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Garden Tours


‘Historic Tale of Two Rivers’ garden tour set in King William

The Garden Club of the Middle Peninsula will sponsor a tour of King William County on Friday, April 23, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The tour is titled “A Historic Tale of Two Rivers.”

Stops on the tour include Windsor Shades, Wakema, High Bank, Lester Manor Village and Chericoke.

The successful development of any community depends on its resources and its accessibility to transportation.  The Mattaponi and Pamunkey rivers, which form the boundaries of King William County, played a large part in the development of the county. These waterways provided food for consumption and income; the means for ships to transport people and goods up and down the rivers and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean; the necessity of ferries to transport people, animals and wagons across the rivers; and, most recently, recreation for fishermen and boaters.

Histories of the houses on this tour are all intricately woven with the rivers. While most properties no longer serve in their original capacity, all stand as reminders of times gone by and hope for times to come.

Visitors are encouraged to spend a leisurely day along Route 30 in this rural county, enjoying the gracious hospitality and entertainment afforded guests for over three centuries, amid delightful gardens and architectural treasures that continue to flourish.

During the tour, visitors are invited to take their ease and picnic on the King William Courthouse green. Ample tables, facilities and parking are available.  Complimentary refreshments will be served from 2 to 4 p.m.

The tour is in the eastern third of King William County between Route 629/Acquinton Church Rd. and Rte 634/Sweet Hall Rd. along Route 30.

Advance tour tickets are available for $25 until April 15 by mail from Elizabeth “Randy” Brown, P.O. Box 2764, Tappahannock, VA 22560;(804) 443-2033; .  Please send a self-addressed, legal-size stamped envelope with check payable to The Garden Club of the Middle Peninsula.  No refunds.  Early tickets may also be purchased by accessing

Tickets are $30 after April 15. Single-site admission is $12.  Tickets with maps may be purchased at any of the locations open for the tour on the day of the event.  Flat walking shoes are recommended.  No interior photography permitted.  No smoking.  Children under the age of 17 must be accompanied by an adult.

Boxed lunches are available for $12.50 by reservation on a pre-paid basis.  A vegetarian entree is available. Lunches will be served at Colosse Baptist Church from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., eat-in or carry out.  Ample picnic tables, facilities and parking are available.  The church is on Route 30, 5.1 mi. east of King William Court House.  Reservation required by April 9.   No refunds.  Make checks payable to Faith Bears of Colosse, Attention: Gaynell Smith, 23394 King William Rd., West Point, VA 23181.  For information, call Gaynell Smith at (804) 769-2685.  Note:  There are very few restaurants in the immediate area of the tour.

The houses are all off Route 30.  Houses may be visited in any order, and directions are given accordingly.

Windsor Shades

Augustine Claiborne built Windsor Shades circa 1745 on the Pamunkey River.  In 1753, a ferry was established to New Kent which ran until 1927.  Subsequent owners used the house as a tavern/inn for travelers from northern Virginia going to Williamsburg. Some of the more notable guests included the Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington. The English basement tavern room houses one of the largest fireplaces in Virginia.

 Today the house, a Virginia Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been meticulously restored. Two new wings have been added with the guidance of an architect associated with restoration projects in Colonial Williamsburg. The house is open for the garden tour for the first time for Historic Garden Week by owners Mr. and Mrs. Carl R. Fischer.

Lester Manor

Lester Manor was established in the early 1700s.  An extensive fish factory on the Pamunkey River was located there, and fish were shipped by steamboat throughout the Northeast. In 1859, the Richmond and York River rail line was built, positioning Lester Manor as a main transportation artery for the area.  A hotel, tavern, store and post office greeted rail passengers at the site. The original club (not open for tour) had many members from prominent families associated with waterfowl hunting throughout the Northeast who came to Lester Manor by rail.

Lester Manor was bought in 2005 by the present owner who built a small-scale village to represent the old Lester Manor Railroad Station Village. The complex includes the depot station and a 1918 steam locomotive and several rail cars.  Standing opposite are the Lester Manor Store, a carriage house with carriage, the Lester Manor Tavern, a stagecoach building, a blacksmith shop, a log outpost, a totem pole and two teepees representing Pamunkey Neck. 
The house and village are open for the first time by owners Mr. and Mrs. Carroll Lee Walker.


Wakema was owned as early as 1662 by Captain Roger Mallory.  He sold 900 acres to William Frazer who by 1764 was running a ferry to King and Queen County and operating an ordinary.  Later, he built a warehouse to inspect tobacco and a shipbuilding facility which furnished small ships for the Navy during the Revolutionary War. 

After a succession of owners, Roger Gregory of Elsing Green purchased Frazer’s Ferry and his brother acquired Wakema in 1867.  The original house had possibly been damaged in the defense of the Mattaponi River and the present home was built in the 1860s.  In 1886, William Bray established a post office called “Wakema” on the property.  Wakema became a stop for steamboat traffic along the Mattaponi River where warehouses and a pickle factory were built.

