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Beautiful Belle Grove Plantation

Belle Grove Plantation Bed & Breakfast, Virgina
Arriving at Belle Grove

TRAVEL THERE: BELLE GROVE PLANTATION

I’m excited to welcome a guest to my blog today, Michelle Darnell.  She and her husband are starting a Bed and Breakfast Inn on a very lovely plantation in Virginia.  Not just any old plantation, but Belle Grove, the birthplace President James Madison.  Please enjoy the lovely images Michelle has provided and read what she has to say about Belle Grove and several other historic Virginia sites.  Then look at your calendar and set aside some days to visit her when the inn opens in May:

Belle Grove Plantation Bed & Breakfast, Virgina
Almost there!

Entering the Property

“As you approach the entrance, you see before you a long drive lined with ancient trees of old. Birds fly in and out of the Red Cedars singing their tunes as a quiet alarm of an approaching visitor. Warm summer breezes sweep through the trees as the sun shines down on the fields in the distance. Just ahead you see the gate posts worn from time that have stood as sentinels against those who would come to disturb the peace of this plantation.

Belle Grove Plantation Bed & Breakfast, Virgina
The Bowling Green

Your sight takes in the carpet of green grass of the bowling green that leads you up to the grand old mansion. Trees that have stood before the time of this plantation still stand guard over it, witnesses of the history that passed just below their out stretched arms. The laughter of children, the tears of families and haunting silence of years of lonely abandon echoes in their branches as the wind whispers through their leaves.

Belle Grove Plantation Bed & Breakfast, Virgina
Eagles wheeling in the sky above Belle Grove

Over head you hear the call of a majestic eagle as he sweeps through the high currents of the clear blue sky as clouds drift back as if only to admire the beauty this land has to offer. As you step out into the sun light, peace seems to pull you in close, cradling you in its loving arms.

Beautiful Virginia

This sight is just a taste of what lays within the border of our beautiful state of Virginia. With first permanent colony settled was settled in Jamestown in 1607, Virginia has witness the birth of a nation from the very start. As our great country grew, so did the homes and plantations of Virginia.

The Plantations and Historic Homes of Virginia are among the oldest homes in America. They have witnessed more than four centuries of American history. From these grand homes and plantation, many influential people have called Virginia home. Known as the “Mother of Presidents” eight American Presidents have called Virginia home.

www.historicalhomes.virginia.gov
http://www.historicalhomes.virginia.gov

In 2012, the Governor of Virginia, Bob McDowell, declared the year 2013 the “Year of the Virginia Historic Homes”. This celebration coincides with the 200th birthday of the Virginia Executive Mansion. Just like the Virginia Executive Mansion, Virginia’s Plantation and Historic Homes have been part of a rich history.

Homes such as Monticello, Mount Vernon and Montpelier are very well known and often visited locations in Virginia. But do you know places such as Westover, Berry Hill, Bacon’s Castle or Kenmore? With several hundred locations in almost every region of Virginia, you can’t turn without being within a few miles of one of these hidden gems.

James Madison's Montpelier, Virginia
James Madison’s Montpelier
Westover Plantation, Virginia
Westover Plantation
Kenmore Plantation, Virginia
Kenmore Plantation
Bacon's Castle, Virginia
Bacon’s Castle
Berry Hill, Virginia
Berry Hill

Belle Grove Plantation is Real

While the above description brings thoughts of “Gone with the Wind”, this location unlike Tara does exist here in Virginia. Located just south of Fredericksburg, sitting on a bluff overlooking the Rappahannock River, stands a Plantation Mansion called Belle Grove.

Belle Grove Plantation Bed & Breakfast, VirginiaBelle Grove Plantation was established in 1670 and was the held by the Conway Family for 120 years. From this family came a young girl who would met and marry a plantation owner from Orange County. It was here that she would return to give birth to the 4th American President and Father of the Constitution, James Madison.

Ext Back View from slope at sunset, Belle Grove, Virginia
Belle Grove from the riverside

Just minutes from his childhood home, Lawrence Washington, Great Grandfather of George Washington would play on this plantation as a child and George would be a frequent visitor in later years.
The Mansion that currently stands was built in 1791 and expanded in 1839. It is believed that the basement is the foundation of a previous home of the Conway family and possibly the home where James Madison was born.

