Archive for the 'Belle Grove History' Category

Red, White & Blues July 4th

Jul. 8th 2014

What an amazing July 4th event!


We conducted our first Annual

Red, White & Blues

Concert and Picnic under the Stars

We were so excited to welcome






The Alexis P Suter Band!

Summer Kitchen - Ice House - Smokehouse

Smokehouse 2

Summer Kitchen 5

Ice House Window 1

The funds for this event are for the restoration of our 1720 Summer Kitchen, Ice House and Smokehouse. These outbuildings were standing here at Belle Grove Plantation and were in use when James Madison was born here! Today they are about to fall in and are in bad need of help.

Thanks to our Corporate Sponsors

People’s Community Bank

NARFE Credit Union

Community Bank of the Chesapeake

Long & Foster

BBQ Brothers

Ice Cream Nook

JJ&T Entertainment

Richard Green Entertainment



we were able to create this wonderful event where families could come and listen to amazing music of Alexis P Suter and enjoy good food and fun. After all was said and done, we raised $661.73. Yes, I know that isn’t much, but you have to start somewhere. And we truly appreciate all that came out in support and those that gave to help us get started.

But the need is still great and we ask you to make a donation to help us.

You can make an online donation through our website at

or mail us a check or money order to

Belle Grove Plantation

9221 Belle Grove Drive

King George, Virginia 22485

Thank you to all who have supported us and our efforts!




Enjoy our video highlights at



Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | Comments Off on Red, White & Blues July 4th

Belle Grove Makes Press Again … And Again … And Again …

Jul. 2nd 2014



It all started with an article that appeared in the Fredericksburg Free Lance Star on Sunday, June 29th, written by Cathy Dyson.

What was to follow was unexpected …

… and amazing!


Unknown to us, The Associated Press picked up the story from the Free Lance Star!

From there, the word just keeps going and going!

Here are the ones we know about!


The Washington Post

June 30, 2014


The Republic

Columbus, Indiana

June 30, 2014–Madisons-Birthplace



Charlottesville, Virginia

June 30, 2014


Providence Journal

Providence, Rhode Island

June 30, 2014–Madison’s%20Birthplace/id-d4ab9f2c537d4643b3ca09b1e45cbf6f



Virginia Beach, Virginia

June 30, 2014


Max News US

June 30,  2014


Daily News-Recorder

June 30, 2014

Harrisonburg, Virginia

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | Comments Off on Belle Grove Makes Press Again … And Again … And Again …

Belle Grove Plantation’s Historic Outbuildings Make Press!

Jun. 25th 2014


Belle Grove’s July 4 event supports effort to restore outbuildings


Cathy Dyson

June 25th, 2014


Belle Grove Plantation is hosting a July 4th picnic and concert on the lawn to celebrate Independence Day and to begin raising money to restore three historic outbuildings.

Belle Grove is the birthplace of James Madison, the fourth president of the United States. It was established in 1670 on the banks of the Rappahannock River as a tobacco plantation.

The property fell into disrepair over time. The mansion was restored in 1997, and Brett and Michelle Darnell opened a bed and breakfast on the property last year.


Slaves once lived in half of the summer kitchen,

which has slid off its foundation and needs considerable work.

Now, the two are turning their focus to the oldest structures there: the summer kitchen, ice house and smokehouse. The three were built between 1720 and 1750 and were in use when Madison was born there in 1751.

The kitchen, half of which was used as slave quarters, is falling off its foundation, and portions of the inner wall have fallen away. The fireplace on the kitchen side still has the iron rod on the back fire wall, along with the rods that hung down and held pots.

“It really blows my mind to think what meals would have been prepared there and who they served,” said Michelle Darnell in an email.

The condition of the smokehouse is just as bad. Two walls already have fallen away. The icehouse is in the best condition, but its bricks have come loose and fallen around the window and back wall. Along with the kitchen, it’s suffered damage from animals making their dens there as well as from the weather.

The Darnells want to raise money to restore the buildings and to create a living museum where visitors could experience life on a plantation. Any artifacts found in the restoration would be placed in the summer kitchen, along with a memorial, naming those who were enslaved at Belle Grove over the years.

The Darnells have enlisted the help of a volunteer intern, Lauren Souza, to head up the restoration and preservation project. She has a master’s degree in historic preservation and has worked at Mount Vernon and Montpelier as a restoration specialist.

Initial estimates suggest the work will cost between $50,000 and $75,000, the Darnells said.

“It is killing us to stand by and watch as the board start popping [and] bricks start dropping away,” Michelle Darnell said. “The only thing stopping us from rescuing these historic treasures is funding.”

Belle Grove will begin the drive to raise money with its “Red, White and Blues” concert and picnic under the stars on July 4. The concert begins at 6 p.m. with Mike Mallick of Maryland and his old-school rock band. They’ll be followed by the Alexis Suter blues band from New York City.

Through Friday, tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children. After that day, the prices go up to $25 for adults and $15 for children between the ages of 5 and 12. Tickets are available on Belle Grove Plantation’s website, by calling 540/621-7340 and at the event.

Families are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets.

To see the online article and to leave comments, please visit:

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | Comments Off on Belle Grove Plantation’s Historic Outbuildings Make Press!

My Dear Sister

May. 13th 2014

My Dear Sister,

I am sorry that my letters have not been getting through these past years. While I have longed to talk to you, we have been restrained from sending our correspondence due to the war. But now that the fighting has ended, we are again at liberty to send them.

Much has changed since we last spoke. The war has taken much from us and I fear things will not be the same as it once was. It is hard for me to remember how we long thought we would escape this war as Mr. Turner and our son, George were neither of age to fight. Since the war, Mr. Turner seems to have aged so much. While he is just fifty-seven years old, he seems to have aged to much older through these last four years. One would think that it was 1885 instead of 1865 according to the lines on Mr. Turner’s face and the look of exhaustion.

