Sunday Morning on the Plantation

Aug. 25th 2013


What a wonderful sight to behold, rising to blue skies and calm still waters of the Rappahannock River. The trees reflect in the water giving the appearance of a second line of trees. It is hard to know what is real and not real. The birds fly over the river as their reflection seems to chase them.


The plantation is starting to settle down after all the upheaval in landscaping and driveway work. Standing on the back portico I am greeted by the beautiful old Crepe Myrtles that have adorn the back bluff for years. Their branches of delicate pink blooms seem to bend with the weight of their fullness.


As do the newest additions of the knockout roses in the beds along the back portico. It seems is if they have found a perfect place and have grown both in size and number of blooms.


Looking to the other young Crepe Myrtle towards the side courtyard, it seems lonely standing there. We have decided to add a raised bed around its base and will be placing flowers to accompany it. Then it won’t be so lonely.


Just beyond it stands our poor Crab Apple Tree. Just this spring, it presented us with beautiful pink blooms that numbered in the hundreds to thousands. But this year hasn’t been as kind to our poor tree. It has lost two major branches to storms. But thankfully it has held a beautiful shape and hopefully will take no more hits from the weather.20130825_100334

Yes, today is going to be a beautiful day!

Wish you were here!

To see what wonderful things are going on with our plantation

Please visit us on our Official Website

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Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | 19 Comments »

Our Tree has come Home

Aug. 7th 2013


Belle Grove Plantation

March 2013 – With our 200 year old Mulberry Tree

As most of you know that follow our blog, we had to cut down four of our trees on the plantation this year. It was a heart-breaking task because one of those trees was a 200 year old Mulberry. This tree stood here for 200 years and witness many of the historic events at the plantation. It was even standing when James Madison was alive.

Before we cut them down, we did look around for a good use of the wood. I just didn’t want to have it end there. I wanted to respect them and have their wood be something of value. In my search and thanks to one reader of our blog, we came into contact with two woodworkers who treasure “Witness Trees” and who work hard to preserve them. One woodworker is local to us and has taken a large trunk section to be milled and worked into a colonial style table for the mansion. The other woodworker is from New Jersey. He took several of the limbs and will be turning them into beautiful historic pens for us. Most of the wood is currently drying, but The Historic Pen Company was able to dry some of the wood through a faster method so they could produce a few pens now.

Today, I was surprised by a package. When I opened it, I was thrilled to find one of these Historic Pens. 









Made from the 200 year old Mulberry Tree and engraved with our name and that of James Madison,

this pen will now sit proudly in our Grand Hallway for all to see.

My heart is truly thankful and tears fill my eyes as I look on this pen knowing that our tree has finally come home.

Bob DeMartino

Bob DeMartino


John Greco

Thank you so much to Bob DeMartino of the Historic Pen Company and to John Greco the Master Woodworker who turned our tree wood into a beautiful reminder of what history we have at Belle Grove Plantation!


To get your own Historic Pen made from our 200 year old Mulberry Tree

Please visit our Online Store on our Official Website!

Home Page

Part of the funds raised from the sell of these pens will benefit our 1720 Summer Kitchen, Ice House and Smokehouse!

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | 21 Comments »

Retiring the Old Guard

Jun. 6th 2013

Belle Grove Plantation small

Today was a very interesting day at the plantation. I woke bright and early so I could get ready for the contractors to come in. First thing in the morning, I like to open the front and back Grand Hallway doors so people know I am up and here. As I opened the front door, I was greeted by Jasper and his family. They were up close to the front porch and I had to stand there and watch for a few minutes as they hopped around the yard eating the sweet grass.


I headed back to the kitchen to get my breakfast ready. I was surprise to see our deer standing by the wooded area eating. I have seen her every evening either there or back near the front gate. But I had never seen her in the morning. It was a nice surprise. So off I went cooking myself a quick breakfast.

