Housewarming Party still going strong!

Jul. 10th 2013

We have had several new books come in over the last couple of weeks!

We would like to thank everyone for their generous donation to our library!

But we are still a long way away from filling it!

Int Library Back door

If you would like to donate some books to our historic library 

here is some information on how to do it!

Send your donations to:

Belle Grove Plantation Bed and Breakfast

9221 Belle Grove Drive

King George, Virginia 22485

These are the sections we we are looking to fill:

James Madison Books

James Madison Books

Books that James Madison would have had in his library – These are books that James Madison would have had to read in his personal library. Or it could have been books that Thomas Jefferson would have allowed him to borrow. Here is a link of reading material Thomas Jefferson wrote about :

Founding Fathers (and Mothers) and the Constitution

Founding Fathers (and Mothers) and the Constitution

Books on the Founding Fathers (and Mothers) and the Constitution – These are books that are about the great men and women who help form America. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Mason, Martha Washington, Dolley Madison and on. We would also like to have books on the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

American History

American History

Books on the military events and American History – Since Belle Grove’s history spans every period in American history, we would like this section to have books about the periods in American History. Of course the American Revolution and Civil Wars touched Belle Grove because they happened here, we would like to have several on these. But we would also like to have the rest too because it would have touched each family in some way.

Virginia and American Life

Virginia and American Life

Books on Virginia and American Life – These books would talk about life in Virginia and in America. Send us a book about your great state or your favorite Virginia sights.

General Interest

General Interest

General Interest Books – These can be of any interest. Fact or Fiction. Good stories that you think people would like to read. You may also like to send us a copy of a book you have had published.

A Couple of Requests

Because these books are going to be placed in this historic home, we would like to acknowledge you for making this donation to our library. In the front of the book, we ask that you place the following information:

“This book was donated to Belle Grove Plantation by (your name) from (City, State and Country) on (date) to help complete their library.”

This will help us preserve your place in our history.

We would also like to request that your book be a hardback book that isn’t too large. If the book is too large, it may not fit on the shelf. Paperback books are nice and inexpensive, but as people read them, they get worn over time. We would like your book to last as long as possible.

Books we already have

So we don’t get repeat books, once we receive a book, we will list it on our a blog page. Look on our left column under “About Us”. It is listed as “Housewarming for the Library