Belle Grove Pan

Riverside of Belle Grove Plantation – Madge Haynes

While other homes were not spared the invasion and destruction of either armies, our beloved Belle Grove Plantation still stands. But I don’t know if the loss of our home would not have been better than the terrible sight we witnessed as the Union army approached and took our home from us. We were only given a short time to collect what clothing and personal items we could and were forced to leave. How hard it was to gather my four, young daughters and son into the wagon we were allowed to take, never knowing if we would ever see Belle Grove Plantation or our fine things again. Taken from us were all of our livestock and slaves. One officer seeing the tears of our nine year old son, George, did allow him to take his small pony with him.  I think had it been a horse, George would not have been given such a gift.

john 2

Union Marine – Mary O’Dell

john 3

Union Marine – Mary O’Dell

We left Belle Grove Plantation to head to Chotank to be near our family. It was here that we stayed through the rest of the war. I have to say, dear sister that it was one of the most peaceful places we have been. We were away from the main fighting and were able to living without much fear.

It is my understanding that our home was also used as a headquarters during that time that the Union army held her. I must say, it is with thanks that they did use her as such for I am sure it would have been worse for Belle Grove. There is even a rumor that they used part of Belle Grove as a prison of war camp for a short time.

We have been able to return to Belle Grove Plantation, but it is not as it was before. Much of our fine personal items were stolen from our home. All the livestock have been taken or eaten. The slaves were taken from the plantation and used by the Union army or released. It seems such a different place than it was before. It is as if something had died, never to return again. Oh, will it ever be that grand place I once called home? I fear not. If it wasn’t for Mr. Turner, I think I would have rather stayed in Chotank.

Oh how I long for those days that seem so long ago. My memory of the beginning of the war, when our men were so sure. I did have the honor in meeting some of these great men just as the war started. General Robert E. Lee, whose old family home, Stratford Hall is yet but a day’s ride from Belle Grove Plantation, stopped by early to assure us that all would be far away from us and that we would not need to worry. He and General Stonewall Jackson, both made us feel that comfort we longed for. How sad was the news of General Jackson’s death early in the war.

Rich Johnson Lee 2

Rich Johnson - Stonewall Jackson

Stonewall Jackson – Rich Johnson Photography

Rich Johnson Jackson - Lee

Stonewall Jackson and Robert E Lee – Rich Johnson Photography

RIch Johnson Lee

Robert E Lee – Rich Johnson Photography

Robert E Lee

Robert E Lee – Madge Haynes

 The 47th Virginia made a stop at Belle Grove as well. We offered them water and what food we had to give. Many soldiers walked up our lane throughout the time we were at Belle Grove Plantation, in need of water, food and a place to rest. It was our honor to be of what assistance we could.

Lee Jackson 47th

Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson and 47th Virginia – Madge Haynes

Rich Johnson - 47th

47th Virginia – Gloria Sharp


47th Virginia – Mike L Cary

Rich Johnson - Soldier 2

Soldier – Rich Johnson Photography – Gloria Sharp

Rich Johnson - Soldier

Soldier – Rich Johnson Photography

soldier 2

General Bartow – Leslie

The one sight we soon learned to fear was that of the Union army gunboats. These steamboats were fitted for war and would sail up and down the river, firing their guns at whatever fancy they saw fit to shoot. Many of our plantation homes along the river have felt their guns and several home stand no more because of them. Once I received word that our family at Camden were fired upon. An officer from one of these gunboats arrived at their door asking if anyone was at home. Our dear cousin told him that she and her sick child along with their servants were the only ones at home. He reassured her that she was be safe and they would not harm her or her home. When the officer boarded his gunboat, the captain of that gunboat gave the command for them to fire upon the house. The officer that had spoken to our dear cousin protested telling the captain he had given his word that no harm would come to the home. The captain did not relent. As our dear cousin was laying her sick child down in her crib a shot broke through the nursery wall and nearly killed her. Had she not been laying over the crib, surely the shot would have struck her and killed her. They continued their barrage until our dear cousin’s tower on her beautiful home lay in ruins. Yet sad news still followed just a week later as our dear cousin’s child passed away in her arms.

Just as the war ended, we were yet pulled into another event that will forever be imprinted in my mind. In April, word traveled to us about the death of President Lincoln. Shortly after, we saw a sight that again brought fear to us as a group of Union soldiers once again rode up the lane at Belle Grove. We were informed that the assassin and his companion were in our mist and that the soldiers had been pursuing them for days. They required our front lawn to rest and eat before moving on the next day. One of these officers, Lt Col Conger, seemed in a very bad way. This officer had been wounded three times during the war and was having a hard time of this pursue. We allowed him to come into the front hall to rest and eat. My dear sister who would have ever guested that the famous actor, John Wilkes Booth would be the one to bring down our President! As I am sure you know, he did not survive Garrett’s Farm. I have heard that Lt Col Conger, the very one that slept in our hall, set Garrett’s barn on fire in hopes of smoking out the assassin. But before J Booth could exit, another soldier fired through the barn wall striking down J Booth forever.

Rich Johnson President Lincoln

President Lincoln – Rich Johnson Photography

Rich Johnson - Lincoln

President Lincoln – Rich Johnson Photography

soldier and lady of the house

Soldier and the Mistress of Belle Grove – Leslie

Today, I walk the bluff overlooking our river, hearing the sounds of the past years and longing for them to quit. I do not know if that will ever happen here or if it will ever be that grand place in my heart as it once was. But I pray and hope for it. Until then I continue to walk and watch for the end in my heart and head to finally come.