As I moved around the kitchen, something darted pass the window near where the deer was feeding. I didn’t catch what it was so I moved over to the window. What a surprise I had! There standing next to their mother were twin fawns! It was the first time we have ever seen them. They were chasing each other and kicking up their heels. It was so precious!

deer 4

After breakfast, the contractors started arriving. We have had the handyman contractor here all week. His team has done an amazing job and is making good progress. We also had two volunteers here today. Terri and her son Nick came up from Richmond to lend a hand. Nick got out in the front and helped me transfer a plant from our front entry bed to the caretaker’s house. Terri helped Nick and also helped me clean some appliances in the kitchen. With my broken finger, it is a little harder to do things with water or dirt. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all that they did for me today!


Around 11am, MOTS Tree service arrived. You may remember them from our three trees that had to be cut down about a month or so ago. Matthew and his team did a wonderful job for us the first time. So when we knew that we had to take another tree down, they were who we wanted. I just love how Matthew takes the time to explain things to me and how sensitive he is to my desire to preserve the wood.


The tree that we had to cut down today was one that was located on the north Riverside of the Mansion. It became very apparent that it was no longer alive. While all the other trees have filled with their beautiful spring foliage, this Maple has stood bare.  So with a heavy heart, we scheduled MOTS to come out.

As they set up for the cutting, Terri, Nick and I watched from the back portico. They tied a line to one of the upper limbs and attached it to their truck. Then they pulled the line tight. This was to help bring down the tree where they wanted it. It was located between a line of trees on the bluff and the Mansion, so placement was very important.

Once the line was in place, they started cutting.

It took all of maybe five minutes for them to complete the cuts and bring down the tree.






It still amazes me the sound of the tree hitting the ground. It just sounds so massive. I had told Terri earlier that I wouldn’t cry this time. I knew it was dead and I worried that it might fall during some of these storms we have had lately and possible hit the house. So bring it down was a good thing. Still…. after that sound of it hitting the ground, the tears flowed. I don’t know why. I guess it’s because I have come to love this plantation so much. It’s like someone taking something so special away from it. Terri gave me hugs and I was better.



Unlike the last time, we asked MOTS to clear the wood, grind the stump and remove the mulch. Last time, we cleared the wood and mulch. It took us four weeks with the help of some wonderful volunteers. This time, they had the wood cleared, the stump grinded down and the mulch removed within hours. It was wonderful! I have to say there is something about letting the professionals handle it. It was much better not having to face that pile again.


Before they started removing the wood, Terri pointed something wonderful out. The base of the tree where they cut it lay exposed after it fell. I came over to see if I could see the rings to figure its age. It is about 60 years old. That means it started growing in the 1950s.

But Terri pointed one thing out to me that I missed….


The base of the tree was shaped like a heart.

After she pointed it out, my heart broke again.

Not too long after, they finished cleaning up, packed up and left. Looking at the space where this wonderful old guard stood, you would never know that it was there. All that is left is a space of dirt. We held on to two pieces that we will place in the artifact boxes. We want to remember this tree. One that stood guard over this Mansion and the family that lived there deserves at least that.

To see more pictures of the trees of Belle Grove

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Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Darnell History | 34 Comments »

Press Release

May. 13th 2013

This is a press release from the Historic Pen Company. They are one of the woodcarving guilds that have some of our historic wood from Belle Grove. We are excited to have them working with us to preserve these “Witness Trees” for everyone to enjoy!

We do not have information yet on when our pens will be available yet. They just picked up the wood on Saturday and will be returning in two weeks to pick up the rest. Once they have evaluated the wood to see how long they need to dry them out for before they can carve them, we will know more. I will get it out as soon as I hear.

Our trees that were removed and will be turned into historic pens were a 180 year old Mulberry, 80 year old Red Maple and an undetermined Ash. The Ash’s center trunk was so degraded that we couldn’t get an age from it. It was wide enough to be at least 100 plus years. The Mulberry would have been planted around 1830s and would have been alive during the life of James Madison.

