More Progress

Jan. 4th 2013
Landscape Plan dating back to the restoration in 2003. This will give you an idea of the lay of the grounds at Belle Grove. We aren't using all these ideas, just some.

Landscape Plan dating back to the restoration in 2003. This will give you an idea of the lay of the grounds at Belle Grove. We aren’t using all these ideas, just some.

Tomorrow we head back to the plantation… YAY!

We are meeting with the landscape contractor we have selected to help us turn Belle Grove Plantation back into the showplace it once was. I was very excited to find out that the person who is going to help us design the landscape is a licensed horticulturist. She is able to tell us what we have and how to best use it. She is also able to help us know what we need and what will look best. I am very excited!

Our goal is to use as many Virginia native plants as possible. We have several trees, but sadly a few are going to have to go. We are going to try and preserve as many ancient trees that we can.

Trees on the Bowling Green

Trees on the Bowling Green

But we have to look at the placement and remove those that might threaten the house. We have one just in front of the front entry. If a good wind came along, it could end up in the front hallway. So we are going to have to sacrifice this one. I don’t think I can be there when they do it though. After doing so much research and knowing about how long it has been there, I would be in tears as it came down. But don’t worry. It won’t be going far. The tree is large enough that we can have it milled to make boards to use on the Smokehouse or Summer Kitchen. So it won’t be gone, just changed in form.

The Tree that will need to be removed is to the right of the horse and buggy.1906

The Tree that will need to be removed is to the right of the horse and buggy.

The Bowling Green looking toward Mansion1906

The Bowling Green looking toward Mansion

So what kind of plants would you recommend? I love crepe myrtles. I am looking to use them around the Bowling Green (the large circle of grass on the Carriage side of the house). I also love flowering plants and want to use ones that will keep the yard filled all year around if possible. We are also looking at putting in a Formal Walking Garden. In the center of this garden will be a smaller version of Montpelier’s Temple. It is our way of remembering James Madison in the yard. It will also be a great place to take wedding pictures!

3D Drawing of grounds ideas dating back to 2003We are not going to follow all the ideas, but use it as a starting point.

3D Drawing of grounds ideas dating back to 2003
We are not going to follow all the ideas, but use it as a starting point.

Here is a copy of the landscape plan that was done back in 2003. This was just an idea of what they were thinking about doing.  The walking garden at the Riverside of the house isn’t going in at that place. We are thinking of moving it to the right of the house behind the garage area. This will leave open the grounds between the house and the river. We want this to be a three terrace step from the main grounds to the bluff over looking the water. It will also leave space for weddings at the Riverside with a view of the river and wooded area across the river. It is so beautiful.

If you look to the left of the house, you will see a pool. The three buildings around the pool are the three 1790s outbuildings, the Smokehouse, Ice House and Summer Kitchen. The pool isn’t there yet. Right now, there is only open ground. Under that open ground is an older inground pool that runs from the side of the house to the Ice House. But it was filled in for some reason years ago. So before we can put in the new pool, we will have to dig up the old one and remove it.

Current area around Outbuildings

Current area around Outbuildings

The pier you see at the waters edge isn’t there either. There use to be pier there many years ago. In fact I was told by a local man that he use to come to Belle Grove to swim in the pool with the owners son. He would travel from his plantation home downstream up to Belle Grove by boat. We hope in the future to add that pier back. It would be a great place for guests to get down to the water’s edge to watch the birds or do some fishing.

The trees around the Bowling Green aren’t all there yet either. Those will be the crepe myrtles that I love. This will be my touch on Belle Grove that came from my heart. There are also more trees on the Bowling Green that aren’t showing on this plan.

Trees that are still on the Bowling Green -picture date - 19061. Tree to be removed 2. Maple 3. Elm 4. Hickory

Trees that are still on the Bowling Green -picture date – 1906
1. Tree to be removed 2. Maple 3. Elm 4. Hickory

As you can see, we have a lot to talk over and a lot of work ahead of us! Our first task is driveway, sidewalks and grading. We also need to get some drainage work done on the guttering system. Right now it just comes down at the base of the house. This isn’t good for the foundation or the basement that dates back to the Conway period (1670 to 1790).

Whew.. just talking about it, I am already tired. But it will be a labor of love for us. And just think of the wonderful artifacts we are going to find! I can’t wait to get my hands dirty! Anyone what to come “play”?