William Hutchins Gone with the Wind Belle Grove

Mistress of Belle Grove Plantation on the Riverside Bluff – William Hutchins

Your Loving Sister

Belle Grove Field

Fields of Belle Grove Plantation – Madge Haynes

All the photographs were taken during our Civil War Day at Belle Grove Plantation. We would like to thank each of the photographers that gave of their time to capture our first Civil War event.

The re-enactors seen in the photographers all gave of their time for our Civil War Day at Belle Grove Plantation. They came short notice and helped us make the event such a great success. We wish to thank each of them for come and being a part of the event and hope to see them again next year. Next year, the event will be a weekend camp out and we hope to have several more units with us.

We would also like to thank all the volunteers who came and helped us. Without our volunteers, Belle Grove Plantation could not present our living history events as we do. You are so special to us!

The letter in this blog is a fiction letter written from the history we have uncovered over this past two years. It is told from the view of Susan Augusta Rose Turner, wife of Carolinus Turner and mistress of Belle Grove Plantation during the war. Susan did in fact have family in Chotank as well as the Pratt/Turner family at Camden. After the death of Carolinus Turner in 1876, she did not remain at Belle Grove Plantation. The plantation was willed to their four daughters and she moved back to Chotank. Whether it was for her own comfort or for whatever other reason, we do not know. It is a fiction thought that she might have wanted to leave after the events of the war at Belle Grove Plantation.

We also do not know if General Robert E. Lee or General Stonewall Jackson ever came to Belle Grove Plantation. It was added to the letter so we could show the photographs of our re-enactors. We do know that the Turner Family was forced from the home and their home, belongings and livestock were taken. It was through family information that we found that George was allowed to take his horse. We assume that it was a pony because a true horse would have more than likely been kept. We also believe that Belle Grove was held as a headquarters for the Union Army. One reason was that the house has never had any bullets holes, shots or cannon ball scaring. Another reason is we have found Union “drop bullets” at the base of one of the outside staircases and at the white entry fence. One last clue was in the pardon letter from Carolinus Turner to President Johnson. In this letter, Carolinus speaks of knowing General Burnside. While we still haven’t confirmed the thought that is was a headquarters or even a POW camp, we believe that the clues do lean that way.

We would like to say that they letter is written from the view of someone that lived through and lived after the Civil War. The reference to the actions of either Union or Confederate armies or the reference to slaves does not reflect our belief and is used only to show what Susan’s feelings may have been. Again, this is a written fiction letter and not intended to be taken as fact.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | 4 Comments »

Titanic Afternoon Tea Video

May. 5th 2014

I am sorry this too so long to post. With all the fun I have been having without my computer over the past two weeks, I am finally catching up my blog posts.

This is a wonderful video! You will be able to see it here or on our Event Calendar.

We would like to thank Dawn Gardner of DG Photography for taking the photographers and filming our event to share with those who couldn’t come!

“Titanic Afternoon Tea” April 12, 2014

Special Appearance by Countess of Roth, Lady Duff Gordon, Mrs. Margaret Brown, Mrs. John Jacob Astor, and Mme. Léontine Pauline Aubart. Featured Appearance by Captain Smith of the Titanic.


Photography by Dawn Gardner of DG Photography

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | Comments Off on Titanic Afternoon Tea Video

All Aboard

Apr. 23rd 2014

Saturday, April 12th
Belle Grove Plantation

The day was beautiful. Weather was clear and warm. Arrivals began at 1:00pm. Ladies of beautiful entered the mansion with hats of great style and grace. First Class Passengers, The Countess of Rothes, Margaret Brown, Lady Duff Gordon, Mrs. John Jacob Aster and Leontine Aubart arrived to receive other First and Second Class Passengers.

Tea was served by the staff. Salmon Mousse, Tarragon Egg Salad and Cucumber Canapes were enjoyed by all. Mini scones of lemon, blueberry, cinnamon and chocolate delighted all that tasted. The petite desserts of Lemon Madeleines, Mini Victoria Sponge Cake and assorts cookies only made the serves of Earl Grey that more delightful.

After tea, Passengers adjourned to the parlor for tales of our distinguished guests. They told of their lives before and after that fateful night. Several of the guests were clearly moved by their experiences.

All enjoyed their time with us. Some even escaped with one or two pieces of the china. As they exited Belle Grove, all learn of their fate to come on that tragic and sad night. We are happy to report, most were saved.

Video of the event to be posted on the morrow.

Report completed.

Captain Edward John Smith
Captain of the Titanic
White Star Line

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Brett Darnell as Captain Edward J. Smith

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The Countess of Rothes

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Lady Duff Gordon

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Margaret Brown

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Mrs. John Jacob Aster

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Leontine Aubart

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Drum Roll Please . . .

Apr. 16th 2014


Just last year, we received an email from the Virginia Center for Architecture that we had been nominated by the Virginia Architects Association and the Center as one of the top 250 architecturally significant structures in the Virginia. We were just so surprised and honored. To be counted among such places as Montpelier, Monticello and Mount Vernon. We were informed that December, 2013, there would be a public vote to select the top 100 for an exhibition at the Center.

December arrived and we called on all our supporter to vote and to help spread the word. We worked through our social media and reached out through our blog. At the end of December, when the voting polls were closed, we were informed that we were selected as one of the top 100! We were just so excited! Of course our first question was, “Where did we rank?”. But this question would have to wait for an answer until April 10th, the opening of the exhibition. The wait was long and the question would creep into my mind as I spoke with pride of being one of the top 100.

unnamed (9)

The day finally arrived yesterday and we were eager to answer the question. To our surprise, we did very well . . .

The votes are in and the people have spoken.