180 year old Mulberry Tree Belle Grove Plantation

180 year old Mulberry Tree
Belle Grove Plantation

80 year old Red Maple Tree Belle Grove Plantation

80 year old Red Maple Tree
Belle Grove Plantation

100+ year old Ash Tree Belle Grove Plantation

100+ year old Ash Tree
Belle Grove Plantation


Prince 1


HISTORIC PEN COMPANY/Seaside Heights creates Original Boardwalk wood gift for Prince Harry and Governor Christie

 Manahawkin, NJ – May 13, 2013:  The Historic Pen Company began with a simple goal: the reclamation, salvaging and repurposing of wood and other materials from historic sites throughout the United States that would otherwise be discarded and lost to history.

Additionally, the Historic Pen Company offers a historic and culturally significant, revenue-producing alternative to support the ongoing operation of its client historic sites while also limiting the destruction of these one of a kind resources, thus preserving not only history, but the integrity of the environment through the repurposing of these materials.

In this the Centennial Anniversary Year of the Borough of Seaside Heights, New Jersey and at the request of the Borough of Seaside Heights and specifically Mayor William Akers and Special Events Director, Michael Graichen, the Historic Pen Company created a “pair” of high quality writing instruments to commemorate the May 14, 2013 visit of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales to the community.

Following the devastation of Super Storm Sandy on October 29, 2012 and the destruction of the famous Seaside Heights Boardwalk, the continued support of people worldwide has served to strengthen the community during its recovery. Continued support through the Office of Governor Christie and the visit of His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales to experience first hand the deviation that struck the New Jersey coast support this recovery.

The Governor Chris Christie and His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales pens were handcrafted by Historic Pen Company’s Master Pen Maker, John Greco over a period of 5 days: May 7-12, 2013. The pair were made from Authentic Seaside Heights Original Boardwalk Wood salvaged by the Borough of Seaside Heights during the clean up following Superstorm Sandy. Each pen is 5.875 inches in length with a diameter of 2.3125 inches and is enhanced with 24K gold plated hand-carved rhodium hardware and crystal clip. Although created as a matching “pair”: because to the complexity of the Boardwalk pine and grain, each pen is a uniquely different one of a kind work of art.

The pens will be presented to Governor Christie and His Royal Highness during their May 14, 2013 visit to the Borough.

To see more information on the Historic Pen Company

Christie 2

Please visit their website at

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History | 6 Comments »

Belle Grove Makes the Presses Again!

Apr. 18th 2013


A tree with a history falls in King George

by Cathy Jett / Fredericksburg Free Lance Star

April 18, 2013

With a sharp crack and a ground-shaking thud, a massive mulberry tree crashed in front of James Madison’s birthplace in King George County on Wednesday.

Matthew Tierney, owner of Mot’s Tree Service and a certified arborist, immediately brushed sawdust off its 4-foot-wide stump and began counting rings.


“It’s 180 years old, maybe more,” he told Michelle Darnelle, who plans to open Belle Grove as a bed-and-breakfast by the end of May. “I’ll have a better idea when I make another cut.”

Darnelle had hoped that the tree was around when Madison had at least visited the plantation, which was the childhood home of his mother, Eleanor Rose “Nellie” Conway. The  house  there at the time  burned shortly after his birth.

“It would have had to be 262 years old to have been here when Madison was born and 223 years old for him to have walked by this tree,” Darnelle said.

Madison’s grandfather, Captain Francis Conway, sold the plantation in 1790 to John Hipkins, who built the center section of what was to become a handsome white frame mansion on the earlier foundation in 1791. Madison probably never visited after the sale, she said.

Tierney still wasn’t sure of the tree’s age after slicing another section from its stump, but could tell that it had been deliberately planted near the house’s circular drive because it wasn’t an indigenous variety.

He and his crew also found evidence that someone long ago had gone to great measures to save it. Not only did they find a cable that had been wrapped around the tree to hold it together, but they also turned up chunks of concrete and a piece of rebar that had been inserted in a rotting section of the trunk.

“It must have been a significant tree for someone to have made that much effort to save it,” said John Crosson of Fredericksburg, who is part of an area woodworker’s guild. Members will turn usable sections into furniture and other objects such as fountain pens.

