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Carter's Grove
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. National Historic Landmark
Nearest city: Williamsburg, Virginia
Built/Founded: 1750
Architect: David Minitree; Richard Taliaferro
Architectural style(s): Colonial, Other
Governing body: Private
Added to NRHP: November 12, 1969[1]
Designated NHL: April 15, 1970[2]
NRHP Reference#: 69000249

Carter's Grove, also known as Carter's Grove Plantation, is a 750 acre (3 km²) plantation located on the north shore of the James River in the Grove Community of southeastern James City County in the Virginia Peninsula area of the Hampton Roads region of Virginia in the US.

The plantation was built for Carter Burwell, grandson of Robert "King" Carter, and was completed in 1755. It was probably named for both the prominent and wealthy Carter family and nearby Grove Creek. Carter's Grove Plantation was built on the site of an earlier tract known as Martin's Hundred which had first been settled by the English colonists around 1620. In 1976, an archaeological project discovered the site of Wolstenholme Towne, a small settlement downstream a few miles from Jamestown which had been developed in the first 15 years of the Colony of Virginia. The population of the settlement was decimated during the Indian Massacre of 1622.

After hundreds of years of multiple owners and generations of families, and the death of the last resident in 1964, Carter's Grove was added to Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's (CW) properties through a gift from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1969.

Carter's Grove was open to tourists for many years but closed its doors to the public in 2003 while its mission and role in CW's programs were redefined. Later that year, Hurricane Isabel rendered serious damage to Carter's Grove Country Road, which had linked the estate directly to the Historic Area, a distance of 8 miles (13 km), bypassing commercial and public roadways. In an efficiency move, Colonial Williamsburg shifted some of the interpretive programs to locations contiguous to the Historic Area in Williamsburg. The foundation announced in late 2006 that it would be offered for sale, under specific restrictive conditions.

In December 2007, the Georgian style mansion and 476 acres (1.93 km2) were acquired for $15.3 million by CNET founder Halsey Minor, who has announced plans to use the property as a private residence and a center for a thoroughbred horse breeding program with the Phipps family. A conservation easement on the mansion and 400 of the 476 acres (1.93 km2) is co-held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. [3][4]




Wolstenholme Towne

In 1620, Wolstenholme Towne was built on the original land grant on the James River known as Martin's Hundred (in what is now James City County, Virginia). It was owned by an investment group of the Virginia Company of London but was later abandoned after losing many of its citizens in the Indian Massacre of 1622.

Robert Carter

Robert Carter (1663-1732) aka "King" Carter, was born in Corotoman in Lancaster County, Virginia. Robert was married to Judith Armistead (1665-1699). He bought some of the land that had been Wolstenholme Towne, when his daughter, Elizabeth Carter (1688-1721) married. Robert retained ownership of the property and Elizabeth was entitled to the income produced by the land.

Elizabeth Carter

Elizabeth Carter of Corotoman, Lancaster County, Virginia (1688-1721) was married to Nathaniel Burwell (1680-1721), in 1709. Elizabeth and Nathaniel had a son: Carter Burwell (1716-1777).

Carter Burwell

Carter Burwell (1716-1777) inherited the property from his grandfather, and built the current house on what was by then a 1,400-acre (6 km2) estate. Carter married Lucy Ludwell Grymes (1720-?). Lucy was the daughter of John Grymes (1691-1749) and Lucy Ludwell (1698-1748). Carter and Lucy lived in the completed house for six months before Carter died in 1777. Carter had a son, Nathaniel Burwell (1750-1814), who married Susanna Grymes (1752-1788) on November 28, 1772.

Nathaniel Burwell

Colonel Nathaniel Burwell (1750-1814) moved to Carter's Grove in 1771 and raised corn and wheat. Carter's Grove remained in the Burwell family until 1838.

Archibald McCrea

Archibald McCrea, a Pittsburgh industrialist, bought the mansion in 1928. He and his wife, Mary "Mollie" Corling (Johnston) Dunlop McCrea, originally of Petersburg, had the mansion substantially modernized and expanded under the guidance of Richmond architect Duncan Lee.

