March 29, 2015

This weekend has been really busy with getting ready for another wedding here at the plantation. Tammy Anderson, our Wedding and Events Specialist has been working hard to ensure that every thing comes off without a hitch. With that and the University of Mary Washington here this morning, starting their archaeological survey, Sheldon, our Civil War Weekend Coordinator dropping a second load of fire wood for the Civil War Weekend in April and tours most of the day on Saturday, it really has been like a bee hive here this weekend. We have really had to shift gears quickly to move into the next thing each day. (Is it Monday yet? I am ready for my day off!)

On Saturday, we were so excited to receive a very special delivery! One of our fans from Facebook messaged me last week about taking a donation. Since we have been open this last year and half, we have received several donations. From books for the library to Victorian Candelabras to pieces of furniture and china, each piece has become a prized treasure to us. The best part is that they generally come with a story or history. This donation is no exception.

Ellen, our fan has given pieces of her family history. These are local pieces that are from around us here. So this makes them even more precious. Here is what we received:

2014-07-14 17.17.09

2014-07-14 17.17.20


A basket that was used by her grandmother, Edith Travis as a laundry basket. She used it during the 1920s while living in the Mica Community, which is now Fort AP Hill.


The chaise belonged to her grandfather, Dr. John Randolph Travis. She was told it was located in his medical office either in the Mica Community or when he practiced in Fredericksburg, Virginia during World War II.


chair close up

spinning wheel

The chair she was inherited from her aunt. The spinning wheel with given to her about 12 years ago. She believes her aunt purchased them from a local antique store in either Richmond or the Northern Neck.

We have decided to place them in the Winter Kitchen in the basement for now. We are working towards opening that space as a small museum to display some of our artifacts from Belle Grove Plantation. This would be added to daily tours we current have. One of the things we wanted to do was to display information about our enslave community here at Belle Grove Plantation. So I think all but the chaise would work really will in telling that story.

We would like to express our deepest gratitude for the wonderful donations from Ellen. These pieces will always be a part of our Special Collection and will be treasured for years and generations to come!

If you would like to make a donation to our Special Collection, please contact us at Any piece that we receive will stay at Belle Grove Plantation and will be listed in our Special Collection. It will also be treasured by us as one of the most special gifts given to us!

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Diary | No Comments »

And then there is light… finally!

March 26, 2015

On the night of July 3, 2014, the day before our Red, White and Blues concert with the Alexis P Suter Band, we experienced a very high wind strong. It blew limbs down and made quite a lot of noise that night. But the worst part of this storm was that it brought down our back portico lantern. Just so you know, the door you enter when you arrive at the plantation is our back portico. Lucky for us, it didn’t hit anyone.


When it came down, the copper structure was damage and needed to be reattached. Believe it or not, it is next to impossible to find someone to do it. After looking locally, we finally found someone in Gordonsville, Virginia that could do it. Laurie Holladay Interiors ( had someone on site to do the repair. We just had to get this huge lantern to them.

So on Monday, March 16, 2015, on our way to Montpelier for the Wreath Laying Ceremony for James Madison’s birthday, we made a side stop to drop it off. When I arrived, the gentleman who was going to do the repairs asked me how old I thought it was. Not knowing when it was brought to Belle Grove, my best guess is that it came sometime during the Hooker Family period (1930-1987) My best guess was somewhere in the 1940s. Brett would receive a call later the next day letting him know that they could repair it, the cost and when to expect it. He also let Brett know that the age of the lantern wasn’t the 1940s. He said that this lantern started out as a gas lantern around 1900. It would have later been converted to the electric as so many other would have.

Within one week, I was on the way back to pick it up. I was so excited to get it back. First to know that it came in during the Thornton Family period (1894-1906) instead of the Hooker Family. What a great surprise that was! Second to finally get light back on the back portico. It truly gets so dark here and I have been so afraid of people tripping down the stairs because they couldn’t see them.

Front Porch Lantern

Today, it was finally reinstalled! What a great joy to turn on the lantern and see the light! Tonight is going to be such a great joy seeing our lantern back again!

This weekend, Brett will have another item added to his “to do” list. We are going to chain the corners to keep it from swinging back and forth in the winds here. In fact we are going to chain all of the portico lights. We need to protect these treasures for others to enjoy.

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Historic Pen Needs You

March 25, 2015

When we first moved into Belle Grove Plantation, one of the things we needed to do was to take down several trees. But in true fashion, I didn’t want to just take them down and send them to the dump. One tree, the mulberry located right in front of the house, was one that I knew was pretty old. I would later find out it was over 200 years old. That means it was live during James Madison’s lifetime.

So I reached out to our blog followers and had two woodworking guilds come front to help me preserve our “Witness Wood”. One of these was Historic Pens of New Jersey. Bob and his master craftsmen find “Witness Wood” from locations like Gettysburg, Independence Hall, The Boardwalk in New Jersey and turn them into some of the most beautiful pens you have every seen. They have created pens for Presidents and Royalty. Our pens, which we have available by order on our online store, through his company have been sold even in the New York Times Store in Time Square!


Last month, they had a terrible fire in one of their workshops. It has destroyed so much.

Historic Pen 1

Historic Pen 2

Historic Pen 3

Today they are working on recovering what they can and starting over. But they need our help. They have started a Kickstarter Project and are asking for your help. Please check into this great cause. If you feel so lead, please help them. We would appreciate it as well as they would!

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Diary | No Comments »
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Pictures provided by Chamberlin Photography, Rebekah Beasley Photographs & DG Photography