Today, Wakema is a private residence overlooking a wide expanse of the Mattaponi River. The gently rolling hills, barns and fenced grazing pastures are home to the many rescued dogs, sheep, goats and chickens the owners lovingly tend.  A small pond and gazebo near the house make a lovely place to picnic.  the house is open for the first time by owners Mr. and Mrs. Miles Baker.

High Bank

 Built in 2005, High Bank was designed to be a home that would serve as a destination place for visiting friends and family.  Sitting high above the Mattaponi River, it offers scenic views of the river and the Mattaponi Indian Reservation.  Emphasizing low maintenance features, an abundance of storage space, well-planned work spaces and an easy room flow, the house makes living and entertaining a delight.  The Low Country style with front and back porches invites guests to sit a spell to enjoy the summer breeze, fragrant gardenias and hummingbirds. The house is open for the first time by owners Mr. and Mrs. Robert E. Smith Jr.


Chericoke has been owned by the Braxton family and their descendants since 1757. Carter Braxton, one of the Virginia signers of the Declaration of Independence, built a manor house on this property around 1760, which burned in 1776.  His grandson constructed the present Federal-style brick home in 1828.  The main house overlooks the Pamunkey River and the family graveyard where Carter Braxton is buried. One of the two guesthouses was originally a tenant house (ca. 1880) for the freed slaves. There is also a smokehouse, a dairy barn which has been converted into play and office space, and a boathouse located on the river. The grounds are designed for family entertainment: a tennis court, swimming pool, fish ponds, playgrounds and country flower, herb and vegetable gardens.

The main house was completely restored in 1987 by Mr. and Mrs. John Tyler Siegel. The houses are all furnished with a collection of American and English antiques.  Chericoke is a Virginia Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  All of the five houses will be open for the tour. The owner, Mrs. Alice Horsley Siegel, is a direct descendant of Carter Braxton.

Richmond County homes set for tour

Historic Garden Week in Virginia returns April 17 through 25 to benefit historic preservation.

The Garden Club of the Northern Neck will host “Architectural Diversity Along the Rappahannock” from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 21.

The tour will include Sabine Hall, c. 1738, Mount Airy, c. 1753, Menokin, c. 1769, Milden Hall, c. 1803, Woodford, c.1756, and Indian Banks, c. 1699, all in Richmond County. An information center will be established at Warsaw United Methodist Church.

Advance tickets are $25 through April 12 and $30 on tour day. Single-house admission is $15; children ages 6 to 12, half price; ages 5 and under, free. Tickets are available at each house, the Information Center and by advance purchase.

For group or advance tickets, send self-addressed and stamped envelope to:  Linda Stansell, 5518 Ashton Park Way, Glen Allen, VA 23059; or call telephone 804-308-9846, or 804-314-3434. Make checks payable to The Garden Club of the Northern Neck (GCNN). For internet tickets, access

Box lunches will be available at Warsaw UMC from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.. Lunches are $12 and must be prepaid by April 13. Checks should be made payable to Warsaw UMC. To order lunches, contact Alma Woolbert at 804-472-2254, or .

Sabine Hall

Sabine Hall at 1692/1694 Sabine Hall Road, is a colonial Georgian house built by Landon Carter, the fourth son of Robert “King” Carter of Corotoman and builder of Christ Church in Lancaster County. It is owned by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Carter Wellford IV and Mr. and Mrs. Peter Drayton O’Hara.

Mount Airy

Mount Airy at 361 Mill Pond Road is a Palladian house begun by John Tayloe II in 1753 on land the Tayloe family had acquired in 1682. It is owned by Mrs. H. Gwynne Tayloe Jr.


Menokin at 4037 Menokin Road was the Georgian home of Francis Lightfoot Lee, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and his wife, Rebecca Tayloe. The ruins are owned by the Menokin Foundation. As Menokin is stabilized and rebuilt, it will be used to train future generations of preservationists, architects and craftsmen. The site serves to inform the public about building practices in the 18th century. The restored best chimney piece and other samples of the original woodwork, architectural drawings and photographs are displayed in the Martin Kirwan King Conservation and Visitors Center.

Milden Hall

Milden Hall at 5965 Sharpes Road was owned by the Peachey family from 1692 to 1824 and was named for Milden Hall in Suffolk, England, their ancestral home. The present brick structure with a full English basement was constructed around 1803. It is owned by Mrs Sarah T. Harrison and Mrs. Helen S. T. Reed.


Woodford at 1179 Ivondale Road was an 18th century manor owned by Moore Fauntleroy in the 1650s. The current house was built c. 1756 by Billington McCarty Jr. and remained in the McCarty family until the 1870s. It is owned by Mr. and Mrs. John K. Boidock. 

Indian Banks

Indian Banks at 2492 Simonson Road is the oldest brick structure in Richmond County and one of the oldest in the Commonwealth. The site is one of the principal villages of the tribe of the Powhatan Confederacy as shown on the 1609 map drawn by Capt. John Smith. The land was a 200-acre grant to Thomas and Jane Glascock in 1652. It is owned by Dean and Sandy Garretson.