Archibald McCrea died in 1937, but his widow lived on at Carter's Grove another 25 years. Soon after her death, it was purchased from her estate and transferred to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

From 1969 to 2007, Carter's Grove was operated by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and was open to the public for most of those years. In the 1970s, archaeological discoveries uncovered the remains of the circa 1620 Wolstenholme Towne fortified settlement on the property (which was substantially wiped out by the Indian Massacre of 1622, and soon thereafter abandoned). Wolstenholme Towne and slave quarters from a later period were partially restored to represent their respective periods during the almost 400 year history of the property.

It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1971.[2][5]

However, while inclusion of a Colonial-era plantation was part of John D. Rockefeller Jr's aspirations for Colonial Williamsburg, the practical challenge with Carter’s Grove was that it did not connect directly with the focus on presenting Revolutionary-era Williamsburg and was unable to attract sufficient audiences. Audience development—the appeal to rising generations—is fundamental to the Foundation.[6]

On January 2, 2003, the site was closed to the public to save operating funds saying:

  • The main house at Carter's Grove is furnished as it was in 1928, and does not fit into the time period of Colonial Williamsburg.
  • Colonial Williamsburg is 7 miles (11 km) away and few visitors make the journey to the plantation.
  • Closer to the downtown Williamsburg area, Colonial Williamsburg operates the Great Hopes Plantation which can easily be reached by the pedestrian traffic from the restored area.

An additional hardship in the physical linking between the Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg and Carter's Grove Plantation was severe weather damage to bucolic Carter's Grove Country Road in James City County during Hurricane Isabel later in 2003. The storm destroyed many trees along the paved road, which is located almost entirely on private property, and required much of it to be semi-permanently closed, pending funding for costly repairs. (Since the hurricane, the Carter's Grove Plantation property continued to be physically accessible by its main entrance on U.S. Route 60 in Grove, Virginia, although still closed to the public).

In 2006, completing a four-year evaluation, CW concluded that the best approach to Carter's Grove was to offer it in a fully protected sale. This was to include restrictions to ensure protection of the James River view shed, wetlands and forest, exterior and interior architecture, and archaeological sites on the property as well as prohibit residential and commercial development.[6] On March 31, 2007, Colonial Williamsburg announced that it would be listing Carter's Grove on 400 acres (1.6 km2) with a real estate company based in Charlottesville, Virginia, for the amount of $19 million.

2007: Reverting to private ownership

Colonial Williamsburg put Carter's Grove up for sale, asking $19 million.[7]

On December 19, 2007, it was publicly announced that Carter's Grove, its Georgian style mansion and 476 acres (1.93 km2) were acquired for $15.3 million by CNET founder Halsey Minor, a Virginia native and wealthy entrepreneur. Per the press release from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation the new owner "plans to use the mansion as a private residence and use the site as a center for a thoroughbred horse-breeding program."[3]

Colonial Williamsburg did not include the contents of the plantation in the sale. The contents, instead, were sold May 17-18, 2008, by Northeast Auctions at auction in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.[8]

A conservation easement on the mansion and 400 of the 476 acres (1.93 km2) is co-held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. [3][4]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.  
  2. ^ a b "Carter's Grove". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-04-11.  
  3. ^ a b c Carter's Grove mansion sells for $15.3 million | |
  4. ^ a b Carter's Grove sold for $15.3 million -
  5. ^ James Dillon (October, 1974), National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Carter's Grove PlantationPDF (32 KB), National Park Service   and Accompanying 6 photos, exterior and interior, from 1974 and undatedPDF (32 KB)
  6. ^ a b Raising the Curtain
  7. ^ DailyPress.Com, March 31, 2007 article was here, may no longer be available on-line
  8. ^ "Today's Regional Mystery: Whaddayaknow?", DailyPress.Com, April 12, 2008 article is/was on-line here

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