The Virginia Center for Architecture announced that Sweet Briar House at Sweet Briar College came out on top in a public poll to identify Virginia’s Favorite Architecture. The survey, which garnered nearly 30,000 votes, found that Virginians chose buildings that evoke powerful emotions and memories as their favorites. Universities and Thomas Jefferson claim most of the top 10, with an historic church and an iconic airport thrown into the mix.
“Keeping in mind that favorite doesn’t necessarily mean best, the results make it clear that we forge deep personal connections to architecture,” says Virginia Center for Architecture Executive Director Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA; “Buildings that hold sentimental value for us are just as meaningful as those that are considered to hold great architectural or historical significance.”

An exhibition titled Virginia’s Favorite Architecture opened on Thursday, April 10 at the Virginia Center for Architecture and highlights each of the 100 structures identified as Virginia’s most beloved pieces of architecture. The exhibition runs through Oct. 19.

So where did Belle Grove Plantation, birthplace of James Madison fall?

unnamed (2)

Through the wonderful support, Belle Grove Plantation came in 29th!

unnamed (5)

We just can’t believe it and are just so honored to be included with such wonderful places in Virginia!

unnamed (6)

Below you can see where some of your other favorites fell. You can also view the list and see more about the location on the Virginia Center for Architecture’s website at

Virginia’s Favorite Architecture: By the Numbers

*  Thomas Jefferson is the architect appearing most frequently on the list, with 6 structures

*  There are 7 places of worship on the list

*  Schools and universities own or operate 12 structures on the list

*  1 structure hasn’t even been built yet: The VCU Institute for Contemporary Art

*  Nearly all of the structures are cultural destinations: either museums, historic homes, memorials or entertainment venues

*  The Richmond region boasts the most structures on the list with 32; the Blue Ridge region claims 23 (with 6 in the top 10); Northern Virginia has 18; the Hampton region has 16; and Central Virginia holds 11

About the Poll
At the end of 2013, the Virginia Center for Architecture and the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects conducted a public survey to determine Virginia’s most beloved pieces of architecture. Visitors to were invited to choose their favorites from among 250 buildings, bridges, monuments, and memorials. The structures were nominated by architects to represent Virginia’s rich architectural heritage.  The “people’s choice” poll was not scientific. “Social media and alumni networks can have a measurable effect on public polls like this one,” says Rhea George, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Virginia Center for Architecture. “We tried to even the playing field a bit by allowing only one set of votes per IP address.”

About the Exhibition
An exhibition titled Virginia’s Favorite Architecture opens on Thursday, April 10 at the Virginia Center for Architecture and highlights each of the 100 structures identified as Virginia’s most beloved pieces of architecture. It is on view at the Virginia Center for Architecture through Oct. 19, 2014. The exhibition was designed by Roberto Ventura with curatorial support from Lauren Bell and Julie Pence.

About the Guest Curator
Roberto L. Ventura has practiced and taught modern and sustainable design in Virginia and North Carolina for 15 years. A member of a number of local teams earning design awards from AIA Richmond and the James River Green Building Council, his work has also been exhibited nationally through the HOME House Project sponsored by the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art. For the international light art exhibit InLight Richmond 2009, he collaborated with poet Joshua Poteat on the installation “for gabriel,” winning Best in Show.

While maintaining his practice, roberto ventura design studio, Ventura is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Interior Design in the School of the Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University. He has also taught Interior Architecture at the University of North Carolina – Greensboro, and has lectured at the University of Oulu, in Oulu, Finland. Ventura holds a Master’s in Architecture from Miami University and a B.A. in Math and Physics from Albion College. He earned his LEED AP accreditation in 2008 and his NCIDQ certification in 2012.

About Virginia Celebrates Architecture
The Virginia’s Favorite Architecture exhibition is part of a year-long observance called Virginia Celebrates Architecture recognizing the 100th anniversary of the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects. Throughout the year, members of the American Institute of Architects in Virginia will join their neighbors and the Virginia Center for Architecture in community exercises intended to instill a greater appreciation for proper stewardship of the Commonwealth’s built and natural environment.

About the Virginia Center for Architecture
The Virginia Center for Architecture is located in the Branch House at 2501 Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia’s historic Fan District. The Center is dedicated to developing the understanding of the power and importance of architecture through programs, exhibitions, and its stewardship of an historic landmark. The Center is open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Learn more at

About the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects
The Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects is a professional association representing nearly 2,500 members. Founded by 5 architects in 1914, the Virginia Society AIA has represented the professional interests of architects and allied professionals in the Commonwealth of Virginia for 100 years. For more information, contact the Virginia Society at (804) 644-3041 or visit


The List

Sweet Briar House

1.  Sweet Briar House, Sweet Briar College, c. 1790 – Joseph Crews
Sweet Briar, Va.


2.  Monticello, c. 1770 – Thomas Jefferson
Charlottesville, Va.

Burruss Hall, Virginia Tech

3.  Burruss Hall, Virginia Tech, 1936 – William Carneal and J. Ambler Johnston, AIA, of Carneal, Johnston & Wright, Architects and Engineers
Blacksburg, Va.

LUMENHAUS, Virginia Tech

4. Lumenhaus, Virginia Tech, 2009 – Center for Design Research, Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design, CAUS
Blacksburg, Va.

The Academical Village, University of Virginia

5. The Academical Village, University of Virginia, 1822 – Thomas Jefferson
Charlottesville, Va.

War Memorial Chapel and Pylons, Virginia Tech

6. War Memorial Chapel and Pylons, Virginia Tech, 1960 – Roy F. Larson, FAIA, of Harbeson, Hough, Livingston & Larson
Blacksburg, Va.

Washington Dulles International Airport

7. Washington Dulles International Airport, 1962 – Eero Saarinen and Associates
Chantilly, Va.

Moss Center for the Arts, Virginia Tech

8. Moss Center for the Arts, Virginia Tech, 2013 – Snøhetta
Blacksburg, Va.

Christ Church Alexandria

9. Christ Church, 1773 – Col. James Wren
Alexandria, Va.

Poplar Forest

10. Poplar Forest, 1809 – Thomas Jefferson

Forest, Va.

