America's Best History Spotlight

On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.

Mansion at Berkeley Plantation

Berkeley Plantation, Virginia

On December 4, 1619, thirty-eight members of the Virginia Company of London settled on the north bank of the James River twenty miles north of their brethren at Jamestown. They held the first Thanksgiving that same night. Oh, yes, there's the first controversy. And it's one that Berkeley Hundred seems to have lost in the public discourse to those Pilgrims and their Thanksgiving a couple years later at Plymouth with their Indian brethren. Oh, well. Berkeley would move forward with the claim, be home, birthplace, or legacy to a few presidents (think Harrison), then play a role in the 1862 Peninsula campaign of the Civil War. Today you can visit about six hundred and fifty acres of the original eight thousand acres; the mansion has been a museum, privately run, since the 1940's. Open spring to fall. Image above: View of the front of the Berkeley Plantation mansion, 1981, Jet Lowe, Historic American Buildings Survey. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Sponsor this page for $100 per year. Your banner or text ad can fill the space above.
Click here to Sponsor the page and how to reserve your ad.

Info, What's There Now, History Nearby

Ground of the Berkeley Plantation

Berkeley Plantation, Virginia

In 1618, the Virginia Company of London gave a land grant to Sir William Throckmorton, Sir George Yeardley, George Thorpe, Richard Berkeley, and John Smyth of Nibley. The settlement would be named after Berkeley. They left Bristol, England on the ship Margaret and arrived on December 4, 1619, and were immediately instructed, "the day of our ships arrival ... shall be yearly and perpetually kept as a day of Thanksgiving." Therefore, the controversy. But the Berkeley Hundred survived in relative peace for three years until Opchanacanough, chief of the Powhatan Confederacy, decided for war against the James River settlements. Nine at Berkeley Hundred were killed with most of the remainder abandoning the settlement for Jamestown.

That would change, of course, with resettlement in 1636, becoming part of the lands of John Bland, then his son Giles. Giles chose to participate in Bacon's Rebellion; Governor William Berkeley chose to see that as treason, and thus his hanging.

Better days would come. The Harrisons, of political fame, would purchase the property in 1691, Benjamin III. He would use it as a commercial shipyard for sending tobacco to England and later, during the time of strife, the Harrison's would build eighteen warships for the Revolutionary Navy. The mansion would be built during the Harrison era, in 1726, by Benjamin Harrison IV, in its Georgian style, using bricks made on the plantation itself. The initials of Benjamin and wife Anne are over a side door on a datestone. Look for it if you visit.

Image above: Rear of the main house and two other houses on Berkeley Plantation on the rear side from the James River, 1934/1935, Albert S. Burns, Historic American Buildings Survey. Courtesy Library of Congress. Below: Front view of the Manor House, 2019, Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Manor House of the Berkeley Plantation

Where Is It

Berkeley Plantation is located on Route 5, John Tyler Memorial Highway, about twenty-five miles west of Richmond, almost equidistant from Williamsburg, which is thirty miles east on Route 5.

What is There Now

Berkeley Plantation of the Berkeley Hundred colony consists of hundreds of acres, a gift shop in an original outbuilding, house tours and grounds tours, and a museum. There is a short film and artifacts of Colonial and Civil War artifacts in the museum. They suggest at least having two hours to tour it all. Reconstructed slave cabins were added during the filming of Harriet Tubman's movie, Harriet.

There are ten acres of formal gardens, plus a picnic area for visitors.

When Open and How Much

Open year round, except deep winter months in 2022. Reopens March 19, 2022, and costs $15 for adults, and $7 for children from 6-12. Other discounts may apply.

Fees subject to change.

Berkeley Plantation

History Nearby

You're in quite close company to so many American Revolution, colonial, and Civil War sites that it's hard to choose which to highlight. But let's start with a couple nearby.

Buy Chronology

Chronology Book Ad

Great Book for the History Fan with Fifty Short Essays Telling the Story of American History.

Photos, History, and More Spotlights

Aztec Ruins

April Spotlight

Aztec Ruins National Monument, New Mexico.

Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

May Spotlight

Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, Oregon/California.

Booker T. Washington National Monument

March Spotlight