Archive for the ‘Virginia History’ Category

“Living a Modern Life with History” Symposium At Ker Place Museum In Onancock, VA October 19-21, 2012

Friday, December 21st, 2012

My grandson Charlie Morgan attended a week of history camp at Ker Place, the headquarters of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society.

Presented by the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society, http://www.kerplace.org the seventy attendees at the historic Ker Place Museum in Onancock, Virginia had the opportunity to tour spectacular Eastern Shore historic  homes, enjoy a gourmet dinner in an early 18th century home  and gather the wisdom of eight nationally acclaimed experts on diverse subjects related to the historical theme of this symposium.  Friday, the first day  of the symposium, was dedicated to touring five of  Virginia Eastern Shore’s very special Chesapeake Bay area homes, both historic  and new, to see the many different ways that folks live a modern life with history. Emphasis was placed on architectural features and their preservation and restoration, the interior design components that showcase their owners’  lifestyles  and the landscaping that enhances the exterior features of the homes and environment. After a full day of lectures from the experts on Saturday, the attendees were treated to dinner at Vaux Hall (cir. 1710) located on Warehouse Creek, a colorful saltwater  inlet from the Chesapeake Bay,  only a few miles outside the historic town of Onancock. This early Georgian colonial home is believed to be the oldest two-story residence on the Eastern Shore and features beautifully preserved wood paneling, moldings, doors and heart-pine floors. On Sunday, the program finished with three more lectures of very special interest.  To see a full program of this wonderfully educational event go to http://www.kerplace.org/symposium.pdf .  The Eastern Shore of Virginia has many properties with 17th and 18th century homes,  some with accessory buildings that date as  far back as the 1670’s, and many more homes dating from the 19th and early 20th century. With such a rich collection of historic homes in our relatively small geographical area, a peninsula which  is literally surrounded by water,  it is indeed fortunate that we have a historical society so dedicated towards education and appreciation of our heritage.  Anyone who loves the Eastern Shore,  residents and visitors alike,  should not pass up the opportunity to tour the amazing Ker Place Museum in Onancock,  headquarters of the Eastern Shore Historical Society.

Although I was unable to attend the symposium’s  house tour and dinner, I made an effort to attend several  of the lectures on both Saturday and Sunday. As a REALTOR who has had the privilege of handling the sale and restoration of dozens of historic homes,  I wanted to expand my knowledge base to better help me serve my clients and customers, and ultimately the unique historic properties I represent. In particular, I wanted to gain a better understanding of the history and architecture of a historic  home  that Blue Heron Realty Co. has listed  for sale  located  on sixty acres of land near Machipongo, Virginia.  This property,  known as “Prospect Hill”,  is only a few miles from my own home on the Eastern Shore.   In its heyday, it was once a thriving farm and the grand old  house, believed to be circa 1790-1820,  offers great promise for restoration and renovation to bring it up to 21st century standards. If this old house could talk, what would she say?  I have many questions for her and would love to share the answers with a prospective buyer who has to consider restoring and then living in this old house. ( To see details and photos of this property visit  www.blueheronva.com/historic_real_estate/ and look for “Prospect Hill.”

"Prospect Hill" cir. 1790 awaits a new owner who will love and cherish her wonderful, charming heritage.

The first lecture I attended was a talk by Matthew Webster, the Director of Historic Architectural Resources of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. He emphasized methods for indentifying the signs that reveal the architectural history of old buildings, a subject that interested me hugely. He spoke about examining the wood framing for saw marks, checking the joinery of posts and beams, looking for different layers of paint, identifying the fastenings of the structure such as nails, dating the types of windows, and determining the type and bonds of brick masonry. Also, he gave a study of different types of houses according to the time period of their construction which would be exemplified by certain styles of architecture such as Georgian 1720-1780, Federal 1780-1820 and Greek Revival 1820-1850. Accompanying his lecture with projected photographs, he distinctly pointed out the different characteristics of which he spoke.

The second lecture was given by Chris Ohrstrom, a founder and co-owner of Adelphi Paper Hangings, LLC. They specialize in reproducing antique wall papers and he gave a wonderful illustrated talk about their special process that revives the old tools and craftsmanship of the industry from the 18th and 19th centuries. I was mesmerized by the old techniques, his descriptions of their factories and tooling, and the examples of wallpapers his firm manufactures. I learned that wallpapers were meant to be only a shortlived wallcovering that imitated much more expensive wall decorations.