Main Street Station

11. Main Street Station, 1901 – Wilson, Harris and Richards Architects
Richmond, Va.

Mount Vernon

11. Mount Vernon, 1735 – Augustine Washington
Alexandria, Va.


13. Maymont, 1893 – Edgerton S. Rogers
Richmond, Va.

Virginia State Capitol

14. Virginia State Capitol, 1792 – Thomas Jefferson
Richmond, Va.

The Rotunda, University of Virginia

15. The Rotunda, University of Virginia, 1826 – Thomas Jefferson
Charlottesville, Va.

Governor's Palace

16. Governor’s Palace, 1722 – Henry Cary
Williamsburg, Va.

Stratford Hall

17. Stratford Hall, 1730 – Col. Thomas Lee
Stratford, Va.

Dovetail Construction Company, Inc

18. Dovetail Construction Company, Inc., 2010 – Walter Parks Architect
Richmond, Va.

Gunston Hall

18. Gunston Hall, 1759 – William Buckland and William Bernard Sears
Lorton, Va.

The Sir Christopher Wren Building

20. The Sir Christopher Wren Building, The College of William and Mary, 1702 – Sir Christopher Wren
Williamsburg, Va.

Capitol of Williamsburg

21. Capitol of Williamsburg, 1705 – Henry Cary
Williamsburg, Va.

Lynchburg Courthouse and Monument Terrace

21. Lynchburg Courthouse and Monument Terrace, 1855/1924 – Andrew Ellison, Jr. (Courthouse) and Hurd and Chesterman (Staircase)
Lynchburg, Va.

Shirley Plantation

23. Shirley Plantation, 1738 – John Carter
Charles City, Va.

Smithfield Plantation

24. Smithfield Plantation, 1774 – Col. William Preston

Blacksburg, Va.

The Jefferson Hotel

25. The Jefferson Hotel, 1895 – Carrere and Hastings

Richmond, Va.

Bruton Parish Episcopal Church

26. Bruton Parish Episcopal Church, 1715 – Royal Governor Alexander Spottswood
Williamsburg, Va.

Pope-Leighey House

27. Pope-Leighey House, 1940 – Frank Lloyd Wright
Alexandria, Va.

Humpback Covered Bridge

28. Humpback Covered Bridge, 1857 – Unknown
Covington, Va.

Belle Grove Plantation at Port Conway

29. Belle Grove Plantation at Port Conway, 1790 – Unknown
Port Conway, Va.

Jamestown Fort

30. Jamestown Fort, 1607 – Virginia Company
Jamestown, Va.


31. Montpelier, 1797 – Frances Taylor and Ambrose Madison
Orange, Va.

Old City Hall

32. Old City Hall, 1894 – Elijah E. Myers
Richmond, Va.

Bath Houses at the Warm Springs Pools

33. Bath Houses at the Warm Springs Pools, 1761 – Unknown
Warm Springs, Va.


34. United States Marine Corps War Memorial, 1954 – Edward F. Neild, Felix Weihs de Weldon (Sculptor)
Arlington, Va.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Conservatory

35. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Conservatory, 2003 – Glavé & Holmes Architecture
Richmond, Va.

Fort Monroe National Monument

36. Fort Monroe National Monument, 1834 – Brigadier General Simon Bernard
Hampton, Va.

Broad Street Station Science Museum of Virginia

37. Broad Street Station/Science Museum of Virginia, 1919 – John Russell Pope, FAIA
Richmond, Va.

Blue Ridge Tunnel

38. Blue Ridge Tunnel, 1858 – Claudius Crozet, Engineer
Rockfish Gap, Va.

City Market

39. City Market, 1879 – Unknown
Petersburg, Va.

The Mosque Altria Theater

40. The Mosque/Altria Theater, 1927 – Marcellus Wright, Sr., FAIA, and Charles M. Robinson
Richmond, Va.


40. Swannanoa, 1913 – Noland and Baskervill
Lyndhurst, Va.

Branch House Virginia Center for Architecture

42. Branch House/Virginia Center for Architecture, 1919 – John Russell Pope, FAIA
Richmond, Va.

Martha Washington Inn

43. Martha Washington Inn, 1832 – built for Gen. Francis Preston
Abingdon, Va.

Adam Thoroughgood House

44. Adam Thoroughgood House, c. 1719 – Argall Thorowgood
Virginia Beach, Va.

Arlington House The Robert E. Lee Memorial

44. Arlington House: The Robert E. Lee Memorial, 1818 – George Hadfield
Arlington, Va.

Wickham House Valentine Richmond History Center

46. Wickham House/Valentine Richmond History Center, 1812 – Alexander Parris
Richmond, Va.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Expansion

47. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Expansion, 2010 – Rick Mather + SMBW Architects PLLC
Richmond, Va.

