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History and heritage of Southern Albemarle featured in Historic Garden Week Tour

Each one of the three properties that comprise the this aspect of the 81st annual Historic Garden Week tour, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is part of the Southern Albemarle Rural Historic District. Among the properties featured is Redlands, also listed on the Virginia Historic Landmarks Register as "one of the Commonwealth's most important Federal period landmarks." The 680-acre property, was one of four that the Carter family descendants (presently Dr. Robert Carter and his brothers Andrew and John) have held since before Jefferson's time, and which have not changed – other than the access road – since then; affording views from the front porch over the gamboling foothills of the Southwest mountains, all the way to the Blue Ridge.

Featuring two private homes, Redlands (c. 1789), and Esmont, (c. 1816) and the historic Bellair Farm, this Garden Week tour highlights the history and the agrarian heritage of the Southern Albemarle Rural Historic District.
Historic Garden Week
The history and heritage of Southern Albemarle to be featured in the 81st Historic Garden Week Tour: features two private homes, Redlands c. 1789, and Esmont, c. 1816, and Bellair Farm.  
The Garden Club of Virginia

Recently protected – with assistance from the Piedmont Environmental Council – to connect with additional conservation lands from other members of the Carter family in a block of 2,700 acres on both sides of Rt. 20, as a Virginia Scenic Byway, with nearly four miles of frontage on the Hardware River and it's tributaries, yielding a total of 17,000 protected acres comprising the Southern Albemarle Rural Historic District. The majority of Redlands is forested, with pastures and fields where hay is in production, with a few relatively small vineyards operating with wholly sustainable practices to protect the properties in a way that would allow for their economic viability, ensuring that their descendants could maintain the assets for coming generations. Carol Carter explained in a PEC newsletter:

"The conservation of wildlife is important and we are also very interested in conserving the integrity of the land itself, protecting the soil, and preventing erosion and stream problems. … You don't want a wonderful family home to become a burden."

Another tour will feature The Bellair Farm owned by Cynthia Davis and her family for over 35 years, which has been a working farm since the 17th Century, and is now a Community Sustained Agriculture endeavor (also known as a CSA) that is managed by Jamie Barrett using organic standards, providing approximately 360 pounds of produce for each shareholder annually, from up to 20 different types of vegetables each week:

“CSA Programs allow members of the community to participate in the support of, and directly benefit from, local farms by purchasing shares of crops to be grown that year. It benefits both the farm and the community as the person purchasing the share in advance gets the produce at about half of the market price. It benefits the farm by allowing them to have monetary resources when they most need them - in the spring when farmers must buy seeds and equipment for the coming season - without having borrow money from lenders. The community benefits by having a direct connection to a local food source, maintaining agricultural land and otherwise providing for a more stable and sustainable local economy.”

Bellair farm was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, having been built by the Reverend Charles Wingfield, Jr. (who also served as Magistrate and Sheriff of Albemarle), some time between 1794 and 1817. The Reverend officiated at the funeral of Jefferson’s younger sister, Martha Jefferson Carr, who died at the age of 71, in 1811.

In 1843, another cleric, the Reverend Walker Timberlake, ran a mill on the property, which was dismantled in 1962 and has served since that time as the ‘Old Mill Room’ at the Boars Head Inn. It is the farm itself that is highlighted for this tour. Ms. Davis and her family have owned the farm for over thirty years, which she describes as follows:

“The buildings on Bellair farm center around the two-story frame main house, which overlooks the Hardware river and the Green Mountains in the distance. The main house was built at the turn of the 19th century in the Federal architectural style with additions made in the 1930s and 1960s in the Colonial Revival style. To Western side of the house is a mid-nineteenth century guest cottage, which may have been Reverend Timberlake’s office. To the Eastern side of the house are a cluster of three buildings, a 1930s guesthouse, a mid-nineteenth-century pyramidal-roofed smokehouse, and an early-twentieth-century overseer’s house. Also on the Eastern side is the Timberlake family cemetery where Reverend Walker Timberlake (1781-1863) is buried alongside his family.”

The culturally-rich heritage of the Jeffersonian era, as well as his influence on the architectural features of the time, are also reflected at Esmont, which has been very meticulously restored but retaining many of the original details, with what has been described in the HGW Guidebook as “an exquisitely decorated interior.”

A number of sites at the University of Virginia also will open to visitors on Tuesday, April 29, without charge to the public, including tours of the West Lawn Pavilions, Carr's Hill, Morea Garden and Arboretum and the Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections Library. The Guidebook further notes:

Parish volunteers at Christ Episcopal Church Glendower, c. 1832, will also welcome visitors on tour days. Following annual tradition, Morven Estate and Gardens will be on tour on Saturday, April 26. Morven was open for the first Historic Garden Week in Virginia in 1929, and was the birthplace for the Albemarle Garden Club. A separate fee is charged for admission.

Martha Wertz, a member of the Rivanna Garden Club, describes this property at the HGW website as follows:

“The three-story brick manor house at Morven was built c. 1820 in the late-Georgian/Federal Style by builder Martin Thacker for David Higginbotham, a local merchant. Its 19th century ambiance remains even after 20th century additions and interior renovations. The first floor is on tour. The land was part of the original 1730 Carter family land grant and was known to Thomas Jefferson as “Indian Camp,” which he purchased for his “adoptive son,” Col. William Short in 1795, and in turn sold to David Higginbotham in 1813.”

On Tuesday, April 29, Monticello -- the home of Thomas Jefferson, located at 931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway -- will feature a talk at 10 a.m., by Gabriele Rausse Director of Gardens and Grounds, entitled “Thomas Jefferson’s Fruit and Vegetable Gardens at Monticello,” which will include ongoing efforts to restore and to preserve Jefferson's horticultural legacy which was begun by longtime Director Peter Hatch, whose book “A Rich Spot of Earth: Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello,” was honored with an award in the Spring of last year by the American Horticultural Society.

Later in the day, at 2 p.m., Peggy Cornett, longtime Curator of Plants with provide another talk - “Historic Plants at Monticello,” focusing on Jefferson’s flower gardens and exploring the various plants that define the horticultural heritage at Jefferson's mountaintop community. A tour of the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants’ nursery at Tufton Farm follows this event, and plants will be available for sale, with a 10% on all purchases, with a HGW ticket.

Both events are Free, but advance registration is required.

For more information or to register for these events, call (434) 984-9880, or visit Monticello's Garden Week website. The Albemarle-Charlottesville tour is sponsored by the Albemarle Garden Club, the Charlottesville Garden Club and the Rivanna Garden Club. For additional information see the Historic Virginia Garden Week's website.

There is also a very nice museum in the early county seat of Albemarle, located in Scottsville, Virginia, open from 10:00 am - 5:00 pm on Saturdays, April through October; and from 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm on Sundays, April through October. The Scottsville Museum is also open on Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day and by appointment. Admission is free. Although the Museum in not handicap-accessible, there is a great deal of information of interest at their website, and an outdoor Transportation History Park is accessible, which features extensive information year-round, relating to the history of Scottsville and the importance of the James River:

"Originally known as Scott's Landing, the town served as a local ferry crossing and a river port for bateaux transportation on the James River. Bateaux, flat-bottomed boats laden with tobacco hogsheads, floated down the James to Richmond and returned with French and English imports, furniture, dishes, and clothing. Between 1744 and 1762, Scott's Landing enjoyed the role of legal, commercial, and social center of Albemarle County, even serving as its county seat before the General Assembly divided up the county and relocated its county seat to Charlottesville."

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