FORT LEE, Va. (July 14, 2011) -- Weston Plantation in Hopewell offers visitors an experience with what life was like at an earlier time in American history and perhaps a ghostly encounter as well.
The house, owned and restored by Historic Hopewell Foundation Inc., still has 85 percent of its original moldings, wainscotings and chair rails.
An architectural historian describes Weston as "a classic example of Virginia Georgian architecture" and "the very essence of the Tidewater plantation home." Weston overlooks the Appomattox River and is the only surviving 18th century plantation house on that river.
"Weston gives visitors a really good glimpse into how people lived a long time ago," said staff member Claire Haley. "It's really quite different from today. Weston is a little step back in time. You get a feel for how people lived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries."
The stories of life at Weston from children and adults through the centuries appeal to all ages, said Haley.
HHFI has a special program for children ages 8-12 coming up. Inspired by the memoir of 12-year-old Emma Woods, Emma and George Days is a two-day program set for Aug. 16-17, 9 a.m. - noon, at Weston. The cost is $25. Participants learn about the last days of the Civil War through activities, exploration, crafts and games. Emma and her family lived at Weston as refugees as the war was drawing to a close.
Space for Emma and George Days is limited. For details or to register, call (804) 458-4682.
For those with interests outside the normal, there is reportedly plenty of paranormal activity in the house. Police officers checking on Weston Plantation after dark claim to see strange glows. Many volunteers and three generations of residents have reported seeing a female apparition in a blue dress with long blonde hair. Ghostly activity is reported to be very busy in the house's master bedroom.
Weston Plantation, 400 Weston Lane, off North 21st Avenue in Hopewell, is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. and Sunday 1-4:30 p.m. Admission for guided tours is $8 for adults, $6 for active duty military and free for children 12 and under accompanied by an adult. Group tours are available by appointment.
The grounds and pier are open to the public free of charge. The gardens, river view and an opportunity to fish beckon many visitors. The plantation is a popular wedding and party venue. The English basement is used for programs and meetings.
Weston was built in 1789 by William and Christian Eppes Gilliam. The Gilliam family arrived in Virginia in the 1600s as indentured servants but owned several plantations by the late 1700s. Christian was the daughter of Richard and Christian Robertson Eppes of nearby Appomattox Manor where Gen. U.S. Grant was headquartered during the Siege of Petersburg. Her maternal grandfather descended from Pocahontas.
Weston is a five-bay home with a hipped roof. Its wide central hallway connects front and back doors - with the front being the one facing the river, the colonial highway. Visitors came by boat more often than by horse or horse-drawn conveyance.
The house, which is listed on the National Register of Historical Places, is furnished with period antiques and selected reproductions.
Three years ago, HHFI opened two reconstructed dependencies on the property, the summer kitchen and the laundry. Extensive archaeological work was done to research the buildings prior to their reconstruction. One is the site of All Manor of Things, a popular gift shop known for its interesting mix of offerings.
In the 1970s, not long after HHFI acquired the Weston property, an unexploded Civil War cannon ball fell from its hiding place between the second story floor and the first story dining room ceiling. Fort Lee Soldiers assisted with proper disposal of the ordnance and provided the non-profit with a defused cannonball of the same period to display.
Soldiers stationed here have also lent their expertise and assistance to a variety of projects on the grounds through the years.
For more information about HHFI and its properties, call 458-4682 or visit www.historichopewell.org.