White House of the Confederacy

47. White House of the Confederacy, 1818 – Robert Mills
Richmond, Va.

The VCU Institute for Contemporary Art

49. The VCU Institute for Contemporary Art, Unbuilt – Steven Holl Architects
Richmond, Va.

Point of Honor

50. Point of Honor, c. 1815 – built for George Cabell, Sr.
Lynchburg, Va.

Egyptian Building

51. Egyptian Building, 1845 – Thomas Stewart
Richmond, Va.

Taubman Museum of Art

52. Taubman Museum of Art, 2008 – Randall Stout Architects
Roanoke, Va.

Washington and Lee University Chapel

53. Washington and Lee University Chapel, 1868 – George Washington Custis Lee and Col. Thomas Williamson
Lexington, Va.

Westover Plantation

54. Westover Plantation, 1734 – William Byrd, II
Charles City, Va.


55. National D-Day Memorial, 2001 – Dickson Architects and Associates
Bedford, Va.

St. Andrews Catholic Church

56. St. Andrews Catholic Church, 1902 – William P. Ginther, FAIA
Roanoke, Va.

Old Cape Henry Lighthouse

57. Old Cape Henry Lighthouse, 1792 – John McComb, Jr.
Fort Story, Va.

The Homestead Hotel

57. The Homestead Hotel, 1892 – Yarnell and Goforth; Elzner and Anderson; and Warren and Wetmore
Hot Springs, Va.


59. The Pentagon, 1943 – George E. Bergstrom, FAIA, and David J. Witmer, FAIA
Arlington, Va.

Bacon's Castle

60. Bacon’s Castle, c. 1665 – built by Arthur Allen
Surry, Va.


61. McLean House at Appomattox Courthouse, 1848 – Charles Raine
Appomattox, Va.

Powder Magazine

62. Powder Magazine, 1715 – Royal Governor Alexander Spottswood
Williamsburg, Va.

The Iron Fronts

63. The Iron Fronts, 1869 – Franklin Sterns; William S. Donnan and John Asher
Richmond, Va.

United States Air Force Memorial

64. United States Air Force Memorial, 2006 – James Ingo Freed, FAIA, of Pei Cobb Freed and Partners
Arlington, Va.

Siege Museum

65. Siege Museum, 1841 – James Berrien
Petersburg, Va.

Mount Airy Plantation

66. Mount Airy Plantation, 1764 – attributed to John Ariss
Warsaw, Va.


67. Norfolk Scope Arena, 1971 – Pier Luigi Nervi with Williams and Tazewell
Norfolk, Va.

National Museum of the Marine Corps

68. National Museum of the Marine Corps, 2006 – Fentress-Bradburn Architects
Arlington, Va.

Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts

68. Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts, 1984 – Dewberry & Davis, and John MacFadyen, AIA and Joseph Boggs, FAIA
Vienna, Va.

John Paul Jones Arena

68. John Paul Jones Arena, 2006 – VMDO Architects
Charlottesville, Va.

Rice House

71. Rice House, 1965 – Richard Neutra, FAIA with Thaddeus Longstreth
Richmond, Va.

Berkeley Plantation

71. Berkeley Plantation, 1726 – built by Benjamin Harrison, IV
Charles City, Va.

Virginia House

73. Virginia House, 1929 – Alexander and Virginia Weddell
Richmond, Va.


74. Reynolds Homestead, 1843 – Hardin Williams Reynolds
Critz, Va.

Virginia Military Institute Barracks

75. Virginia Military Institute Barracks, 1839 – Alexander Jackson Davis
Lexington, Va.

Long Branch Plantation

76. Long Branch Plantation, 1811 – Robert Carter Burwell with Benjamin Henry Latrobe
Millwood, Va.

Agecroft Hall

77. Agecroft Hall, 1927 – Homer G. Morse
Richmond, Va.

Executive Mansion

77. Executive Mansion, 1813 – Alexander Parris
Richmond, Va.

The Byrd Theatre

79. The Byrd Theatre, 1928 – Fred Bishop
Richmond, Va.

Torpedo Factory Art Center

80. Torpedo Factory Art Center, 1919 – U.S. Navy
Alexandria, Va.

Carter's Grove Plantation

81. Carter’s Grove Plantation, 1755 – built by David Minitree, James Wheatley, Richard Baylis, and Duncan Lee
James City, Va.


81. Barboursville, 1822 – Thomas Jefferson
Barboursville, Va.

Assateague Lighthouse

81. Assateague Lighthouse, 1867 – Unknown
Assateague Island, Va.

Old Coast Guard Station

84. Old Coast Guard Station, 1903 – George R. Tolman
Virginia Beach, Va.

Carlin's Amoco Station

85. Carlin’s Amoco Station, 1947 – George W. Terp
Roanoke, Va.

Tredegar Iron Works

85. Tredegar Iron Works, 1837 – Reev Davis and others
Richmond, Va.

Coffee Pot Building

87. Coffee Pot Building, 1959 – Kenneth Willis
Lexington, Va.


88. Centre Hill Mansion, 1823 – built for Robert Bolling, IV
Petersburg, Va.

Monumental Church

88. Monumental Church, 1814 – Robert Mills
Richmond, Va.

White's Mill

88. White’s Mill, 1790 – Unknown
Abingdon, Va.

Scottsville Elementary School Addition

91. Scottsville Elementary School Addition, 1984 – VMDO
Scottsville, Va.

Stonewall Jackson House

91. Stonewall Jackson House, c. 1801 – built for Cornelius Dorman
Lexington, Va.

Hollin Hills

93. Hollin Hills, 1971 – Charles W. Goodman, FAIA
Alexandria, Va.


94. Woodlawn, 1800 – Dr. William Thornton
Alexandria, Va.

Ronald Reagan National Airport Expansion

95. Ronald Reagan National Airport Expansion, 1997 – César Pelli, FAIA with Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects
Alexandria, Va.

Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Birthplace

96. Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Birthplace, 1846 – Rev. Rufus W. Bailey
Staunton, Va.


97. Rosewell, 1744 – Mann Page
Gloucester, Va.

Freemason Street Baptist Church

98. Freemason Street Baptist Church, 1850 – Thomas U. Walter, FAIA
Norfolk, Va.

The Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium

99. The Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium, 2006 – Carlton Abbott, FAIA of Carlton Abbott and Partners, P.C
Jamestown, Va.

Hampton Coliseum

99. Hampton Coliseum, 1970 – A.G. Odell, Jr. and Associates
Hampton, Va.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | Comments Off on Drum Roll Please . . .