On Sunday, I was glad to hear the talk given by Ken Farmer, well-known antiques appraiser from the PBS series “Antiques Roadshow”,  who has been collecting and selling the finest antiques from his shops in Radford and Charlottesville, Virginia. The gist of his remarks centered around the theme of “antiques are the epitomy of green – recycling”,   informing his audience about how to find, evaluate, and purchase antiques. I learned that oftentimes one can purchase better quality used furniture while avoiding the higher cost of good quality reproductions that have a lower value.

The second lecture that Sunday was given by Jeffrey Price, the director of Sales and Marketing for Virginia Lime Works. His company specializes in reproducing mortars for the restoration of aged masonry construction, especially from the 18th and 19th centuries. His slide show presentation demonstrated the old techniques for making lime as well as how old handmade bricks can be damaged by the use of modern mortars, a risk that never occurred to me when I have examined restored colonial brickwork.

The final lecture was the most entertaining,  given by Paul “Chip” Callaway, a certified landscape architect/owner of Calloway and Associates.  His hilarious commentary that accompanied a voluminous slide show of his special projects, those restoring the gardens and landscape of historic buildings, kept the mood of his audience light, focused and amazed.

Handmade doors with mortise and tennon joinery open from the through passage to the living room in the earliest part of the home. Note the deep, paneled recess of the doorway, indicating a former exterior wall.

Now fortified with this interesting knowledge base gained from my attendance at the symposium, I again visited my listing “Prospect Hill” located on Seaside Rd. approximately 22 miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. I had previously guessed that the first section of the home was of Federal design and construction around the period of 1790-1810, the second, larger and more ornate addition in  a Greek Revival tradition dated around 1830  and the third section, a one and one-half story addition containing the kitchen, was of the 1890’s period.  Upon my next visit to the property, I used the tips from the symposium to confirm or deny my original assessments. First, up in the attic area and down in the basement, I examined the exposed beams and joinery for sawmarks and fasteners. Second, I studied the great wall of bricks and exposed chimneys for telltale signs of handmade bricks, like thumb and finger impressions. Third, I then closely examined the windows and glass. My post-symposium investigation revealed that the home was constructed with oversized handhewn, heart of pine beams with diagonal but straight sawmarks and plenty of mortice and tennon joinery. Also, I found square cut nails with machine cut heads, both indicating the first section was probably produced shortly after 1790. This part of the house was finished with interior wood paneling, fireplace mantel and cabinets distinctly styled from the Federal period, (cir. 1780-1820).

In the Greek Revival addition, handcarved wood panel wainscoting with marbellized baseboards - note fluted columns in panelling.

The second part, a larger more ornate addition was finished with elaborately decorated woodwork, especially the very fancy, intricately hand-carved fireplace mantels. Further, the marbellized paintwork on the baseboards and the fluted doorway surrounds confirmed the style of the Greek Revival period (cir. 1820-1850). This addition has a massive 3-brick thick, free-standing three story brick endwall laid in the Flemish bond pattern. The top three feet of the exposed chimney had been blasted by lightening and I found on the ground plenty of bricks with thick slabs of mortar. Close examination of the bricks revealed holes and thumbprints, indicating that these were handmade sometime prior to 1833.

One of three massive handcarved fireplace mantels of museum quality - note the marbelized paint on the baseboard below the wood panel wainscoting.

Lastly, off to the east of the home is an overgrown boxwood garden of formal design interspersed with crepe myrtle and one of the few cork trees  on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The size of the boxwoods indicates an age of well over one hundred years and the garden certainly begs for restoration and rejuvenation.

The 1890's kitchen addition - note the floor-to-ceiling cupboard and tin ceiling.

As the listing agent, I have become very attached to this old house and her museum quality architectural features. Her situation on a sixty acre farm of fields and forest is ideal for a country estate property and a lovely 3/8 mile driveway approach draws one’s imagination back to the days of self-sufficiency and fox hunts. Many generations and all their attendant celebrations have graced this property and she now awaits a new owner who will love and cherish her spacious, well-appointed rooms that, if walls could speak, could tell many stories. For even more information on this home, call  David Kabler at Blue Heron Realty Co., 757-331-4885 .