The mulberry was one of three damaged trees that Darnelle had felled and removed on Wednesday. One was an ash that had lost much of its top in two storms. The other, a red maple, had a honeybee hive occupying its hollow core.

Mot’s left the branches on the maple to help cushion its fall and used a chain saw to free the section containing the hive.


“When they come out, they’re going to be on the angry side,” warned master beekeeper Bob Wernsman of King George. “They’re trapped and they’re disoriented.”

Donning beekeeper hats and veils, he and his wife, Darlene Wernsman, spent much of the morning removing waxy combs filled with honey and larvae as they searched for the queen. They were able to get the bees into a wooden hive, which will be located on the bed-and-breakfast property. Darnelle plans to use their honey in the various recipes she plans to make for guests.

She burst into sobs after Tierney cut a wedge in the side of the mulberry facing away from the house and then toppled it by sawing through the other side. She said she hated to lose the tree, but feared that a storm would eventually knock it into the historic old home.

“I had to weigh between the tree and the house,” she said. “The house won.”

J.C. Forest Products, Inc. in Spotsylvania County will mill salvageable, 10-foot sections of the tree and cure them. The woodworkers’ guild, which it sponsors, plans to use it to craft a table or similar piece of furniture for Belle Grove.

Smaller sections of that tree and the other two will be used to make pens that the Belle Grove Foundation will sell at the mansion to raise funds to restore three outbuildings.

The Historic Pen Company in Manahawkin, N.J., which helped Darnelle locate J.C. Forest Products, also will get a three-foot section.

She and her husband, Brett Darnelle, are leasing the house and 7 acres from the foundation for their bed-and-breakfast operation, Belle Grove Plantation. It features two junior suites and two master suites, all of which are named for the families that lived there.

The Darnelles also hope that the house will be used for special events, such as weddings, and have a handicap-accessible entrance so that those in the military who have been wounded can come there with their families after rehabilitation.

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407

Thank to Cathy and the Fredericksburg Free Lance Star for coming out and covering us as we made history. It was a great article and I enjoyed our time together talking about the plantation!

If you would like to see more photos from this event at Belle Grove

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Don’t forget the “Official Cookie Of Belle Grove” Voting Ends

Sunday, April 21st at 11:59pm Eastern

Did you vote yet?

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | 10 Comments »

Laying Our Gentle Giant to Rest

Apr. 17th 2013


Today has been so exhausting in so many ways.

The plantation has been overrun with people all day and we cut down our three trees.

My first person today was a local teenager who is working on pulling bricks for us. He is doing a great job, but it seems to be slowing down as he is finding it harder to pull ones that are so covered with over grown grass. The next person was the Master bee keeper and his wife preparing for the tree with the bee hive to come down. Then we had a landscaping service come in to give us an estimate on the grounds. No sooner did I finish with him then the tree service people arrived. Then a newspaper reporter and photographer arrived. While all this was going on, our air conditioner/heating company returned to work on the system to prepare it for opening. Then the woodcarvers came in to watch the trees come down. We even have a stray dog show up around mid-day! Needless to say, the plantation has been as busy as a bee hive.

Our first tree to come down was the Red Maple with the bee hive. The Master Bee Keeper needed to be somewhere later so we didn’t want to make him wait. I stood back as I watch Matthew with MOTs Tree Service pull out his chainsaw. That is when the emotions hit. I knew I would be upset and would shed a tear or two. But what ended up happening was really overwhelming.


Matthew started cutting and pulled a small chuck out of the base as a start. Then he made sure the area was clear and called out “All Clear”. This I would come to understand was the signal for the end. He quickly started cutting around the tree in a circle. Then is when I heard the cracking. Before I knew it, our Red Maple dropped to the ground. As soon as the tree hit the ground, my emotions sprang up and slapped me in the face. I had to turn away as I started crying. You would have thought I was watching someone I love die.






After about two or three minutes, I was able to pull it together and watch the Master Bee Keepers at work. Quickly they ran over to the tree in their suits and started searching the hive. But it didn’t take long for me to realize something was wrong. The Bee Keeper turned to me and told me that when the tree came down and because it was hollow inside, the tree collapsed around the bee hive and the bees were trapped in the tree. It turned into a rescue mission to see if we could save the bees.


