Tuesday, July 25, 2017  


Historic Garden Week: Williamsburg


The Williamsburg Garden Club’s 79th annual Historic Garden Week Tour will contribute to Williamsburg’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War by highlighting tour properties that have important Civil War history.


Significant Civil War properties in the Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area and on the Campus of the College of William and Mary are the focus of this walking tour. The second half of the tour highlights the neighborhood west of the campus. Developed in the mid-1960s as a residential community by the Savage and Cocke families, the original neighborhood consisted of 24 lots ranging in size from three-quarter to one-and-three- quarter acres. The location gave residents proximity to the College of William and Mary and Colonial Williamsburg with the opportunity to site homes in a wooded landscape. Many original homeowners still reside in the houses they built nearly 40 years ago.
Visitors will find nine properties are divided into three convenient touring sections. Within each section, the homes and gardens are a short walk from each other.

House and the Tour Section One is located at the East end of Duke of Gloucester Street in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area near the Capitol building and includes Bassett Hall, the Coke-Garrett and the Palmer House.

Bassett Hall, 522 E. Francis St.

Located near the Capitol, this two-story 18th century frame house set off by gardens and original outbuildings was the Williamsburg home of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. for many years. Philip Johnson, a House of Burgess member, constructed the house before 1766. Martha Washington’s nephew, Burwell Bassett, purchased the home in 1800. He was a Virginia legislator and congressman. Union Lieutenant George Armstrong Custer was a guest in the house following the Civil War Battle of Williamsburg. Custer was best man at the wedding of his West Point classmate John W. Lea, a Confederate officer. Lea, wounded during the 1862 Battle of Williamsburg, had become engaged to one of the daughters of Col. Goodrich Durfey, owner of the property at that time. Bequeathed to Colonial Williamsburg in 1979, the house and most of the furnishings, including many examples of Mrs. Rockefeller’s American folk art collection, remain much as it was when the Rockefellers furnished it in the mid-1930s. This gift included 585 acres of woodlands and gardens that bloom in the spring and fall. As requested by the family, the house was opened to the public in 1980. Opened for Historic Garden Week for the first time since 1961. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Coke-Garrett House, 465 E. Nicholson St.

This house represents the continuous development of the site over two centuries. Tavern keeper and goldsmith John Coke built the story-and-a-half house between 1755 and 1767. Richard Garrett purchased the property in 1810 and after the Revolutionary War he erected the detached brick office with the gable-fronted appearance of a small classical temple. Records suggest his son, physician Dr. Robert M. Garrett, built the Greek Revival two-story center addition in 1837. Soon thereafter, he added the story-and-a half east wing by moving an 18th century house to the site. After the Battle of Williamsburg, Dr. Garrett used the house and lawn as a hospital to treat wounded soldiers from both sides. Beautifully painted false-grained doors, dark green shutters and enlarged gardens are among the changes to the exterior. The interior features reproduction and antique furnishings from the Colonial Williamsburg collection along with document textiles and accessories, many also from the collection. Outbuildings include a kitchen, smokehouse, dairy, well house and privy. Evergreens, nut trees and old boxwood enclose the area behind the Coke-Garrett House and lead to a flower border on the lower garden level. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Palmer House
430 E. Duke of Gloucester St.

“I have taken possession of a fine old house which [Confederate General] Joe Johnston occupied as headquarters. It has a lovely garden and conservatory,” penned Union General George B. McClellan of the Palmer House following of the Battle of Williamsburg in May 1862. The home served as McClellan’s headquarters for two days and previously had been the headquarters of Confederate Gen. Joseph. E. Johnston and John B. Magruder. Then known as the Vest Mansion, the building was nearly double its present size. Today the home is known for the apples that nestle in the “put-log holes” in its brick façade at Christmastime. Heart pine floors and walls are original. The interior paint color is called Palmer House Green. Corner fireplaces anchor the Tavern Room and the master bedroom above. The spacious rooms are personalized by family heirlooms such as framed shopping lists created by a great grandfather, a Shenandoah Valley blanket chest, an American-made grandfather clock and a cherry rocking chair. Floor cloths and maps lend warmth and interest. A formal knot garden and Magnolia Grandiflora lure visitors to the backyard. Patricia Ferguson and Robin Reed.
Tour Section Two features an escorted or self-guided tour of the College of William and Mary gardens, important trees and Civil War history. Visitors will tour the Sir Christopher Wren Building and the President’s House.

President’s House at the College of
William and Mary, 102 Richmond Road.

This stately Georgian dwelling is the oldest official residence for a college president in the United States and has been home to 26 of the college’s 27 presidents. Completed in 1733, it has survived two wars, several fires and occupation by military forces. The exterior is largely original, with exceptionally beautiful Flemish Bond brickwork that has been copied throughout the college campus. The house was restored to its colonial appearance in 1931 as part of the Rockefeller restoration of Williamsburg. It is furnished with 18th-century English and American furniture and decorative arts, all gifts to the college. An important collection of colonial portraits of the Blair, Page and Randolph families is displayed in the first-floor rooms. During the Federal occupation of Williamsburg, a local family lived in the President’s House, and the walls of the building were incorporated into a line of defensive works that separated Union-held Williamsburg and the lower peninsula from the Confederacy to the west. During Reconstruction, Federal troops used the house as their headquarters. The President’s House and the adjacent boxwood garden are open for Historic Garden Week by President and Mrs. W. Taylor Reveley III.