A Dramatic Presentation of the Early History of the Eastern Shore of Virginia At The Palace Theatre In Cape Charles, VA

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Chief Debedeavon and his tribal warriors appeal to the heavens

Demonstrating the incredible strength of our volunteer spirit here on Virginia’s  Eastern Shore, members of our community, including myself,  came together this November, 2012, for the production of “Piece of Eden” in the historic Palace Theater in downtown Cape Charles, Virginia.Written by long-time resident of our town,  Jean Collins,  and adapted for the stage by our very talented Sheila Cardano, this epic musical drama reenacts the significant events and politics of the 17th and 18th centuries which  not only are the foundations of our country but also the basic principles of  American liberty and democracy. Few people realize the importance of the Eastern Shore of Virginia in not only providing sustenance for the early Jamestown Colony but also the Eastern Shore’s role in saving that colony from annihilation by the Powhatan Native American tribes in the massacre of 1622.  If truth be told, Jamestown would have been wiped off the face of the earth if the “Laughing King” of the Eastern Shore, Indian chief Debedeavon, had not warned the colonists of the western shore of Chief Powhatan’s plan to poison their wells and attack their settlement. The Eastern Shore’s Indian chief’s timely and courageous action prevented the massacre from achieving its objective of killing all 1100 settlers; as it was,  more than 350 were murdered during the massacre but Jamestown survived as the capital of Virginia. Who can begin to speculate about our nation’s history if the Jamestown settlement had been completely wiped out?

Stephen Charlton leads the settlers in the first protest against unfair taxation.

Piece of Eden” also portrays the peoples who made important contributions to our early history, especially the Native Americans. Living amongst us today in our community are the descendants of the Indians and the early colonists who shaped the foundation of our nation. Names like Opecancanough, Fox, Custis, Savage, and Charlton as well as the Indian tribes, Machipongo and Occohannock,  who inhabited the Eastern Shore before the arrival of the colonists, are threaded throughout the play. Authentic costumes worn by the actors and the lively portrayal of  the cultural life of early colonial times effectively bring to life the characters who made history here on the Shore.  Portrayed on stage is a portion of  the very first play acted on American soil in our town of Pungoteague titled “Ye Bear and Ye Cub”.   “Piece of Eden”  also incorporates scenes from  historic meetings of the colonists with the Indians including the spreading of the small pox disease,  the timely warning of the impending Jamestown massacre, the flight of  Virginia’s early governor from Jamestown to the Custis family estate of Arlington  during Bacon’s Rebellion, Northampton County’s letter of grievances which was the very first protest in the colonies against taxation without representation  and the reading of the Declaration of Independence from the courthouse steps in Eastville in 1776.  And lo, these many years later, Eastville is still the Northampton County seat.

The Declaration of Independence is read from the Northampton courthouse steps on August 13, 1776.

Over the week of November 15-20, 2012, our enthusiastic cast and crew played five performances of “Piece of Eden” to interested  and appreciative audiences. Our last performance was held at 9:30am to accommodate all of the  fourth grade students in the County as they   are now studying Virginia history in their classrooms. The actors were able to greet the audience members after each performance and I heard many wonderful comments, such as “I never realized how important the history of the Eastern Shore is to the founding of America.” When one considers the impacts of such an enormous production, it is astounding to think of the educational, social, economic and cultural benefits that accrue to our community. Who knows what impressionable children may gather from seeing this spectacular and educational play?  Or what decisions a new visitor to our area may make when they see such creativity and cohesiveness demonstrated by the members of our community?  The Palace Theater,  owned and operated by our own Arts Enter Cape Charles,  is undoubtedly a most important resource to our community and well deserves the  generous support it receives.

A proud and grateful cast takes their bow!

If you’ve never been involved in a little theatre group it is not easy to appreciate what goes into a production of this magnitude, especially for a non-profit entity as Arts Enter Cape Charles. Approximately 3600 hours were dedicated by more than sixty individuals to write this original play and it’s music,  perform original musical scores, design and build elaborate sets, operate audio and lighting programs and fixtures, design and sew dozens of the amazing period costumes and rehearse the many scenes performed by actors of all ages from five to seventy-five years.  And the support of family and friends in time, effort and funding was crucial as well. Such spirit of generosity and involvement really is a big part of what makes our small but vibrant community so special. Only in a small town like Cape Charles can  amateur actors  such as myself  realize their dream of acting on the live stage when their lack of  professional talent and experience would preclude such an opportunity in a large metropolitan area’s  drama groups.  I am enormously grateful to have that opportunity  and am especially appreciative of  being able to join the company of  fellow thespians,  enthusiastic individuals who hail from all over the country and who so generously give of their time and energy, enabling   productions  such as “Piece of Eden”  to become a reality.

