Sherwood Forest Plantation, home of 10th United States President John Tyler (1841-1845) from 1842 until his death in 1862, is America’s longest frame house of its age. Sherwood Forest is the only 19th century presidential home to have been continuously occupied by members of the President’s family. The plantation, first recorded in a 1616 land grant, was originally known as Smith’s Hundred. The house, circa 1720, is a classic example of Virginia Tidewater design: big house, little house, colonnade, and kitchen.
The President and his wife, Julia Gardiner of Gardiner’s Island, New York, expanded the house to its present length of 301 feet in 1845 with the addition of a 68-foot ballroom designed to accommodate the popular dance of his time, the Virginia Reel. Greek Revival features added to the exterior of the house include the porches and columns, and to the interior include cornices, pilasters and ornament inspired by plates 9 and 10 of New York architect Minard LaFever’s The Beauties of Modern Architecture. Sherwood Forest is only one room deep throughout its length and contains 18 rooms and 7 sets of stairs.
The Big House is furnished with family heirlooms, silver, porcelain, paintings and antique furniture. A few of the pieces in the home were used in the White House by President Tyler and his wife and were brought to Sherwood Forest after the President’s term in office. Some pieces are original to the era President and Mrs. Tyler lived in the home, and others are from Mulberry Hill Plantation, the South Carolina family home of Mrs. Harrison Ruffin Tyler. There are nearly twenty oil portraits of family members past and present on display in rooms toured by the public. The Gray Lady is a ghost who has been heard rocking in the Gray Room for more than 200 years.
Sherwood Forest is considered one of the most complete plantation yards still in existence in America with outbuildings, or dependencies, dating to ca. 1680. They include a tobacco barn, milk house, and smoke house among others. The 25 acres of grounds include centuries-old trees, terraced gardens and lawn based on the landscape designs of Andrew Jackson Downing of New York. Wounded Union soldiers received treatment on the terraces and in the formal garden, which was partially destroyed by troops during the Civil War.
National Historic Landmark
National Register of Historic Places
Virginia Historic Landmark
Civil War Trails site
Virginia Birding & Wildlife Trail site
Grounds open daily for self-guided tours
House tours by appointment only