardens, historic sites and they will, coincidently, follow a trail during the tour that leads to places where Civil War stories and legends abound. 2012 marks the Sesquicentennial Commemoration of the Civil War.
There are five homes, all but one, open for the first time during Garden Week. Three of these homes are contemporary and two are historic properties. Five historic sites will also be open to the public. The homes may be visited in any order. Some visitors may choose to begin their tour at the two homes in the Saluda-Urbanna areas.
31 SHELL COURT ROAD, URBANNA
The wide welcoming pebbled driveway to this home invites visitors to discover the winding paths leading to the gardens, sandy beach and pier on La Grange Creek. The gardens feature native Virginia and Coastal Honshu Japanese plants. This contemporary French country home was constructed in 2003 by local craftsmen. Its open floor plan accommodates large groups, family and friends and the many foster children this couple has supported. Furnishings in the home feature new Shenandoah pieces along with Philadelphia antiques. There are, among other things, collections of Art Deco prints, oyster plates and signed baseballs and footballs, along with an autographed home plate. Mr. and Mrs. David Cryer are opening their home for the first time.
From this home to the next, visitors will travel through the heart of the tiny port town of Urbanna where there is evidence of Civil War activity. On the right side of Virginia Street, the Colonial Courthouse is designated by a historic marker. On the apex of the brick wall of this building, facing the creek, a cannon ball is lodged, remininescent of one Union attack on the town. When visitors are crossing the bridge over Urbanna Creek, they will be near the site where Hiram Carter, a sailing ship captain, sank his ship, loaded with grain, to prevent it being captured by pursuing Union sailing ships.
105 Mariner’s way, Saluda
Urbanna Light overlooks the harbor of Urbanna and is modeled after a lighthouse on a St. Lawrence Seaway island. Its 650 pound Fresnel lens in the lighthouse once lit Australia’s Perth Harbor. The bricks used in building the house, garage and guest house were rescued from an old warehouse. Evergreens, natural grasses and hollies define the boundaries of the property. A stone sculpture of a fisherman’s daughter is anchored on one side of the octagonal pool. Inside the house, high ceilings and limestone floors mark the open floor plan. The massive travertine mantel surrounded by fieldstone and cherry cabinets was designed by sculptor and woodworking artist, Philippe Faraut. He also crafted the beautiful kitchen cabinets. Nautical collections and an extensive collection of John Barber originals compliment antique pieces of furniture. Urbanna Light is open for the first time by Mr. and Mrs. David Cottrell.
When visitors overlook the harbor from this site they can envision the large assembly of Confederate troops, many under the command of Colonel George Edward Pickett, who were deterring Union troops from entering the area. This was a part of an effort to thwart McClellan’s march to Richmond.
987 Mill Wharf Rd
The first of two historic homes on the tour, Millmont, built in 1810, gets its name from its location on a hill (mont) overlooking Mill Creek and the Rappahannock River. Today, the shade trees and gardens dot the long expanse of lawn where a hand-pegged barn is located near the home. Inside the home the sixteen foot long running heart pine floor in the dining room is original to the home. Following World War II, a living room, was added and recently a new kitchen. A sitting area and screened porch have replaced an old addition. There are many hand hewn pieces of furniture made by Berkeley Plantation craftsmen from family walnut trees. Mr. and Mrs. David South are opening their home for the first time.
In this area, Mill Creek, the Rappahannock River and Chesapeake Bay were sites of torpedo activity during the Civil War. Colonel Alonzo G. Draper, commander of the 36th U.S. Colored Infantry, was sent to find and dismantle torpedoes off Mill Creek and burn the mill of Henry Barrick. Barrick, Captain of Company B of the 109th Virginia Militia, was suspected of setting torpedoes (mines) in the Rappahannock to destroy Union vessels. Mill Creek served as a picket post for Confederate soldiers to inspect small vessels in the hope of discouraging Union vessels from entering the creeks and river.
1411 Wilton Creek Road
This contemporary “farmhouse” welcomes visitors into a circular drive screened with mature trees, hollies, dogwood and wax myrtle. Pathways invite visitors to wander the 1 ½ acres located on the Piankatank River facing the Chesapeake Bay. The gardens provide surprises at each turn where
plantings provide color all year. In particular the summer garden displays hydrangeas and roses beside a pool. Selected low maintenance plants attract birds and butterflies.
Inside the home an open floor plan takes advantage of its natural surroundings. This three level home built in 1978 includes a family room/library, large master suite and open kitchen, a basement workshop, large office, fitness room and guest suites. Cleverly designed storage spaces include a fully decorated Christmas tree. Mid -1800’s family antiques and a collection of bird prints add to the charm of the interior. Mr. and Mrs. Robert LeBoeuf are opening their home for the first time.
2 Bland Point Rd
Providence is one of the oldest brick homes in Middlesex County. It faces a wide expanse of the Piankatank River. A tree-lined drive leads visitors to the house, which is surrounded by extensive formal, sun and shade gardens with over 40,000 bulbs, many perennials and 100 hydrangeas. A brick above the river front porch and county records, dating back to the 1760s, indicate that the property was owned, at that time, by the William Morgan family. The beautifully restored home features two new wings with massive brick walls and chimneys. It shares the grounds with a new guest cottage, pool and deck. Inside the house there are original rooms, stairs and hand-hewn beams. Chinese Canton and a mural from the owner’s home in Richmond compliment carefully chosen Southern antiques. The day of the tour, visitors can speak to Master Gardeners and a docent on a restored oyster buy boat from the Deltaville Maritime Museum. Mr. and Mrs. William Cawthorn are opening their home for the tour.
Behind an ancient brick wall facing the Piankatank River, there is a graveyard where two Confederate soldiers are buried. Legend says that the owners of Providence were hiding the Confederates. When Union troops searched the house, they found the soldiers and took them out into the yard and shot them.
Full Tickets: $30. Children 13 and older full price, children 6-12 half price. Ages 5 and under free of charge. Children younger than 17 must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets may be purchased the day of the tour at any house open for the tour. Tickets may also be purchased in Deltaville at Latitudes, in Urbanna at Cyndy’s Bynn and in Locust Hill at River Birch Gifts. For Internet tickets, access www.VAGardenweek.org.
Advance tickets: $25. Mail to Mrs. R.Tyler Bland III, P.O. Box 31, West Point, VA 23181. Questions, please call 804-843-2731. Include stamped self -addressed envelope with check payable to The Garden Club of the Middle Peninsula by April 18. No refunds on advance tickets. Walking shoes are recommended.
Lunches: Box lunches, $15 available at Church of the
Visitation, 8462 General Puller Highway on Rt 33E, 0.7 miles from the light at the intersection of Rts 3 and 33. They will be available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., choice of either chicken or seafood. Reservations required by April 20. Send check made out to Church of the Visitation, to Marie Suyes, 1172 North End Road, Deltaville, VA 23043, telephone 804-776-0666.
Refreshments: Coffee, tea, and water will be served at Church of the Visitation, 10a.m. to 4 p.m.
Restroom facilities: Church of the Visitation and Middlesex Museum and Historical Society from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.