The Asent of George Washington – John Ferling

Madison Writings – Jack N. Rakove

A Slave in the White House – Elizabeth Dowling Taylor

The Debate on the Constitution – Bernard Barilyn

James Madison – Garry Wills

War at Our Doors – Rebecca Campbell Light

Images of America Virginia Presidential Homes – Patrick L. O’Neill

Places I Have Known Along the Rappahannock River – Beverley C Pratt

Come Retribution – William A Tidwell

A Perfect Union – Catherine Allgor

Gordonsville Virginia – William H.B. Thomas

Orange Virginia – William H.B. Thomas

Dearest Friend  A Life of Abigail Adams – Lynne Withey

Patriots of the UpCountry – William H.B. Thomas

The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

Dolores Claiborne – Stephen King

The Dead Zone – Stephen King

Pet Sematary – Stephen King

The Tommyknockers – Stephen King

Diana Her True Story – Andrew Morton

Memoris of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

Favorite Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables

Selected Poems – Walt Whitman

Autobiography – Benjamin Franklin

The Law of War and Peace – Hugo Grotius

Fathers and Sons – Iva S. Turgenev

Five Great Dialogues – Plato

On the Nature of Things – Lucretius

Essays and New Atlantis – Francis Bacon

Paradise Lost and Other Poems – John Milton

Anne Boleyn – Anthony Crowell

Selected Lives and Essays – Plutarch

Discourses – Epictetus

Utopia – Thomas More

The Iliad – Homer

On Man in the Universe – Aristotle

Jake Lingle – John Boettiger

The Letters of Madame – Volume I and II – Gertrude Scott Stevenson

100 Dastardly Little Detective Stories – Weinberg, Dziemianowicz, and Greenberg

Best Little Stories of Virginia – C Brian Kelly

Titanic – Colonel Archibald Gracie

Rhett Butler’s People – Donald McCaig

The Gold of Exodus – Howard Blum

The Sum of All Fears – Tom Clancy

Faith of our Founding Fathers – Tim LaHaye

Gun – A Visual History – Dr. Chris McNab

American Soldier – General Tommy Franks

Wild at Heart – John Eldredge

How Did You Do It, Truett – S. Truett Cathy

Gettysburg – Newt Gingrich and William R Forstchen

Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All – Allan Gurganus

Me My County My God – Dr. C Thomas Anderson and Don Enevoldsen

Lincoln on Leadership – Donald T. Phillips

The Civil War Battlefield Guide – The Conservation Fund – Frances H Kennedy

Gettysburg  An Alternate History – Peter G. Tsouras

Leadership Lessons of Robert E. Lee – Bil Holton

Run to the Roar – A Fable of Choice, Courage and Hope – J. Randy Forbes

His Excellency George Washington – Joseph J Ellis

Dear Catherine, Dear Taylor – The Civil War letters of a Union Soldier and his Wife – Richard L Kiper

Debt of Honor – Tom Clancy

Tale of a Tiger – R.T. Smith

Dinner with a Perfect Stranger – David Gregory

Command Attention – Col. Keith Oliver USMC (Ret)

Leadership Excellence – Pat Williams with Jim Denney

War – Sebastian Junger

How – Why HOW we do anything means everything – Dov Seidman

Psalm 91- Peggy Joyce Ruth

Team of Rivals – Doris Kearns Goodwin

No Higher Honor – Condoleezza Rice

Extreme Dreams Depend on Teams – Pat Williams

The Ambition – Lee Strobel

Secrets of the Millonaire Mind – T. Harv Eker

Rembrandt – The Old Testament – Thomas Nelson Publishers

Rembrandt – Life of Christ – Thomas Nelson Publishers

Profiles in Courage – John F. Kennedy

Lady Bird – Jan Jarboe Russell

Dawn’s Early Light – Elswyth Thane

Ronald Reagan and the American Ideal – Steve Penley

Jane Austen’s Persuasion – Jane Austen

Back in the Day – Michael Powell

Enough Good Men – Charles Mercer

Presidential Campaigns – Paul Boller Jr

To Make a Nation – Samuel H. Beer

Turning the World Upside Down – John Tebbel

Washington’s Crossing – David Hackett Fishcher

I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company, A Novel of Lewis and Clark – Brian Hall

Undaunted Courage – Stephen E. Ambrose

Legion of the Lost – Jaime Salazar

The American Patriots Almanac – William J. Bennett & John T.F. Cribb

Almost A Miracle – John Ferling

Hurricane of Independence – Tony Williams

The Bold & Magnigicent Dream – Bruce Catton & William B Catton

Just Added!

Thank you Dick from Virginia!

One Day of Civil War, April 10, 1863 – Robert L Willett Jr.

Grant – William S. McFeely

The Bedford Introduction to Literature – Michael Meyer

A Man on the Moon – Apollo Astronauts – Andrew Chaikin

Einstein – Walter Issacson

Atlas of the World

Law in America – American Hertiage

Don’t Stop the Carnival – Herman Wouk

The Hunt for Red October – Tom   Clancy

At Dawn We Slept – Untold Stories of Pearl Harbor – Gordon W. Prange

The DaVinci Code – Dan Brown

The National Geographic Society – 100 years of Adventure and Discovery

Civil War Parks – The Story Behind the Scenery

Thank you Lisa from New York!

Life (or something like it) at Mallard High – Greg Martini and Lisa Chelkowski

Thank you Katherine from Virginia!

James Madison – Champion of Liberty and Justice – John P. Kaminski

Slavery at the Home of George Washington – Philip J. Schwarz


Thank you Gina from Virginia!

50 States of Amercia  – Rosanna Hansen and Jan Bloom

Slaver and Freedom in the Age of the American Revolution – Ira Berlin and Ronald Hoffman

The Negro in 18th Century Williamsburg – Thad W. Tate

Race and Revolution – Gary B. Nash

The Federalist – Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay

Thank you from Great Britain!

This is the longest distance one of our books has come yet and is the second from our Wish List to be received!

Madison and Jefferson – Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg

Wish List

These are books we would like to have for the library.