Belle Grove has seen every American War, but the Civil War would come the closest. With the battle line drawn down the river of the Rappahannock, Belle Grove is believed to have serviced as a Union Headquarters towards the end of the war. After the assassination of President Lincoln, Belle Grove would once again play a part in history. John Wilkes Booth with his companion, David Harold would use the ferry location now found on this plantation to cross the Rappahannock River. They would later end up just three miles away at Garrett’s Farm. The Union Soldiers pursuing them would stop at Belle Grove to rest with one of the soldiers, Lt. Everton Congar, sleeping in the front hallway.

Sunset along the Rappahannock, Belle Grove, Virginia
Sunset along the Rappahannock

Now, opening to the public for the first time in its long history, Belle Grove Plantation of Port Conway, Virginia will open its doors May 2013 as historic Bed and Breakfast. Come surround yourself with the history of America while enjoying the peace of a Southern Plantation!

We invite you to visit our blog, www.virginiaplantation.wordpress.com,  and learn more about the history of Belle Grove Plantation and of many other of the Historic Homes of Virginia.”

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Jame Munroe’s Ash Lawn Highland

PRIMARILY PRESIDENTIAL DESTINATIONS: ASH LAWN HIGHLAND, HOME OF PRESIDENT JAMES MONROE

Welcome to number thirteen in this series about presidential destinations for your vacations. The list of presidential destinations I’ve actually visited only has two more names on it, James Munroe’s Ash Lawn Highland and George Washington’s Mount Vernon. I’m sure I’ve had more fun writing this series than anyone will have reading it, but I hope that through reading these blogs you’ve found some presidential destinations you want to visit.

Neighbor of Thomas Jefferson

Since we went to Monticello last week, let’s go visit Jefferson’s neighbor, just down the hill at Ash Lawn Highland, James Munroe.  Presidents Jefferson and Munroe were of similar mind.  In fact, according this brochure, Jefferson picked out Munroe’s property for him to “create a society to our taste.”  Gardeners from Monticello started Munroe’s orchards.  The two were very much in one another’s company.

President James Monroe

Besides being the fifth president of the US, Munroe was a Senator, Minister to France, England and Spain, Governor of Virginia and Secretary of State and of War.  He negotiated the Louisiana Purchase and the Monroe doctrine was the basis of our foreign policy for many decades.  His presidency was “The Era of Good Feeling.”

His home, Ash Lawn Highland is a pastoral gem.  It’s not as grand as Monticello and won’t take long to visit, but you should see it.  In fact, when you get in that part of the world there’s a lot to see and none of it is too far away.  You could visit Monticello and Ash Lawn Highland, see Mount Vernon the next day and then go to Colonial Williamsburg.  A drive of just over two hundred miles connects them all.

Other Attractions in the Area

Ash Lawn Highland wasn’t available to the public the first time I saw Monticello in 1969.  Before his death Munroe, health and financial challenges forced him to sell the property, but on that trip I did visit Lincoln’s Birthplace, Stephen Foster’s Old Kentucky Home, Washington D.C., Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, Mount Vernon, Monticello and Myrtle Beach – all on the same vacation.

On returning to the area in the nineties with my husband, Ash Lawn Highland had been bequeathed in 1974 to the College of William and Mary “for the education of the general public.”  Along with Monticello and Ash Lawn Highland we enjoyed the scenery along Skyline Drive.  I’m trying to think of a way to describe Shenandoah to you without employing any of the over-used superlatives which crowd the usual travel brochure, but it’s difficult.  The scenery is beautiful, breath-taking and gorgeous.  After a day of driving we were worn out – not because the drive had been difficult, but because the scenery had been so overwhelming.  As we pulled into Big Meadows Lodge in Shenandoah National Park my husband saw the most exciting thing he’d seen all day: a doe and her fawn feeding in a clearing by the side of the road completely unfazed by the human population across the street from them.

We loved Shenandoah and Skyline Drive.  Driving through Virginia you can understand the extreme devotion men like Jefferson, Munroe and Washington had for this nation.  Their dreams were big and they were willing to sacrifice their lives for our young nation.  Jefferson and Munroe brought us the Louisiana Purchase.  Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark.  These men laid the groundwork for manifest destiny, but they built their homes in Virginia.  I’m thinking it was about more than proximity to the White House.  What do you think?