Matthew came back and started clearing branches from the tree, trying to get to the hive. Once he was there, he started making cuts close to where the bees were in hopes of freeing them. We all held our breath. One cut, nothing. Two cuts, nothing. Three cuts close, but not there. Then he hit it. The bee keeper came back over and started searching again. Still not close enough.


While this was going on, the tree crew started working on the oldest tree, the hickory close to the front of the house. I walked over and sat down on the porch and watched as they dropped branches from the tree to prepare for it to come down. Every cut and ever limb was just like a part of me was coming off with it. By this time, I was also talking to the newspaper reporter, Cathy Jett with the Fredericksburg Free Lance Star. It seemed to help keeping me busy talking about the plantation.


Cathy Jett with Matthew from MOTs Tree Service and John our woodcarver from Virginia

Cathy Jett with Matthew from MOTs Tree Service and John our woodcarver from Virginia

Then the time came. Matthew came in and as he had before cut a chuck from the base. Now this tree is pretty big, so he ended up cutting a total of three chucks out. Then the call from Matthew, “All Clear.” I knew the end was coming. I stood up on the porch focused on the tree. Tears had already started rolling down my cheek and I tried to brush them away without fogging up the camera viewer. Then the crack. I could feel the breath rush out of my chest as I uttered a small cry. Then it happened. The tree dropped to the ground.






I quickly turned my head and cried harder. But what amazed me now as I sit here and think about it was the silence. No one said a word. Not a sound came from anywhere. Not a bird, not a car, nothing. It was silence for just a minute, then two, then three. All you could hear was my crying. I have to say I was shaken by this experience. My whole being was crying out for the loss of this old tree.


Then as I worked to calm myself, I could hear them discussing the age growth rings. Everyone wanted to know. Was this tree old enough to have been standing here when James Madison was born? After a quick count, Matthew said that it looked like it was around 180 years. That would place its starting year to around 1833. It wasn’t standing here where Madison was born. Nor was it here during his years he could have walked by it. James Madison would have been alive at Montpelier during its first years, but he would have been in his final years. Later Matthew would reconfirm that it was around 180 give or take 20 years. This means it could have been standing during his term as president, but still not old enough to have been here during his childhood. Matthew would also confirm that it is not a hickory tree. It is a variety of mulberry trees that are not indigenous to Virginia. This means that it was brought here and planted. It also showed sights of attempts to save it in the past. There were steel rods, cables and even concert inside the hollow where someone tried to keep it together.



But one thing we do know. It was standing here during the Civil War and would have witnessed the Union Army encamped at Belle Grove. It would also have seen the detachment chasing John Wilkes Booth that stopped and rested at Belle Grove. They could have easily slept under or even against its massive truck at that time.


By this time, the bee keepers had gotten into the hive and had started recovering the honey combs and bees. They started moving worker bees to the new hive, but still the queen had eluded them. So they set up the new hive close to the open trunk in hopes they would move to the new hive.

Then we headed to the Ash. This tree has seen many bad storms and had lost two of its main sections on top. The trunk was also cracked in half and looked to be hollow. I have to say, I didn’t cry as this tree came down. Not that it didn’t mean as much to me as the other two. But this was almost like a mercy cutting. It was in such bad shape that it was just sad to see it suffer as it was.





When the tree came down, we were greeted by a huge cloud of yellow pollen. All I could think about was how I was going to be sneezing tonight! When it came down, the crack in the trunk just twisted leaving part of the trunk standing. As I walked over, Matthew called out. Inside the trunk you could see what looked like dirt. From this he pulled out this huge larva. It was almost scary! Next they found a beetle and we realized that we had found a nest of Rhinoceros beetles.


The larval stages of this beetle can be several years long. The larvae feed on rotten wood and the adults feed on nectar, plant sap and fruit. The females, which have no horns, can lay 50 eggs on average. The males have the horns. Males can live up to 2 to 3 years. Females generally die not long after they mate.