The Little Country Church

Mar. 26th 2014


Located just as you enter our tree-lined lane that leads you back to the mansion, you will see a beautiful, little, country church called Emmanuel Episcopal Church. This one acre property was once part of Belle Grove Plantation. In 1859, Carolinus Turner, Owner of Belle Grove Plantation, donated the one acre property and helped finance the construction of this wonderful church. The church opened its doors in 1860.

Last week, I had another opportunity to tour Emmanuel Episcopal Church with a ladies group that had toured Belle Grove Plantation. I never tire of touring the building and the grounds. It holds so much history.



Before 1859, church parishioners had to take the ferry across the Rappahannock River to attend St. Peter’s Church in Port Royal or travel to St. Paul’s in Owens. After 1843, they also could attend St. John’s in King George.

The church was thought to be designed by a Baltimore design firm, architects Nierness and Neilson. J. Crawford Neilson and John R. Nierness were known to have designed other churches in Virginia in a Gothic style similar to Emmanuel Episcopal Church.

J. Crawford Neilson was born in Baltimore in 1817 and studied civil engineering in Brussels, Belgium and established his practice in the United States. John R. Nierness came to Baltimore from Vienna, Austria, where he attended Vienna Polytechnic. In 1848, Neilson and Nierness entered into a partnership.

Emmanuel Episcopal Church is constructed of stretcher-bond brick and has a gable roof. The front of the church is dominated by a 2-story entrance tower. The principal entrance is set with an equilateral arch consisting of paneled double doors topped by a wheel –like motif transom. The windows are elongated pointed arches. There are two windows that face the front and two on each side of the building. There is a basement entrance is located outside of the building on the south wall.




The interior of the church is painted white, but is thought to have had an original decorative paint scheme. There is a central aisle that is flanked by wooden pews that are painted white. These pews have a Gothic ends and are thought to have been varnished and later painted. The front of the church has a raised sanctuary where the recessed altar is framed by an arch. This part of the interior is thought to date to the 1960s. There is a Gothic style wainscot running along the west wall.



At the back of the church there is a gallery with additional seating. It is believed that this gallery was where slaves would be allowed to sit during services. This gallery also contains the original Henry Erban pump organ which is housed in a Gothic Revival style case. The room is illuminated by a brass pseudo-colonial chandelier.








The side and back section of the church yard contains grave sites that date back to 1800s. The oldest grave site is that of Major Henry and Elizabeth Turner. Their tombstone, which dates to 1751, was moved from its original location to the church. Their bodies were not moved with their tombstones and remains in an unknown location. Notable families that are buried within this small cemetery are the Turners, Strothers, Robbs, Jetts, and Hooker Families. Most of these family members were born, lived or died at Belle Grove Plantation. The exception would be that of the Strother Family. This family was from the Milbank Plantation that is next door to Belle Grove Plantation.








There is one monument other than Major Henry and Elizabeth Turner tombstones that represents a family that is not buried in this cemetery. This monument is the Hipkins-Bernard monument. It is a six foot obelisk that has the date of 1849 and the name J.H. Bernard on it. It also has a plaque that was added in 1983 that states that this monument was once located on Belle Grove Plantation. It was to mark the unmarked grave site of John Hipkins, Elizabeth Pratt Hipkins, Frances “Fannie” Hipkins Bernard, Eliza Bernard, William Bernard II and five of William’s infant children. The orginial burial site is located just in front of the Hipkins-Bernard Suite on the north side of the mansion and is marked by a 12 foot by 12 foot sections of English Boxwoods and 10 Red Knockout Roses for each of the family members. There is a identical flower bed on the south side of the mansion, but is there just for symmetry.




The church is surrounded by a brick wall that was erected sometime in the 1960s. The church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s.

In 1861, the Reverend Alexander Shiras was rector for both St. John’s Church in King George and Emmanuel Episcopal Church. During 1862, he reported the following:

“The war borne somewhat heavily upon the Parish (Hanover Parish), scattering its families, carrying off its young men and almost dissolving the congregation. Regular services were steadily kept up and others held for the soldiers occasionally stationed in the neighborhood.”

The area of Port Conway and Port Royal saw many struggles between the Union and Confederate forces during the American Civil War. Most homes were either destroyed or damaged. Churches would also see the same fate. Emmanuel Episcopal Church somehow managed to survive. That is a story that has been handed down as to the fate of this small country church.

During the Civil War, when Port Conway was occupied by Union forces, a soldier walked into Emmanuel Church and sat down at the organ. The building had seen some damage from shots fired at it. The soldier started playing the organ. It warmed his heart and made him homesick for his church back home. He was so moved by it that he convinced the other soldiers not to destroy Emmanuel Episcopal Church. This sweet, little country church was spared and was repaired after the war.

The Reverend Henry Wall, who became the rector in September of 1865, reported the following:

“Emmanuel Church at Port Conway was now fit for occupation. It has been repaired by aid of the liberality of kind friends of the Church in Baltimore and New York and my personal friends of the subscriber in Alexandria.”

Today, Emmanuel Episcopal Church still holds services every 3rd and 5th Sunday of the month.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, General History | Comments Off on The Little Country Church

Gifts from the Heart

Mar. 25th 2014


Since Brett and I started working on opening Belle Grove Plantation, we have been so blessed with so many wonderful donations. These “gifts” have been given to us with love and passion for the history that occurred here and for the love of the plantation today.

Over the past weeks, we have received so many new “gifts”. Each came as a surprise and each will be treasured. What wonderful pieces we have been able to add, all with comments on who gave them. Just think, in the future, these piece will become part of Belle Grove Plantation history.

Please allow us to show you the “gifts” and tell you the story of how they came to be with us.