Celebrating Op Sail 2012 On The Eastern Shore of Virginia- Part I, The Parade of Sail

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Op Sail 2012 was a big shebang, very big, celebrated in the US in the ports of  New York, New Orleans,  Norfolk,  Baltimore, New London and Boston.   Organized around the Bicentennial anniversary of the War of 1812 and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner,  the 2012 event is  6th  Operation Sail event.   Kicked off in 1964,  Op Sail was the culmination of worldwide efforts by the late maritime historian Frank Braynard and IBM executive  Nils Hansell to create an event designed to  foster international  goodwill by bringing together sailing ships from nations from all corners of the globe  to gather for  a fabulous parade of sail into New York harbor.  And so  in conjunction with the New York World’s Fair,  Op Sail was born, an instant huge success  which has been followed up by 5 additional Op Sail events, each tied to an  American historical event, each bigger and better than the last.  But Op Sail 2012  seems to have been the most spectacular of them all, especially in Virginia,  where the event was expanded for the first time to include not only the traditional port of Norfolk but also several small nearby ports including Cape Charles as part of the Tall Ships at Cape Charles Festival as well as the port of  Onancock on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Fortunately for those of us who live on the Eastern Shore, one of the main events of the entire festival is the “Parade of Sail“,  the magnificentfive mile long  flotilla  featuring of  scores of  international tall ships accompanied by military vessels from the US Navy and Coast Guard as well as literally  hundreds of local sail and power boats,  streaming across the water, escorting the international ships  to the tall ship’s main anchorages in downtown Norfolk and Portsmouth.  The ships overnighted in near Lesner Bridge in Virginia Beach and at dawn  prepared to parade from the Lynnhavenanchorage,  through the mouthof  the Chesapeake Bay and up the Elizabeth River  into Norfolk, a  spectacular fleet  which, if all the ships were placed end to end, would be an amazing 7700 feet long !

Happily, this Parade involves  passing  directly over the  first tunnel of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel which connects the Eastern Shore of Virginia to the city of Virginia Beach on the mainland !   Which meant that tickets to view from both the first and second Bridge Islands were available for this one-of-a-kind show and we were lucky enough to get  two tickets for the closest Island, One  Island at Thimble Shoal, rather than for Two  Island without  restaurant and restroom facilities.  So even though we are not normally crack-of-dawn people, by 5:30 am on the day, we were up and scurrying around,  grabbing hats, sun screen, a tiny cooler for water, binoculars, all the little comfort things, getting on the road before 6.  Seating was on a first-come basis and we were  hoping to get a front row seat on the bleachers, which, amazingly,  we were able to do  !

The day was simply beautiful- a sunrise of pinks and peach, cloudless sky, good breezes all morning long ( thank heavens, hard to sail without the wind gods behind you), water sparkling, everyone on the Island in sky-high spirits, thrilled to be there for this special, once in a decade or so, event.  The Parade was kicked off by the US Coast Guard ship, the USS Eagle. The 295 foot Eagle has an interesting history having been built in Germany, launched in 1939 as the SSS Horst Wessel,  but ending up in the possession of the United States after WWII as part of German war reparations.  A training ship for  Coast Guard cadets and a goodwill ambassador  for the US,  the aptly named Eagle gleamed in the morning sun, her 22,000 square feet of  white sails billowing,  proud as a mother swan with all her cygnets streaming along  behind her although probably those magnificent ships behind her might not like the comparison.

The announcer for the nearly 3 hour program was  Captain Sara Cole, commander of the Learning Barge. ( The Learning Barge was, of course, not in the Parade but it is a fascinating vessel in its own right. Winner of several national awards including one from the EPA,  this vessel was hand built over 3 years as a project between  the University of Virginia School of Architecture and the Elizabeth River Project, a local environmental group.  The Learning Barge is essentially a floating lab where students can sample water quality, identify pollution, learn about restoration of wetlands, grow algae, learn about sustainability, all hands-on. )  At any rate, Capt. Cole had amassed a great deal of information about each of the tall ships and military vessels participating in the Parade.