To see more picture of Belle Grove Plantation

Please visit our Facebook  Page!

Facebook Link

We have also created a new “ABOUT BELLE GROVE PLANTATION” page!

Located just under the “About Us” page on the left hand column!

Scroll Divider

Don’t forget to enter the “First Annual Official Cookie of Belle Grove Plantation” Cookie Contest!

Just Click on James Madison for entry information and rules!

Cookie Contest 2013

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Darnell History | 54 Comments »

Shine the Spotlight on Historic Homes – Update Added to end!

Sep. 27th 2012

Virginia Executive Mansion
Richmond, Virginia

Governor and First Lady McDonnell Shine the Spotlight on Historic Homes around the Commonwealth of Virginia

Below is the information shared on the Virginia Executive Mansion Facebook Page

RICHMOND – Governor McDonnell has signed a proclamation, recognizing 2013 as the Year of the Virginia Historic Home. The announcement was made today by the Mansion Director, Sarah Scarbrough at the Preservation Virginia annual conference in Leesburg, Virginia.

2013 marks the bicentennial of the Executive Mansion. As they commemorate this historic milestone, the Governor and First Lady will also recognize the importance of the many historic homes around Virginia. Virginia has more than 100 historic homes, most of which are open to the public as museums and historic sites. These homes offer a wealth of cultural, historical, and architectural information and promote an understanding of, as well as an interest in the story of Virginia.The Secretary of Natural Resources, the Department of Historic Resources, and the Virginia Association of Museums have joined together with the Governor and First Lady to make this effort possible. The initiative will include the launching of a Virginia historic homes tourism website, which will be live on October 4 and a new historic homes edition of the Time Travelers program for Virginians. By highlighting the educational value of these homes and promoting tourism to the sites, the Governor and First Lady intend to ensure their vitality and enhance their value as Virginia cultural assets.More information on the Year of the Virginia Historic Home will be posted on the Executive Mansion’s website on October 4th.
Yesterday, Brett sent an email to the Maureen McDonnell, First Lady of Virginia, about this program. Mrs. McDonnell has spent a lot of time focusing on tourism in Virginia. Brett was seeking information on how to get involved with the program. Today we received an reply from her! She has put us in touch with the programs director!
How wonderful that this program is happening the year we open our historic plantation! Being the birthplace of James Madison, Father of the Constitution, wouldn’t it be something if we are profiled on his birthday, March 16th? That is the date we are also hoping to open our doors too! I couldn’t have dreamed of a better thing to happen!
We got word today from the Virginia Executive Mansion….
We are going to be included!
More details to come!
Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 43 Comments »

Saturday in Petersburg

Aug. 12th 2012

After we got up and got our things together, we bid Mrs. Roy “Au revoir” and headed down to Robert’s house, the antique dealer from Petersburg. His house was built in 1879. When he purchased it, it had been converted into an apartment building.

Robert’s house

Robert walked us around the yard showing us the flowers he had and the architectural details of his home. In the back, he showed us the area where the carriage house used to stand. Today, all that is left is a single wall of this late 1800s building. Just to the front of it stood a more modern carriage house that was built in the 1930s. This building has been converted into an small office building.

The 1800s Carriage House wall. The holes in the wall would have been the windows for the horses.

The 1930s Carriage House door

Robert’s back yard was filled with flowers and trees. He walked us to the back section where he had a line of bushes that made another section of the backyard into a small secret garden.

We made our way back around the house and up to the front door. This door reminded me of La Villa Romaine’s front door. It was about 12 feet tall and had an inner and outer set of doors. Once inside the hallway reminded me again of a smaller version of La Villa Romaine’s hall. The room wasn’t as large, but it had a similar basic layout. We first entered the Formal Parlor and were greeted with tons of wonderful antiques. What would have been the day room at La Villa Romaine had been turned into another Formal Parlor at Robert’s house.

Fireplace in Formal Parlor – this looks like marble, but its wood painted to look like marble!

Next we moved into the library. Here Robert had his own personal antiques as well as items for his booth. It was so hard not to look and buy! There were so many things I could have taken home! We then moved into the Formal Dining room. This room also had more antiques. Robert was showing me his china with a gold border and had stated that he was thinking of changing his china. Of course my first thought was how many place settings do you have! I am always thinking about Belle Grove! He also showed us a set of Ship Bells that would have been used to call passagers to a meal. I wonder if that would work at Belle Grove?



