We had a great day visiting three plantations between Richmond and Williamsburg along the James River. We started at Shirley Plantation because they were having Homeschool Days which they hold each Spring. We arrived at Shirley a little before 10 and we started with the House tour. The guide was very knowledgeable and enjoyable to listen to. He included information on unique features of the house like the “flying staircase” – the only one of its kinds in North America  and on how the plantation was saved from Union troops. But he mostly talked about the many people who had lived in the house including General Robert E. Lee who was schooled in the laundry house. Claire especially loved the story of the girls who carved their names in the glass of the windows after receiving their engagement rings to see if it was real. The names were still there. After the tour we went to several special workshops they had prepared for the children. Down by the river,  they learned about the importance of being on the river and sorted items into categories of business, recreation, communication and food. In another area, Claire spent a long time making a butterfly while Cobey played several colonial games and wrote with a quill. We all enjoyed a game of lawn bowling.  And we ended at a program where we learned all about chickens. I was very impressed with how well Homeschool Days were put together with a nice variety of hands-on activities. We ate lunch in the car as we went on a short drive to our next stop- Berkeley Plantation.

Berkeley Plantation claims to be the most historical plantation. The history is interesting while the furnishings (none original) are disappointing after Shirley.  Two presidents and a signer of the Declaration of Independence lived there which was interesting to Cobey. They claim to be the site of first official Thanksgiving. I am not sure what makes them “official” because we heard a few weeks ago the first Thanksgiving was in Florida which was settled many years before this area. “Taps” was composed by General McClellan’s bugler while they were encamped at Berkeley. When we were purchasing our ticket at the gift shop, the lady asked if they were good children. I did not know rather to be upset with the previous families with children who were obviously not good or with the woman asking. I purchased our tickets and we went on our way. After the house tour, the guide gave each of the children a bullet from the civil war. (maybe they liked children after all) We then walked the grounds and down to the river to the site of the “first official Thanksgiving”. On our way out, we went through the gift shop and the lady who we purchased our ticket from redeemed herself my giving both of the kids a very nice coloring book about the plantation.

We then went down the road a little more to our final plantation the Westover Plantation. The house is not open but the gardens and outbuildings are. It was only $2.50 for the three of us to enter and it was on the honor system. The most interesting part of the grounds was learning about the secret passageway that they believe could have been used to escape from an Indian attack. The entrance was a dry well and it came out at the river.  You can not go thru the passageway which is disappointing.  I would love to learn more about the history of this plantation. Be sure to pick up the brochure at the entrance because that does give you some insights. If you have some extra time, I suggest stop but otherwise you will not miss much.

 

 

 

 

We ended the day with dinner at Dockside Restaurant, 700 Jordan Point Road, Hopewell, VA 23860. It is on the James River which was a fitting end to our day. The people were super nice, the food was good, the prices reasonable and the view was beautiful.  It was the perfect ending for our day.

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