Matthew collected several of them and will be taking them to a place called the “Bug Box” in Fredericksburg. Here they will keep them to educate children on the species. I think that it is wonderful that we were able to provide a new home for them.


All that was left after this was to grind the stumps and cut the pieces for transport. The woodcarvers that were here today are from Virginia. They will be taking most of the wood to have it milled. From there, the wood will be made into either furniture or historic pens. Part of this wood will also be going to New Jersey to another Historic Pen Company to produce more pens. These companies are doing this free of charge and will be offering these pens and items for sale later. The part of the funds from the sale of these items will be given back to Belle Grove to go into our “Restoration Fund” for our three outbuildings. One of the best parts is the woodcarvers from Virginia will be making us a small colonial table from the wood.

We have gotten a lot of comments as to why we decided to cut these trees down. Believe me, if we could have saved them, we would have. But all of them showed sights of decay. If we had left any of them, they could have fallen at any time. If the Red Maple had fallen, we could have lost two other health trees. If the mulberry tree (what we thought was a hickory) had fallen, it could have damaged this 221 year old plantation mansion. We didn’t take this decide lightly and we loved them very much.

The old mulberry tree (what we thought was a hickory) on the inside

The old mulberry tree (what we thought was a hickory) on the inside

The inside bee hive in the Red Maple

The inside bee hive in the Red Maple

The inside of the trunk of the Ash

The inside of the trunk of the Ash

So now, I am sitting here in the formal dining room trying hard to get use to the new view of the bowling green. It looks so much larger without the two trees in it. If you stand and look at the mansion from the bowling green, it also looks so much bigger. We still have all the wood sitting in piles in and around the bowling green waiting for transport. I can’t image what it is going to look like after it is clear. The Bee Keepers have left the new hive near the old bee hive in hopes the bees will move to the new. They never were able to find the queen. They said if we are lucky and because they are exposed, they might move to the new hive. We will see tomorrow when he returns.


What I do know is that I will miss that old tree. I have only been around it for two years, but with the tears I cried today, you would have thought I planted it. But with is downing, so too goes the last witness of so many years. Children coming and going, families standing in its shade, soldiers resting after a long ride, storms and years of quietly waiting for the next family. If this tree could talk, what stories it must have had to tell.

To see all the photos from today

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and see the Trees of Belle Grove Album

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History | 77 Comments »

An Exciting Day at the Plantation

Jan. 6th 2013


Yesterday, we headed back to the plantation to meet with our landscape contractor, Linda from Arrowwood Landscape Design from Fredericksburg. We need to start the work on our driveway, entry to the plantation, sidewalks, parking area and grading of the grounds.

When we arrived at the plantation, the air was cool but the sun was shining and the sky was blue. As I got out of the car, to our delight, five eagles were cruising the currents, circling over the Mansion. Of course, my small camera just couldn’t get close enough to get a good picture of them. But in the picture I did get, you can see them just over the house. It was amazing to see them.

Eagles flying over the Mansion at Belle Grove

Eagles flying over the Mansion at Belle Grove

Once Linda and her helper, Rick arrived, they got with Brett to start discussing the ins and outs of what we want for each of those areas. I wasn’t really needed to talk with them, so I left to do some walking around the grounds and taking pictures.

Brett, Linda and Rick planning the driveway and parking area

Brett, Linda and Rick planning the driveway and parking area

I wanted to show you some recent pictures of the trees we have in the Bowling Green. A lot of you made the suggestion for us to add some Magnolias. Well, we have two beautiful ones in the Bowling Green.

Hickory, Sweet Gum and Magnolia (l to r)Trees in and around the Bowling Green on the Carriage side

Hickory, Sweet Gum and Magnolia (l to r)
Trees in and around the Bowling Green on the Carriage side

Our Second Magnolia

Our Second Magnolia

We did talk about which trees we are going to remove. There are three that we feel the need to remove, possibly four. The first one is the Hickory that is located just in front of the house.