Thus I learned several new nautical terms including “dressing ship”  which she indicated means just what it sounds like- dressing  the ship to the nines, no diamonds or rubys  included there,  just every signal flag flying, weighted, an array of colors and symbols adorning these dramatic  ships, many like the Eaglefunctioning  as training ships and goodwill ambassadors for their countries.  Several Navy ships participated,  including  a helicopter escorted US submarine which was the concluding boat in the Parade.   From the US,  several well-known tall sailing ships including replias of the Bounty and Godspeed, the amazing Kalmar Nyckel from Delaware and the Pride of Baltimore as well as the 3 ships destined for Cape Charles, the Lynx, the Appledore and the Sultana.  In addition to  ships  from the US,  from Indonesia, Mexico, Columbia, Brazil, Spain, the Cook Islands, Bermuda, Germany, Canada, Denmark and the United Kingdom they sailed,  already having visited New York and New Orleans.  After the visit in Virginia, the longest visit of all, the fleet would be off to Baltimore, Boston and New London. And there they would no doubt wow their audiences,  just as all of us out on Thimble Shoal’s One Island that lovely summer morning  were thrilled by the 2012 Op Sail’s  Parade of Sail, serenely crossing  the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

Mount Vernon- George Washington’s Splendid Estate In Alexandria, Virginia

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

After a week-end in Northern Virginia for a meeting in Fairfax, it was such a beautiful day, clear, cool, huge puffy white clouds floating by,  we decided to make a quick  visit before returning to the Eastern Shore to nearby Mount  Vernon,  George Washington’s, famous ancestral home, which I had not visited  in eons.  ( Let me say  again, for the umpteenth time, one of the great things about living on the Eastern Shore of Virginia is how close  the Shore  is to so many other places of interest,  to-wit only four and a half hours from  home  to  the heart of  the metro area of our nation’s capitol. )  Our  “quick visit”  turned into a 6 hour tour,  we could have easily spent twice 6 more and still not have properly seen everything Mt. Vernon has to offer.  George Washington wrote of  his  beloved Mt. Vernon ” No estate in United States is more pleasantly situated than this. It lies in a high, dry county… on one of the finest Rivers in the world… It is situated in a latitude between the extremes of hot and cold… with road roads and the best navigation from the Federal City, Alexandria and George Town…”   And to navigate places, Washington had his  “riding chair”, what an interesting contraption, and his coach, one of only 50 in the entire state of Virginia at that time.

According to the guidebook,  at  George Washington’s funeral he was eulogized by his  dear friend,  Henry Lee,  ( the father of Robert E. Lee ), as being  “First in war; first in peace;  and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”  I think to that could have been added “first in agriculture”  because agriculture in all its forms, from grain farming as a cash crop, horticulture, orchards and gardens  to wine and whiskey production, if it could be raised on his own dear lands,  it was a Washington  life long deep passion.  The original 2000 acres of  Mt. Vernon had been owned by the Washington family since the mid-1600’s  but  by the time of his death, Washington had purchased a great deal of additional adjoining acreage,  expanding the estate to over 8,000 acres, all actively  farmed, with Washington himself the maestro, directing  it all.  He was a real leader in the progressive farm movement.  Totally hands on, by experiment, through trial and error,  he tested innovative methods that seem commonplace today but which were considered novel and  radical land husbandry ideas at that time.

Such concepts as deep plowing  to reduce erosion and create healthier root zones, the addition of soil amendments such as manure and lime, the planting legume cover crops to enrich the soil, the rotation of  crops, the planting  in furrows rather than just scattering seeds across the land,  all these now accepted land management concepts were not just  brand new,  they were still unproven,  likely controversial,  practices in Washington’s day.   These revolutionary new farming methods were utilized on his farms starting in the  mid-to-late 1700’s yet most  are still accepted agricultural concepts 200 +  years later. In addition, Washington established a very successful rye  and corn whiskey distillery, one of the most successful of its time, producing over 10,000 gallons  of   “liquid gold”  per year in its heyday, no doubt  enabled by  his very successful grain farms which  produced the corn and rye.  Time got away and we didn’t visit the distillary but it is still modestly active and is the gateway to The American Whiskey Trail.  ( It turned out 900 bottles of whiskey last year  to be sold at the gift shop, which was, of course, totally sold out,  maybe more in November according to the clerk.  But I’m assuming they saved back a few bottles because on Aug. 3rd,  Mt Vernon  is sponsoring a dinner event called Gentleman Distiller: Whiskey Tasting and Dinner at the Distillary. )