Sir Christopher Wren Building, corner of Richmond and Jamestown Roads

At the time of the Civil War, the College Yard, with its three buildings composed the main campus of William and Mary. Classes were suspended in May 1861, as the faculty and students left for the war. College President Benjamin Stoddert Ewell, although personally opposed to secession, took command of the local militia company, the Williamsburg Junior Guard, and later was selected to command the newly formed 32nd Virginia Infantry Regiment as a colonel. The Wren Building was used initially as a barracks for Confederate soldiers in Williamsburg, and later as a hospital for the sick and wounded. The college grounds were used as a staging area before the Battle of Williamsburg on May 5, 1862, and the campus witnessed the Confederate retreat toward Richmond that night. Claiming the building was being used by Confederate snipers, members of the Fifth Pennsylvania Cavalry tried to burn the Wren Building on September 8, 1862, but townspeople rallied to put out the fire. The next morning a detachment of Confederate cavalry swept into town, driving off the garrison and capturing its commander. Within several hours the raiders had left, and the defeated garrison returned. Agitated by their defeat, the troops again set fire to the building. It was the third devastating fire in the building’s history and left the structure gutted. College of William and Mary.
West of campus visitors will enjoy three additional properties in Tour Section 3.

The Gillman Home, 601 Richmond Rd.

When the Gillmans purchased this 1929 residence, once a boarding house, they immediately recognized its pedigreed architecture. In 2006, they began transforming it into a modern home with reminders of an earlier era. The home is filled with colorful artwork and natural light from the original oversized windows. Through the arched entry, the stairway’s unique landing is home to one of the owner’s favorite paintings, completed by artist Alexandra Nechita (“Petite Picasso”) at age 16. The home’s kitchen is sleek and features a granite-topped island and spacious dining area with open views of the old brick ice house, boxwood in stacked stone beds, and the garden arbor draped with yellow jasmine. The second-floor landing has original built-ins and a window seat. Refinished original pine floors add richness to the rooms. The dormered ceilings of the bedroom, sitting room and bathroom on the third floor are all painted sky blue, imparting an ethereal feel. Visitors will enjoy views from the third-story rooftop deck. Open for the first time for Historic Garden Week. Cindy and Tom Gillman, owners.

The Hertzler-George Garden,
605 College Terrace.

Starting with a front yard of clay and weeds, Joe and Linda George Hertzler created a colonial-style garden so beautiful it was featured in the August 2010 issue of Better Homes and Gardens. Inspired by Linda’s love of Colonial Williamsburg gardens, particularly those behind Kings Arms Tavern, it is situated in front of their colonial-revival home. A riotous mix of vegetables, herbs and flowers, the garden receives abundant sunlight and is a treat for passers-by. An entrance walkway of blue stone and flagstone and a street arbor laden with jasmine and honeysuckle welcome guests. Defined by a traditional white picket fence, the garden’s brick walkways meander through tomato, squash and pepper plants. Also serving as a natural habitat, the garden’s giant zinnias hold seeds for goldfinches, while mint attracts pollinating bees, and dill provides a haven for swallowtail butterflies to lay eggs. Open for the first time for Historic Garden Week. Joe and Linda George Hertzler, owners. Also owners of Hertzler & George landscape company in Williamsburg and Scapezilla.com.

The Steele Home and Garden,
203 Harrison Avenue.

Nestled beneath a pair of water oak trees, this chalet-style cottage built in 1920 was one of the first homes built west of the William and Mary campus. The present owner purchased it in 2006 and began a renovation that preserved original elements while creating a masculine refuge. In the dining room, a reclaimed barn wood table and Ashlen Windsor chairs are a counterpoint to the intricately carved pine corner cupboard beneath an oversized chandelier. The butler’s pantry with granite counters and original pine floors provides passage to the renovated kitchen. The nearby planting room welcomes natural light for its pots of thriving herbs. A Thomas O’Brien reproduction bed with embossed leather headboard occupies the upstairs master. The guest room and office feature original light fixtures. The bathrooms are totally renovated, one with a honed Carerra marble floor laid in a basketweave pattern. The original owner, a Colonial Williamsburg groundskeeper, planted boxwood, camellias, azaleas and crepe myrtles that remain and have matured in the backyard gardens. This cottage is as bold and modern as it is classic and comfortable. Open for the first time for Historic Garden Week. Joseph Steele III, owner.

Tickets and Lunches

The tour date is Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Tickets are $25 if paid in advance (see payment information below) or $30 at the tour properties. Visitors can also purchase tour tickets at the Colonial Williamsburg Regional Visitor
Center, and the ticket serves as a Colonial Williamsburg bus pass for the day.
Two lunch options are $15 and available at the Williamsburg Hospitality House on Richmond Road near Tour Sections 2 and 3, and must be reserved and paid in advance. Choices are a
box lunch (for eat in or take out) containing a chicken salad sandwich with accompaniments or a plated lunch of Virginia ham rolls and accompaniments. Advanced tour tickets and
payments for lunches can be reserved by contacting Cathy
Adams, 217 Southpoint Drive, Williamsburg, VA 23185,
757 220-2486 or cbtbka@cox.net. For more information please visit, www.vagardenweek.org or our Facebook page, Historic Garden Week in Williamsburg.