Hickory in front of the house on the Carriage side. It is within 40 - 50 feet  of the house

Hickory in front of the house on the Carriage side. It is within 40 – 50 feet of the house

Hickory in front of the house - Check out the size of this truck! It has to be 200 - 300 years old!

Hickory in front of the house – Check out the size of this truck! It has to be 200 – 300 years old!

The second is a Maple that is just behind another Maple in the center of the Bowling Green. This Maple has lost a lot of its top and is mostly a straight truck with little limbs.

The Second Maple we are going to have to remove is the second tree from the left.

The Second Maple we are going to have to remove is the third tree from the left not counting the Magnolia.

The third is the Walnut located towards the front gate entry. It has lost most of its top and sides. It also has insects in the truck eating away at it.

Walnut located just beside the front entry gate

Walnut located just beside the front entry gate

The fourth is a Sweet Gum located just to the left of one of the Magnolias. It is a really health tree, but it throws off a lot of gum balls. It’s not on the “ax list” yet, but we are talking about it. You can see it in the first picture of tree with the Hickory and Magnolia.

This is an Elm that is the first large tree you see as  you enter the gate. This old man will be staying.

This is an Elm that is the first large tree you see as you enter the gate. This old man will be staying.

This is a Holly Tree. It still has its berries on it. It will be staying too.

This is a Holly Tree. It still has its berries on it. It will be staying too.

I am not sure what kind of tree this is. Does anyone know?

I am not sure what kind of tree this is. Does anyone know? The rest of the driveway is fulled with Cedar Trees.

It has these little balls on it. I don't have a clue.

It has these little balls on it. I don’t have a clue.

One of the requirements that we are facing to get our zoning is to expand the driveway into the plantation. Currently it is 14 feet across, but the county has requested that we make it 20 feet across to allow for two car traffic. This could be an issue as there are ancient trees that have lined this drive that may have to be cut down if they are in the way of the expansion. So we needed to get out to the drive and walk it to see what might need to moved. We found that in most places we could move the drive on a slight curve to avoid cutting any of them down, with the possibility of only one that might need to go. But it isn’t looking really good so it could be a blessing.

The entry from Highway 301

The entry from Highway 301

We are also going to be required to move the entry twenty feet to the north of the curr entry to match up to the cut through on the highway. This doesn’t sound like much, but the cost could be an issue. We are also going to have to pave that entry back twenty feet. This isn’t much of an issue. The cost isn’t too bad either.

But I look at it like this. Right now, you can drive past the entry of the plantation and see the Mansion at the end clearly. If we move the drive to the north and put in the curves to make the twenty feet across, you won’t be able to see the Mansion from the road. I kind of like this. It makes it more of a “Wow” when you do come up on it.

Looking down the current driveway towards the Mansion from the entry at Highway 301 (James Madison Highway)

Looking down the current driveway towards the Mansion from the entry at Highway 301 (James Madison Highway)

While Brett, Linda and Rick walked the grounds, I kept myself busy by walking the grounds by myself. I have to say I love this time of year to walk the plantation. The grass has turned and thinned so I can see more of the ground and less of the grass. This makes it a lot easier to see artifacts laying in the grass. I have found so much so far just walking around. Yesterday was not expectation. I found two pieces of glass, one bottom piece that I think is kind of modern and one that is a lot thinner than modern glass and has writing on it. I also found another green and white plate shard. It looks like pearl ware and if it is, it could date in the late 1800s.

Bottom of a bottle artifact.

Bottom of a bottle artifact.

Bottom of a bottle artifact.- reverse side

Bottom of a bottle artifact.- reverse side

Thinner glass with writing on it - artifact

Thinner glass with writing on it – artifact

Thinner glass with writing on it - artifact - Looks like Ls or Es - I'm not sure

Thinner glass with writing on it – artifact – Looks like Ls or Es – I’m not sure

Green Plate Shard - Maybe pearlware - around late 1800s

Green Plate Shard – Maybe pearlware – around late 1800s

Green Plate Shard - Maybe pearlware - around late 1800s - reverse side

Green Plate Shard – Maybe pearlware – around late 1800s – reverse side

But the most exciting piece was my first intact piece, a bottle. Of course it does have a twist top, but it looks like a medicine bottle. Could it be from the late 1800s? Or maybe early 1900s? I will have to do some research and see. Or I might need to consult with Ferry Farm to find out. Either way, it was so cool to find it in one piece.