Since Washington was one of the most wealthy and  prominant  men of his time, as expected, the mansion itself  is magnificent.  But we were surprised to learn that the exterior siding, which appears to be stone, was actually wood siding,  beveled to look like stone and then “rusticated”,  meaning that sand was applied to the paint while still wet, giving it a look and feel of stone which was a prohibitively expensive building material, although “rusticating” itself was quite expensive as well.  Back in the day, apparently Washington made  Virginia’s most extensive use of this technique in his quest to make Mt. Vernon one of the country’s very finest estates.

Also interesting were the  paint colors.  I had never actually thought about it but learned on the tour that color pigments for paint were usually ordered from England.  These would be dry pigments, very, very expensive,  and they needed  to be carefully ground to a fine powder and mixed into the paint, homemade of course,   on-site. Because of the high cost of pigment, usually only rooms that would used by visitors as well as family were painted in bright colors– the rest would either be very lightly tinted, white or beige.  Green and blue were highly prized,  especially expensive pigments so naturally  most of the main rooms in the mansion are varying shades of  blues and greens,  Washington apparently being especially fond of green which he said was “restful to the eye”.  The craftsmanship of  the interior moldings and mantel carvings is just amazing,  as is the elaborate palladian window in the full house-width dining room.  Like Thomas Jefferson, Washington apparently loved the new and interesting, especially if it was useful. I found his combination “chair and fan” most unique, a chair with a pole behind it attached to a pedal on the floor.  The square of cloth attached to top of  the pole would then fan the occupant of the chair as he  pumped the floor pedal.

As is evident from this photo,  Martha Washington oversaw quite the state-of-the-art kitchen– for her day,  she had the most advanced appliances and implements that money could buy or skills could fashion.  ( This  included a  brand new “automatic”  rotissary,  an appliance  involving a chain attached to a fan placed up in the fireplace flue.  The rising heat then turned  the fan blades, which then turned the chain, which then turned the spit.  This was revolutionary, making  it possible to roast on a spit without having a person whose primary job would be  just to turn the spit.   Martha  had a reputation as  a generous and patient hostess– apparently it was not unusual after the War and especially after the Presidency,  for all sorts of very important people  to come to Mt. Vernon to pay their respects,  by the hundreds, making Mt. Vernon one of the most visited homes in the new nation !   In one year there were over 400 guests to Mt. Vernon, most of whom stayed several days and possibly longer.  Because of this,  a great deal of her time was spent planning the meals to be served to guests. ( She was also in charge of distilling the household medicines, had a special, tiny still for that purpose and possessed a sought-after recipe for chapstick, called lip balm back in the day,  Walgreen’s  being a few hundred years in the future.)

Martha Washington was especially famous for her delicious  hams, soaked first in her special curing recipe and then slowly smoked to perfection in the large smoke house just off the kitchen. A  ham was served everyday, boiled and/or baked, along with other meats and poultry and fruits and vegatables from their  gardens and orchard.  Apparently Martha’s signature desssert was a cake called  the  “Great Cake”  ( I’m guessing  for size as well as taste ).  According to the tour guide, guests and family alike longed for this cake,  the  recipe for which included copious  quanities of  brandy and Medeira wine, needed 2 hours to bake  and  began:  “Take 40 eggs….”    The “Great Cake” was often served not only at dinner but also at her well-known “afternoon teas”,   enjoyed in good weather on the rear  veranda overlooking the wide sweep of  the Patomac River.  Ships and boats of all sizes  plyed these broad blue saltwaters as  Washington and his guests, family and friends  relaxed  in the veranda’s 40 Windsor chairs.  Similar  Windsor chairs are on the veranda still, available to the public to rest a bit and to enjoy the commanding view from the Mansion, which is sited atop a high hill with the dramatic river view framed by the trees below the hill, carefully planted specifically for that purpose by Washington. ( Actually, after walking and walking, it is truly delightful to be able to relax on the veranda in one of those chairs and just soak in the postcard-like scene.)

