Shirley Plantation is Virginia’s first plantation (1613) and one of the first economic engines of the new world. Shirley Plantation is the oldest family-owned business in North America dating back to 1638. In 1651 Edward Hill added Shirley Plantation to his nearby holdings. The present mansion was begun in 1723 when Elizabeth Hill, great-grand daughter of the first Hill, married John Carter, eldest son of Robert “King” Carter. Completed in 1738, the mansion is largely in its original state and is owned, operated, and lived in by direct descendants of Edward Hill.
Shirley has survived despite war coming to its door. During the American Revolution, Shirley Plantation served as a listening post and supply depot for the Continental Army. When the plantation became a Civil War field hospital for the Union army, the mansion was spared destruction by Federal forces for the care given to wounded soldiers by the Carter family. The mother of Confederate General Robert I. Lee, Ann Hill Carter, was born at Shirley and in 1793 married Henry “Light-Horse” Lee, III in the mansion’s parlor.
The mansion is recognized as an architectural treasure. A guided tour of the main floor features original 18th-century hand-carved woodwork, family portraits, silver, and original furnishings. The square rigged, “flying” staircase rises three stories with no visible means of support. Gardens, eight original outbuildings and majestic views of the James River are included on the self-guided grounds tour.
Today, Shirley continues to be a working plantation, a private family home, a growing business, a National Historic Landmark, and a direct link between the past and present. Specialty gift shop. Shirley Plantation is open year-round, seven days a week.
Hours: 9:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. every day.