First intact artifact!  Bottle with screw top - Maybe early 1900s

First intact artifact! Bottle with screw top – Maybe early 1900s

First intact artifact!  Bottle with screw top - Maybe early 1900s

First intact artifact! Bottle with screw top – Maybe early 1900s

First intact artifact!  Bottle with screw top - Maybe early 1900s

First intact artifact! Bottle with screw top – Maybe early 1900s

First intact artifact!  Bottle with screw top - Maybe early 1900s

First intact artifact! Bottle with screw top – Maybe early 1900s

Another issue that I am going to have to face is the parking area. They are going to have to remove several layers of top soil to put in the gravel we are going to need for the parking area. The top soil that is removed will be moved to another area of the grounds to help fill in when it is graded. The issue that I have to face is what if there are artifacts in the ground in this area? Everyone kind of got a laugh when I said for them just to pile it up in the Bowling Green and I would sift through it all. But I am serious! I don’t want to lose anything we might find. So I guess I need to find a metal detector to start doing some sweeps in this area. Then I will have to do some test holes to see if we have anything there. Wow, I’m starting to sound like an archeologist.

Linda and Brett looking over the parking area

Linda and Brett looking over the parking area

On our way back home from the plantation, we made a stop at the House Key in Yorktown. The owners will be doing our interior design. We had stopped there a week ago and saw a bed that we were drawn to. It is a beautiful walnut bed that was from the late 1800s. But what drew us to it was the craving in the headboard. It is a Dogwood design. This is one of the interior design elements in some of the door entries. After talking with them, we placed it on hold! We are going to put this bed into one of the Junior Suites called the “Hipkins-Bernard” Room.

Bed for the Hipkins-Bernard RoomLate 1800s - Eastlake Style

Bed for the Hipkins-Bernard Room
Late 1800s – Eastlake Style

Bed for the Hipkins-Bernard RoomLate 1800s - Eastlake Style

Bed for the Hipkins-Bernard Room
Late 1800s – Eastlake Style

Bed for the Hipkins-Bernard RoomLate 1800s - Eastlake Style

Bed for the Hipkins-Bernard Room
Late 1800s – Eastlake Style

Dogwood Pattern in Head Board

Dogwood Pattern in Head Board

Dogwood Pattern in Door Frame

Dogwood Pattern in Door Frame

They were also able to show us two chairs that we really liked. One was a small love seat and the other was just a chair. Both are Victorian style and will go into a Master Suite upstairs called the “Turner” Room. Of course we will have them reupholstered to match the room. But they were great prices!

Victorian Period LoveseatRococo

Victorian Period Loveseat

Rococo Chair - Victorian Period

Rococo Chair – Victorian Period

And I think we are going to be able to get the “Wheat Back” Shield style chairs I want for the Formal Dining Room. They will need to be reproductions since we will be using them so much, but I just love this pattern and style!

Wheat Back Shield Chairs

Wheat Back Shield Chairs

Close up of the Wheat Back Design

Close up of the Wheat Back Design

This week we have a few things on our plate. Brett is meeting at the plantation on Tuesday with several people that are involved with the Zoning Approval.

I will be working on the website and getting us started on Twitter. Since we are now going to be doing a lot more things, I thought you might enjoy some up to date pictures and status of what is happening for us. If you have Twitter, please leave me your account in a comment so I can add you as a follower!

twitter logo

I am also going to look into starting a Pinterest account and a RSS feed. I am still learning how RSS works. I feel so lost with it. But give me some time to do the research, I will figure it out.



Don’t forget to submit our Cookie Recipe for the First Annual Official Cookie of Belle Grove Plantation Cookie Contest! Deadline for entries will be January 31st.

Cookie Contest 2013

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Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Darnell History | 84 Comments »