Throughout our tour of four riverfront homes on the Westover Autumn Pilgrimage
the other weekend, I longed to be able to show them to Ellen and the rest of the posse from the James River side. Three of these home I knew from the waterside as a result of prior trips along this historic waterway. The fourth, though clearly visible from the river, had not previously caught my eye due to other scenery and navigation duties.
When this past weekend provided the perfect weather for a final trip along the James for the season, I persuaded the Hub to take me for a ride. I wanted to bring you all along, but our little bow-rider doesn’t hold that many. I hope these pictures make up (at least a little) for leaving you behind.
Beginning at Jordan’s Point in Hopewell (marked “A” on the map), we headed east. It doesn’t take very long to spot the chimneys at
Berkeley Plantation “B”.
Though the Yankees burned all of Berkeley’s trees as firewood during their long encampment on this historic property, you would never know it from the heavily wooded property
that it is today. In addition to the chimneys that you spy heading east, if you get up close
you can just see Berkeley’s river-facing door (the bit of white in the center of the gravel path). Whenever we pass this home, I am fascinated to think of the historic figures who strode up that very path from the river bank to visit the Harrison family.
Not too far down the James from Berkeley
lies the incomparable
Westover Plantation “C”.
As it slowly reveals itself,
you begin to get a sense of why countless architecture students across the country study this amazing structure.
Stunning in every respect,
it takes my breathe away every time I am fortunate enough
to lay eyes on it.
By land or by river, it is a bit of a ride through more heavily wooded lands to the surprising
Upper Weyanoke “D”.
The original garrison house from the 1600’s (the only one still standing after many were built in response to the Indian uprisings of 1622) sits in the middle of the residence. It’s the part with the two white dormers. This comfortable family home has all of the amenities
that you could desire on a beautiful piece of land facing west toward Westover.
Heading south around the bend, you pass Upper Weyanoke’s lovely neighbor, Weyanoke
and its many dependencies, including this cute caboose
and Weyanoke Point
to our final destination,
Milton on the James “E”.
While its Lowcountry-inspired pavilions (garçonnières), pool and landscape are still being completed, you get a sense of the beauty, symmetry and serenity that this east-facing
estate offers. Though work still continues, the Tylers enjoy a comfortable home set in the heart of the historic James River watershed.
It is hard to convey how peaceful this river, the cradle of American civilization, still is. When I am on this part of the James, I cannot help but imagine John Smith and Pocahontas exploring these same waters. We spent less than three hours cruising along this waterway and saw only a handful of other boats. During the week, barges trudge up and down the James bringing goods to the Port of Richmond and returning loaded down to Norfolk. Early mornings likely see fishermen, but its wide banks leave plenty of room for all.
The James River is a treasure, as are on the homes upon it. Fortunate are those who inhabit them, whether grand or just simply containing the water-views and wooded shores. I feel privileged to get the occasional chance to catch a glimpse of the beauty and history that resides here. While my pictures cannot do justice to it all, maybe you can get a sense of the man-made and natural wonders that grace the banks of the James River in Charles City County.
October 10, 2013