Adams, John Defence of the Constitutions
Burns, Robert Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect
Crevecoeur, J. Hector St. John de Letters from an American Farmer
Filson, John Discovery, Settlement, & Present State of Kentucky
Gibbon, Edward History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
A. Hamilton, J. Jay, and J. Madison The Federalist – RECEIVED!
Jefferson, Thomas Notes on the State of Virginia
Ledyard, John Journal of Captain Cook’s Last Voyage to the Pacific Ocean
Locke, John Treatises on Government
Longacre, James Barton National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans
Montesquieu The Spirit of the Laws
Morse, Jedidiah Geography Made Easy
Shakespeare, William Hamlet
Plato The Republic
Raleigh, Sir Walter History of the World
Ramsay, David History of the American Revolution
Vattell, Emerich de The Law of Nations
Warville, J.P. Brissot de The Commerce of America with Europe

 Books about Madison

Ketcham, Ralph James Madison: A Biography
Banning, Lance The Sacred Fire of Liberty: James Madison and the founding of the Federal Republic
Brookhiser, Richard James Madison
Burstein, Andrew and Nancy Isenberg Madison and Jefferson – RECEIVED!
Madison, James Notes of Debates of the Federal Convention of 1787
Mattern, David and H. Schulman The Selected Letters of Dolley Payne Madison
Mattern, David B. James Madison’s Advice to My Country
Rakove, Jack James Madison and the Creation of the American Republic
Stagg, J.C.A. Mr. Madison’s War: Politics, Diplomacy, & Warfare in the Early American Republic
Wood, Gordon Empire of Liberty

 To see what we are up to at Belle Grove 

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Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Darnell History | 8 Comments »

Small Adventures

Apr. 24th 2013


After the drama at the plantation with the downing of our three trees, the rescue of our bees and having contractors coming and going all day on Wednesday last week, on Thursday, I decided to take the advice of one of our readers and take a break to relax. My only appointment had called early to cancel, so my day was open for me to do whatever I wanted. So I jumped into the car and pointed it in the directions of Washington DC.

I had no plans, no agenda and no time table. At first I thought, maybe I could head to Alexandria by way of the Metro to see Gadsby’s Tavern. We have been following them for a while and I have yet to see it. But when I got on Highway 95 into Washington, the traffic came to a stop around the Marine Corps base Quantico so I jumped off and got on the Historic Route 1.

From there, I realized that I was heading toward Mount Vernon.When we had visited Mount Vernon before, there was a plantation just as you turn off Route 1 so my thought was to go there. This plantation is called Woodlawn Plantation.


Woodlawn was originally part of Mount Vernon. George Washington gave this 2,000 acre plantation to Martha’s granddaughter, Eleanor “Nelly” Park Custis and George’s nephew Major Lawrence Lewis as a wedding gift. The house started construction in 1800 and it was finished in 1805. George Washington had Dr. William Thornton, the architect of the U.S. Capital Building to design the house for the couple. Today the plantation has 126 acres with the original home.

When I arrived and entered, I was surprised to find out that the house was closed to tours. They have been preparing for an exhibition called “Made in America”. When I asked about the furnishing, she told me that they had replaced most of the furnishing with newer pieces. As I stood there thinking about where to go from here, in walked another person looking to take a tour. She told me that she had just come from George Mason’s Gunston Hall. They were having “Colonial Days” with busloads of children on field trips.

I have seen Gunston Hall in the Year of the Virginia Historic Homes video so I was interested in seeing it. Kids and all. So I plugged in the address to my GPS and off I went. It really wasn’t too far. The route my GPS took me was down a single lane road through a wooded area. In this area was a wonderful creek that ran alongside me as I drove through. It was breath taking. Sadly I wasn’t able to stop as there were no shoulders to pull over to.

When I arrived, I watched as the last of the school buses pulled away. Yes, no kids! But the Colonial dressed actors were leaving too. Oh well. But I was happy to find out that it was going to be me and one other person on the tour. You get so much more when there isn’t a crowd.

After we watched the opening film, we headed back to the house. As you walk towards the house from the visitor’s center, you are lead down a path of double row magnolia trees. As I walked up to the house, I was a little disappointed. I was expecting something larger. From a distance it looked like a small Cape Cod style home.


Boy was I in for a surprise.

Gunston Hall was the home of George and Ann Mason. It is a Georgian style home that is located near the Potomac River in Mason Neck, Virginia. The plantation was a 5,500 acre plantation and the home was built between 1755 and 1759.

George Mason

George Mason

Ann Mason

Ann Mason

We have talked about how James Madison tends to be a forgotten Founding Father, kind of in the shadow of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. But how much do you really know about George Mason?