The Dress


Dress without Jacket


Front of Dress without Jacket


Dress with Jacket


Front of Dress with Jacket


Back of Jacket


Sleeve of Jacket


Back of Jacket (hanging)


Dress without Jacket


Closures on Dress


Close up of Dress Lace

In December, 2013, a wonderful couple came to see us for a “get away” weekend. While I was showing the mansion, I showed them the Turner Suite. While in there, I spoke of my hope to find just the right dress to add to the suite to show what they would have worn during that time period. To our surprise, the couple had a dress that was owned by her Great Aunt Katherine. They thought it might be a Victorian Wedding Dress. To our shock, they offered to donate it to us.

When we received it, we were so overwhelmed by how wonderful it is. We aren’t sure if it is Victorian or possibly early 1900s, but either way, it is just beautiful. We are working on getting it professionally cleaned and identified as to what period.

The Pictures



We have had guests that have come to the plantation who feel an immediate connection. It is one of the best parts of being a part of this plantation. One such couple came to see us about one month ago. They had selected the Madison Suite for their stay. As most that come to stay with us, this couple checked in on Friday evening and spent Saturday exploring the area. While in Fredericksburg, they decided to do some antique shopping.

Now if you follow our blog and facebook, you know antique shopping is one of my favorite pass time. When they returned that evening, the couple asked Brett and I up to their suite to show us something. To our surprise, they had found two pictures of President James Madison and Dolley Madison. They had purchased them for us to add to the walls of the Madison Suite. It would be the first portraits of them that we would add, making them even more special to us.

The Dishes



Just last week, we hosted a tour of the mansion for a local Sunday School Class. This tour was made even more special by adding a tour of Emmanuel Episcopal Church. (I will be writing more about that tour next). While touring the mansion, one of the ladies noticed our china that we use for our day to day ware. It is a set I found in the basement of an antique shop in Fredericksburg. It is Noritake China, Barrick Pattern. I have since looked for additional pieces, only to find them either hard to find or way out of our price range.

At the end of the week, I received a phone call from this lady. She told me that she noticed our set and thought she had one like it at home. Her set is Noritake China, Batista pattern. She told me that she was down sizing her home and that she would like to donate her incomplete set to us. We were again surprised and so excited. She and her husband delivered the set on Sunday. To our amazement, the patterns are almost the same. They just look beautiful together. Now we have not just 10 place settings, but 17 place settings!

The Books

When we first arrived at the plantation (April 1, 2013) we decided to conduct a “Virtual Housewarming Party”. This “party” was to help us fill our historic library with books selected by our supporters. We were just amazed at all the books that made their way to our doors. The best part is that most have the names, dates and places the books came from. So not only are the books a part of the history of Belle Grove Plantation, but the names of those who gave will endure as well.

Most of the books came from our followers on our Virginia Plantation Blog, which we started in May 2012. Since we started the blog, we have reach an amazing 162 countries and have just over 5,100 followers. We have received books from as far away as South Austria and England.

Even though the “Virtual Housewarming Party” has stopped, we are still accepting books. We have guests and visitors that come with books in hand, each as precious to us as any dollar given.

Here are just a few that we have recently received.


“Birthplace of a Nation: A Story Worth Telling” by Carl F. Flemer, Jr.

This book was donated by a very dear friend who has supported us almost from the beginning. The book was written by a local author who just happens to own Ingelside Vineyards and Plantation. We were so honored to have Mr. Flemer come to Belle Grove Plantation to tour it not long ago.


“Man Hunt – The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer” by James L. Swanson

This book was given to us by two dear friends who started as guests from Maryland. They knew we are preparing for our Civil War Day and John Wilkes Booth Trail, so this book was a great addition to our growing collection.


“James Madison – A Biography in His Own Words”

This book was given to us by a very special couple who conducted their wedding at Belle Grove Plantation in March 2014. This couple has a very special connection to the plantation as she is a “Turner”. They gave us this book in memory of their wedding.


“The Declaration of Independence” by Rod Gragg and “American Presidents” by Chuck Willis

These “Museum in a Book” books were given to us during our “Happy Birthday President Madison” weekend. Dr. Lynn Uzzell, the historic performer that plays Dolley Madison at Montpelier and is the Scholar in Residence for Montpelier. When she comes to visit Belle Grove Plantation, she always comes with books in hand. We love having her visit with us and the books only add as reminders for those special times for us.


“Six Frigates – The Epic History of the Founding of the US Navy” by Ian W. Toll

This book also came to us during our “Happy Birthday President Madison” weekend. John Douglas Hall, historic performer of President Madison at Montpelier, like Lynn, always comes with books in hand. Biographies of James Madison or like this book, ones that talk about the founding of our country. This book was extra special because Brett served as a Corpsman for 21 years in the Navy.

AA-Thank you

Brett and I would like to thank each and every person who have given to Belle Grove Plantation. We appreciate all those that give freely to our project and that help us create a future filled with special memories and special pieces. We could have never done so alone and we are so grateful to all.

If you wish to donate books or other items, we would be pleased to accept them. Our library collection is truly lacking in our “James Madison” section as well as our “Founding Fathers and Mothers, Constitution and American Revolution” section. Our “General Interest” section is spilling over.

To send items to us:

Belle Grove Plantation

9221 Belle Grove Drive

King George, Virginia 22485

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | Comments Off on Gifts from the Heart

The Sights and Sounds of Belle Grove

Mar. 19th 2014

Just before our “Happy Birthday President Madison” event, one of our followers asked if we could video tape some of the event so those who weren’t close enough to enjoy it, could experience the fun as well.

Well we heard your request and asked our photographer, Dawn Gardner of DG Photography if she could video tape some of the event so we could share it. What a great photographer we had! She had already planned on doing so! Great minds do think alike.

So here is what Dawn has put together for us to share!

We hope you will enjoy it! It was an amazing event with John Douglas Hall as President James Madison and Dr. Lynn Uzzell as Dolley Madison. We hope to have them return again soon and hope next time, you can join us for the fun!



Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | 1 Comment »