Four stops on Gloucester-Mathews tour

The Gloucester-Mathews Garden Tour, sponsored by The Garden Club of Gloucester, will be held Saturday, April 24, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. four stops are on the tour—Cottage Point, Dunham Massie Farm, Belle Terre (gardens only), and Steamboat Landing.

The headquarters is Long Bridge Ordinary, an 18th-century building with distinctive original woodwork, at the junction of Business Route 17 and Route 14. 

A full ticket is $25 for adults and &10 for children age 6-12. Adult must accompany minors under 16.  Tickets, map and brochure are available on day of tour at headquarters and at each site.

Advance tickets are $20 and available by accessing or at Twice Told Tales Bookstore at Main St., Gloucester (804-693-9209) and Main St., Kilmarnock, (804-435-9201).  Advance tickets can also be ordered by mail from Mrs. William DuPaul (Jaye), P.O. Box 42, Ware Neck, VA 23178; 804-693-6742; .  Send check for $20 per ticket, plus $1.50 for postage and handling, payable to Garden Club of Gloucester by April 11.

Bag lunches will available at Nutall Country Store on Route 623 (Ware Neck Rd. Lunches must be ordered and pre-paid by April 16. Send check for $13.50 per lunch, payable to Nutall Country Store, P.O. Box 84, Ware Neck, VA 23178; (804)  693-3067.

Lunch will also be served at Ware River Yacht Club by reservation only. To reserve, send check payable to Garden Club of Gloucester to Mrs. Gilbert Birdsall (804-693-2927), P.O. Box 54, Ware Neck, VA 23178 by April 5.

Refreshments will be served at Dunham Massie Farm from 3-5 p.m.

Parking is available near each site.  In the event of rain, shuttles may be used.

Cottage Point

The home of Willard and Letitia Grant, Cottage Point was designed by Blackburn Architects of Washington, D.C. and built by Robert Ottarson of Ware Neck. “The Studio” was constructed in 1998 and was used as a weekend retreat from Washington, D.C. until the main house followed in 2005. 

The five-and-a-half-acre property was part of a 1642 land grant to Thomas Curtis and was known as the Lowland Cottage tract until 1972, when Mrs. Grant inherited it from her father.  Lowland Cottage was owned by Dr. William Taliaferro of Churchill and his descendants for six generations.  The Grants’ goal was to build a fully modern retirement home with all the amenities for comfortable living in old age, but to make it look as if it had “always been there,” to harmonize with Lowland Cottage.  With its setting on Cottage Point, the Grants sited the house to take full advantage of both upriver and downriver views of the Ware. A spacious riverside porch is the most noticeable feature.

Dunham Massie Farm

An ancient red oak and an American flag greet visitors to Dunham Massie Farm. The welcoming avenue of willow oaks leads past wildflower meadows and a pond created for wildlife. This warm and inviting home was built in 1845 on a picturesque peninsula on the North River.

The present owners, only the fifth family to have owned Dunham Massie, purchased the property in 1986 and completed its extensive restoration in 1990. Dunham Massie takes its origin from the historic home of the same name in Cheshire, England. 

The 50-acre farm incorporates lawns running down to the river, a recent shoreline restoration and several colorful cottage gardens tucked around the house and its many outbuildings. 

Dunham Massie’s gardens are popular with visitors and include shade and sun gardens, a kitchen herb garden, a meditation garden and a woodland path leading to a secret garden. Mr. and Mrs. Dean Williams are the owners.

Belle Terre

The gardens at Belle Terre were first established when the house was built in 1959. Only the trees and some mature camellias remained when the present owners began to restore and add to the gardens in 2000. Since then the following have been added: a boxwood parterre at the entrance, a small herb garden, a pool garden, a woodland walk, a viburnum collection and numerous unusual shrubs. The owner, a retired landscape designer, relies on low-maintenance flowering shrubs, trees and bulbs for color.  The gardens are designed around a perambulation of the periphery of seven acres. Mr. and Mrs. William Perrin are the owners.

Steamboat Landing

 As you approach the house, you can see what remains of the old Dixondale Wharf where steamboats once picked up Gloucester’s citizens heading north.  Dick and Pat Zima, however, traveled south to find their retirement ideal, which was for 15 years in the historic home, Exchange.  Inspired to downsize, they noticed this nearby home, designed in 1972 by Richmond architect Clarence Huff.  The Zimas thought this house/guest house compound in classic country French style had “good bones, but lacked calcium.” Their extensive renovation included the installation of heart pine well over a hundred years old, as well as terrazzo and tile floors, merging the structure’s Old World charm with energy-efficient systems and modern amenities: geothermal heating/cooling, solar tubes, on-demand hot water and thermal windows.

Paving stones accented by an oyster-shell drip-line define the entry courtyard that connects the primary house with the facing guest house, which contains two bedrooms and two baths. 

Two stone terraces connected by a “green garden” command expansive views of the North River. The subtle hues of shrubs provide year-round seasonal color, while a rose and herb garden accent the south side. Open for the first time by owners Mr. and Mrs. Richard J. Zima.

posted 03.25.2010

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