Formal Dining Room

Formal Dining Room – Fireplace – Wood, not marble

Formal Dining Room – Ship Bells

One thing that Robert was very proud of was his ceiling medallions. He knows Mrs. Roy and has seen hers. He told us that most of her ceiling medallions are reproductions. He stated that he has five original medallions in his home. I missed getting one of the though. I missed the one in the library. I think it was because I was so busy looking at the antiques!

Front Hall

Front Parlor

Rear Parlor

Dining Room

After our tour of the downstairs, we headed upstairs to see his room set up. This is where Robert’s house and La Villa Romaine differed. Robert’s floor plan didn’t have the long hallway as La Villa Romaine. It had a short landing area for a hall with four smaller rooms off from it. Three of the rooms were bedrooms and one room Robert had devoted to his Lionel train collection. This room was in the works so we didn’t take pictures up on the second floor. But once it is completed, it will be something wonderful to see!

We thanked Robert for opening his home and promised to return soon. Robert and I have been talking about going to an auction he knows about in the area to look for some good buys for Belle Grove. I have to say, meeting Robert was really good luck for us!

After our visit with Robert, we headed back over to the Old Towne area of Petersburg to walk around a bit and look at more antiques. After all the tours and walking, we decided to get a lite lunch before heading out. So I suggested we stop at the Blue Willow Tea Room on Old Street. Since I have been shopping for tea items and we are going to be doing tea socials at Belle Grove, I want to try as many tea rooms to get ideas for our teas.

The tea room was warm and inviting and filled with tea antiques and art. The ceiling detail was also very eye catching. We settled on having a Full Afternoon Tea. Pam, our wait staff, offer me several selections of hot teas and I decided it was going to be an Earl Grey day. Brett isn’t much for hot tea, so he enjoyed a cold beverage of real Ginger Ale.

 Our first course was two homemade scones with Devonshire cream and Carrot Jam. The scones were one plain and one blueberry. Our next course was a soup du jour. I selected a cold gazpacho and Brett had a cheese and broccoli. I missed taking a photo of these. When we got them, we both ate them up so fast. They were delicious!

Our next course was the tower of food. The bottom section were our tea sandwiches. The center was a selection of pastries. The top section was our sweets and fruits.

Tea Sandwiches


For our tea sandwiches, we had Brie Wraps with lettuce and tomato, Ham and Cheese on Rye with a Devilish Mustard, Pickled Cucumbers and Radish on a French Bagette with a Herb Spread, and Smoked Salmon with Cream Cheese and Dill on a Small Bagel. For our pastries, we had Cheese Pennies, Chicken Salad in a tart cup, Spanakopita, and Canapes with Pesto, Tomato and Mozzarella. For our sweets and fruit we had Cream filled Cannoli, Rowena’s Almond Pound Cake with Raspberry Sauce and Whipped Cream, Fudge Brownies and a Fruit Skewer.

The food was divine! It doesn’t look like a ton of food, but by the time we finished, Brett said he felt stuffed. I enjoyed every bit and was taking notes in my head as we ate. I had told Pam, our wait staff about Belle Grove Plantation and she had informed the owner, Sid about it. He made a point to stop at our table and invited us next door to Pennington Antiques which was connected to the tea room after our tea. As I was paying, Pam offered to take us back into the kitchen to show us around  and we met “Hersey” another member of the wait staff. Kirsten (Hersey) spent some time talking to us about our plantation and talking about running a tea room.

The Blue Willow Tea Room
Sid – Owner and the Staff

We then made our way next door to Pennington Antiques and spoke to Sid for a few minutes. It didn’t take long for Brett and I to start wandering around the store looking at the antiques and discussing if we could use any items there for Belle Grove. Afterwards, we headed back to the car and started towards our next stop.

I have to say, visiting Petersburg over the last two weekends has really opened my eyes to the location. It doesn’t seem to get the tourism that Williamsburg or Richmond might get, but I think people are really missing out on a great stop. The people are really open and friendly. The places to see are endless. And the city and its people seem to really care about improving their places. And most of all the cost doesn’t break the bank!

So if you are traveling down I-95 and need a place to stop for the night, or are into antiques and history or would just love a wonderful cup of tea with great Southern hospitality, Brett and I would recommend a stop in Petersburg!

Next Post

A Little Unscheduled Stop

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 27 Comments »