George Mason was a statesman and delegate from Virginia to the U.S. Constitutional Convention. When the U.S. Constitution was written, George Mason was one of three that refused to sign it. He believed that the Constitution gave too much power to the new government. It was through his pressing that James Madison wrote the Bill of Rights.

Gunston Hall

Gunston Hall

His home, Gunston Hall was mostly the work of William Buckland, a carpenter/joiner and indentured servant from England. It is believe d that Buckland and another indentured servant named William Bernard Sears created the ornate woodwork and interior carving.

Front Porch

Front Porch

Front Porch

Front Porch

Gunston Hall combines elements of Rococo, Chinoiserie (Chinese style) and Gothic styles. All of these are unusual contrast to the tendency for simple decoration in Virginia at this time. While Chinoiserie was popular in England, Gunston Hall is the only house known to have had this decoration in colonial America.

Grand Hall photo from

Grand Hall
photo from

When you enter the home from the front porch, you are greeted by a Grand Hallway. This Hallway divides the house. The Grand Hallway is lined by six symmetrical Doric style pilasters. There is also a double arch with a carved pine cove that divides the front of the passage from the back. In the front, there are four doors placed opposite one another. One of these doors is a fake door added for symmetry. The front of the hall is covered in colonial style wallpaper.

Staircase photo from

photo from

The first room we entered was the western room called the parlor or dining room. This room as a public room that was ornately decorated. The walls are painted in a yellow ocher and the woodwork is Chinese style. The wall of the fireplace has a mantel decorated with fretwork, pagoda-like scalloped moldings as well as canopies topped by pine cone finials. Above the doors are similar canopies, which might have displayed Chinese porcelain vases or ceramic figures. During Mason’s lifetime, three of the walls were probably wallpapered with a chinoses (Chinese-style) design which was popular in England. It is believed that this room was one of kind in Colonial America.

Dining Room Photo from

Dining Room
Photo from

The southern room called the Palladian room was also a public room and was the most elaborately decorated in the house. The classical woodwork shows touches of the fashionable rococo design. The floor was made of carefully matched blind-doweled planks. Egg and dart carved patterns surround the black walnut entry doors. On either side of the fireplace you will see beaufats, which are shallow shelves with no doors. Here they have decorated them with a shiny blue slate color surrounded by gold gilding. From here you can view the back gardens.

Formal Parlor Photo from

Formal Parlor
Photo from

The little parlor across from the southern room was a private room and was less ornate than the public rooms. The walls were painted a neutral grey. This is the room that they family lived in and worked in. It was used as a dining room when company wasn’t there. It was used as Mason’s office being just off the primary chamber.

The Primary Chamber Photo from

The Primary Chamber
Photo from

The primary chamber was the master bed room and was private. It was painted an emerald green, which was considered a desirable color. The windows had pocket shutters and it is believed to be the only windows in the house that may have had curtains.

Just down the small hall between the primary chamber and the little parlor is a narrow servant’s stairs that led up to the second floor. Guest would use the beautiful staircase in the Grand Hall to access the upstairs. Once upstairs, you will find less wood decorations and colors. Eight small rooms were used primarily as rooms for the children and guests. Each room was very basic and offered a bed, desk and chair. Some rooms had two beds.

Summer Kitchen

Summer Kitchen

In the side yard, you will find their reproductions of the outbuildings used during Mason’s life. Summer Kitchen, Laundry, Cold Storage and Smokehouse were among the builds. On the opposite side you can see the reproduction school house for the children.

Summer Kitchen inside

Summer Kitchen inside

The back grounds are covered in ancient boxwoods and would have been a grand formal garden. The back of the garden comes to a two terrace slope that overlooks the Potomac River.


View from the back terraces of the Potomac River

View from the back terraces of the Potomac River




While I was there, I was able to observe an archaeological dig. The three archaeologists were working on uncovering what they thought might be a road way. Bricks, broken wine bottle and broken pottery were among the items they were uncovering. As I thanked them for allowing me to view it and as I walked away, I quickly stopped. As I have started doing while at Belle Grove, I was scanning the ground for artifacts. And low and behold, I found a pottery shard!

Look what I found! A brown salt glazed pottery shard!

Look what I found! A brown salt glazed pottery shard!

How cool was that to find a piece of pottery at George Mason’s home!

As I said good-bye to the other tourist and headed back to Belle Grove, I have to say I really felt much better. Going nowhere and finding such a wonderful surprise really renewed my spirit and allowed me to get on with what we needed to do.


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