On Saturday, April 28, when gardens across Gloucester County are at the peak of springtime bloom, the Garden Club of Gloucester will offer Historic Garden Week visitors a rare glimpse into spectacular waterfront historic estates and an eight-acre teaching garden.
Step back in time and enjoy the history of the impressive homes and outbuildings featured on the 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. tour. Last open for Historic Garden Week in 1987, historic Burgh Westra on the North River, built in 1850, has been authentically restored and thought to be the oldest home in Gloucester County remaining in the original family. Open for the first time for Historic Garden Week is Glen Roy, ca. 1853, a Ware River landmark, that has been completely restored by the homeowners. Situated halfway between the two homes is Brent and Becky’s Bulbs Chesapeake Bay Friendly Teaching Gardens, a colorful eight-acre of gardens featuring a variety of themes, all designed to be friendly to the nearby Chesapeake Bay.
Burgh Westra, or “Village of the West” in Scottish, gets its name from a country house that played a central role in Sir Walter Scott’s 1821 novel, “The Pirate”. Completed in 1850 by Warner Throckmorton Taliaferro for his son, Dr. Philip Alexander Taliaferro, MD, the house sits atop a slight rise about one hundred yards from the western rim of Gloucester’s North River. Currently owned by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Marshall Boyd, Burgh Westra may be the oldest house in Gloucester remaining in its original family. Mr. Boyd, who grew up there, is the great -grandnephew of Dr. Taliaferro.
Burgh Westra was patterned after a “country cottage” designed by noted American architect Andrew Jackson Downing, who foresaw that it would sit “on the bank of one of our boldest rivers”. The house is very Scottish, in appearance as well as in name, with peaked arches above the upstairs windows, balconies on the land and river sides, as well as distinctive twin sets of three chimneys each balancing a peaked tin roof.
During the Civil War, Dr. Taliaferro was aide-de-camp to his brother, Confederate Major General William Booth Taliaferro, and when General Taliaferro was wounded in 1862, Dr. Taliaferro returned to Gloucester and turned Burgh Westra into a hospital, serving both sides. Several dead were buried in unknown graves in the yard and two unknown Confederate soldiers are buried inside the wall at nearby Ware Church.
In 1983, while Mr. Boyd’s parents were on vacation and a house sitter was away at work, the house caught fire and burned, leaving only a portion of the interior, the two-foot thick brick walls, and the twin chimneys. Mr. and Mrs. Boyd have painstakingly restored Burgh Westra, in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, and it is now virtually identical to the original.
Burgh Westra is a Virginia Historic Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Chesapeake Bay Friendly Teaching Garden
Located at the entrance to Ware Neck, this 18-acre site, once a cornfield, is now the home of an eight-acre public teaching garden. The garden has been a long-time dream of Becky Heath, co-owner of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. Using Becky’s original ideas for the overall idea and design, landscape designer, George McLellan, implemented her dream with his own creative flair, making the extensive gardens what they are today.
Colorful themed gardens that will be available for viewing are: a knot garden, a heritage garden, a rock garden complete with spectacular waterfall, a bird and butterfly garden, a native garden, a winter garden with year-round color, and the Drainfield Garden. The plantings incorporate bulbs, perennials, annuals, biennials, flowering trees and shrubs and showcase bay-friendly gardening. Guests can take a seat under the umbrellas in the courtyard garden to admire the raised bed gardens filled with tulips and daffodils or stroll the gardens to gather ideas and inspiration for their own landscape.
The importance of compost, drainage and light are topics that docents will share with visitors. Garden clubs, birding and photography groups as well as other organizations and school field trips utilize the gardens and meet in their newly built Chesapeake Lounge event room located in the garden.
Garden Club of Gloucester members will serve refreshments from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.
There will be no parking at homes. Shuttles will originate from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs parking lot, 7900 Daffodil Lane, Gloucester.
Glen Roy was constructed in 1853 by William Patterson Smith. Since then, the Georgian style house has retained all of its significant interior and exterior features, as well as its original footprint. The most notable extant elements include twenty-six large windows with original glass, heavy paneled doors, Greco-Egypto millwork, heart pine floors, elaborate plaster moldings and twelve fireplaces. With fifteen foot ceilings and a stunning staircase that spirals through three floors to a skylight and widows walk, the house is light-filled with an expansive feel.
