So many locals make the mistake of never visiting historic landmarks in their hometowns. But sometimes, you stumble upon a gem – a place that surprises you and offers a unique glimpse into the long and complex history of a place, and even of the country, that you just can’t pass up the opportunity.
One such place is Berkeley Plantation in Charles City, just 40 minutes outside of Richmond. It has been described by guests as “a hidden treasure,” a place where history “comes alive.” The magnificently restored property sits on the bank of the James River, with a three-story mansion and sprawling grounds and gardens.
Here, you step back in time as tour guides in period costumes welcome you to the estate. They take you through the historic events that took place in this space — from the first official Thanksgiving and the birth of a man who would be among those who signed the Declaration of Independence to the occupation by Union troops during the Civil War, the composition of “Taps” and Berkeley’s own winding journey to its restoration.
It came to the ownership of the Jamieson family though their patriarch John, who had served as a drummer boy in the Union army and had once encamped at Berkeley. Decades later, he chanced upon the notice of sale and purchased the property with the vision of someday restoring it.
This landmark boasts of a deep connection not only to Virginia’s past, but also to its present community and future development. And while people come from far and wide to visit Berkeley, the local community has a special place in their heart.
Its current owner is John’s grandson Jamie, who grew up on the property and desires to continue a close relationship with Berkeley’s neighbors and friends. This includes offering free admission to Charles City residents, offering progressive tours with nearby Shirley and Edgewood Plantations, working with volunteers to help guests with research and partnering with the Chickahominy Tribe to mount the annual Virginia Thanksgiving Festival, which they have done for the past 50 years.
Each season brings a slew of exciting events. Every Tuesday from June through August, children 16 and younger are admitted for free. There are also Nature Hunts across the grounds and along the James for families, space for picnics, a chance to “meet” historic figures who’ve graced Berkeley, a corn maze and pumpkin patch in the fall, seasonal special rates for homeschooling families, ghost tours at Halloween, Christmas events and workshops, and much more — catering to visitors from all walks of life and all corners of the globe (including your favorite four-legged friends).
How many slow Saturdays have you spent looking for something fun, new and interesting to do? For a short drive and a small fee, you will find, as John Jamieson did, that Berkeley is not only a place worth visiting, but one that is worth returning to.
Berkeley Plantation is open daily. For more information, visit BerkeleyPlantation.com or call 804-829-6018.