Architect Jay Smith and art historian Miranda McClintic completed a comprehensive restoration of the derelict house in 2010, with the help of contractor Kerry Shackleford of Museum Resources in Williamsburg. Their goal was to simultaneously preserve and enhance the distinctive character of the historic structure, while incorporating the mechanical and technological necessities of a luxurious 21st century life.
To this end, one bedroom was ingeniously adapted to contain a bedroom, two bathrooms, and two closets, while a hallway became another bedroom suite, all without altering any extant walls or window openings. Downstairs, facing the Ware River, the original front porch is now a spacious conservatory. The professional kitchen, painted pink to match the original plaster finish, is aesthetically compatible with a house that is 159 years old.
Originally a land grant of 600 acres from Charles I in 1615, this property has sweeping lawns, fields and woods. Supporting the main house is a late 18th century doctor’s office that now contains a library, a late 19th century carriage house that has been converted into a guesthouse, and a new garage with an apartment suite above. A picturesque barn, damaged by the 2011 tornado, is the most impressive of the outbuildings. One of the few pre-Civil War barns in Gloucester County, this impressive structure was left untouched after Union soldiers burned ten others barns on the property during the 1864 Battle of Glen Roy.
Tickets and Lunches
Advance Tickets $25 at Twice Told Tales, Gloucester, and Green Gates Gifts, Gloucester Point, at the Historic Garden Week Daffodil Festival Booth on March 24-25, on the website: www.VAGardenweek.org, or send a check to Jaye DuPaul, P.O. Box 42, Ware Neck, VA 23178 plus $1.50 for postage by April 10. On the day of the tour, tickets are available for $30 at Edge Hill House, 6805 Main Street, or at the homes and the garden on tour. Single home or garden is $15. Children under 5 are free and children ages 6 to 12 are $12.
Lunch will be available for $15 at Abingdon Episcopal Church, 4645 George Washington Memorial Hwy, by reservation only. Contact LeAnn Shelton at (804) 693-3035 or firstname.lastname@example.org. In celebration of Historic Garden Week, the church will have a flower show in the church nave and a Spring Festival. The Men’s Club will be hosting an art show and sale of original works by local artists. Church members will be on hand for tours and children’s games.
Ticket price also includes admission to
Edge Hill House, 6805 Main Street. Formerly known as Long Bridge Ordinary, Edge Hill is headquarters for the tour and home of the Gloucester Woman’s Club.
Abingdon Episcopal Church, 4645 George Washington Memorial Hwy. Abingdon, one of Gloucester’s four colonial parishes, was established circa 1652, and is a rare cruciform (Latin Cross) colonial church.
Zion Poplars Baptist Church, 7000 T.C. Walker Road. Established in 1886, Zion Poplars Baptist Church is one of the oldest independent African American congregations in Gloucester County. Open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Rosewell Plantation Ruins, 5113 Old Rosewell Road. Built in 1725 by Mann Page, Rosewell was the birthplace of Virginia Governor John Page and was an architectural inspiration to Thomas Jefferson, who often visited. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Walter Reed’s Birthplace, 4021 Hickory Fork Road. Dr. Walter Reed, who discovered the cure for yellow fever, was born in this small house. His family lived here during their first year in Gloucester. Owned by Preservation Virginia. Open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Other places of
Gloucester Village. The center of a thriving village since colonial times, the buildings of the Court Circle have been preserved within this classic example of an early Virginia government seat. The Main Street of charming stores, art galleries and eateries has been revitalized and attractively landscaped.
Gloucester Museum of History, 6539 Main Street. Housed in the Botetourt Building, a pre-Revolutionary brick ordinary, the Museum has rotating exhibits. The building is named for Lord Botetourt, colonial governor of Virginia. Open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Nuttall Country Store in Ware Neck. Located 1.6 miles from Glen Roy Lane, is a local and national treasure. Open continuously since 1877, this authentic country store serves as a grocery store, gourmet shop, post office, lending library, wine shop, and community gathering place. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Ware Episcopal Church, 7825 John Clayton Highway. Ware Parish, one of Gloucester’s four colonial parishes, was established circa 1652. Open for tours.