Martha Washington had inheirited   a rare family treasure, an extensive  handwritten cookbook,  which she  received  in 1749  and kept until 1799, when she gifted this heirloom to her  grandaughter, Nelly Custis.  This unique manuscript was  brought back to life in a 1981 edition from the Columbia University Press,  edited by the late Karen Hess, entitled Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of  Sweetmeats” .  It  is a marvelous,  detailed glimpse into not just the  art of cooking of  that era but into its social customs and manners.  ( It’s worth twice the price just to read the recipes for some of  the various puddings,  recipes  with titles like  how to make:   “A  Marrow Pudding”,  A Bak’d Almond Pudding,  An Almond Pudding To Boyle,  A Haggis Pudding,  A White Pudding, A Curd Pudding,  A Quakeing Pudding,  A Light Pudding,  A Bagg Pudding,  A Fryde Pudding, A Hearbe Pudding,  A Good Pudding,  A Very Good Pudding and,  last but not  least,  how  To Make A Pudding In A Loaf “.  )   Another terific book about food and entertaining  at Mt. Vernon is  “Dining With The Washingtons: Historic Recipes, Entertaining and Hospitality From Mount Vernon”  edited by Stephen A. McLeod, from  the University of North Carolina Press.  Both books are available at the extensive Mt. Vernon gift shop, either would make  a nice gift for a friend  interested in culinary history or,  in my case,  for oneself.

Time was unfortunately too short to see many of  the amazing exhibits in the museum/education center which is the exit  building but we did get to see George Washington’s  famous false teeth.  These were held in the mouth by springs, quite painful no doubt, and the video on how these dentures were manufactured  leads one to a great appreciation of modern dentistry.  But  most interesting to me was the exhibit which explained how state of the art technology had been used to create  facial and body models  of what Washington likely looked  like in his younger days, before any portraits had been painted of him.  There is an exhibit of  him as a young surveyor and as a middle aged soldier atop his horse, these models are believed to be very close to his true appearance at those ages, a tall, thin, very attractive man.  And then,  time to go but wanting  to come back soon to see everything we had  missed. P.S. For animal lovers out there, Washington loved animals too, especially dogs,  whom he often gave whimsical names. When he became General of the Revolutionary Army,  he took his favorite, Sweetlips,  along with him leaving True Love and Mopsey behind !     P.P.S.  Lots of fascinating info at www.mountvernon.org , www.gwpapers.virginia.edu , and www.marthawashington.us .

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

“Art & Music on the Farm”–The Barrier Islands Center’s 10th Anniversary Celebration

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

The Eastern Shore of Virginia’s Barrier Islands Center  marked its 10th  anniversary with a walloping big  day- long celebration billed as “Art & Music on the Farm”.   Kudos to all the planners, the festival  was beautifully executed and great fun for all who attended.  A little history is likely in order here for those not familiar with Virginia’s chain of pristine off-shore Barrier Islands,  given world class status by the United Nations who has named it as one of  its Biosphere Reserves.  Stretching along Virginia’s  Atlantic Ocean coast  from Chincoteague, VA  all the way south to Smith Island at the convergence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay,  these barrier islands have a rich history as homes to hearty watermen,  destinations for tourists and hunters, outposts for Coast Guard stations and locations for lighthouses  as well as sheltering a singular diversity of  plant and animal life.  Except for Cedar Island, which still has a few remaining summer homes accessible only by boat trip,  most  of the remaining Islands have been purchased by the Nature Conservancy, 14 islands in all, some with romantic names like  Parramore, Rogue and Revel.  Purchased to  preserve them from development, the Conservancy’s protection has allowed the wildlife to flourish, especially critical for the many species of shorebirds and waterfowl that are now able to safely nest there.  It was to protect  the unique heritage of these  unique Islands that the Barrier Island Museum was established in 2002.  Located in the little hamlet of  Machipongo, VA , it has truly met its mission statement.  In the last 10 years, over 7500 artifacts from those by-gone days  have been collected for preservation and display at the Museum and the adjacent Almshouse Farm but the Center has ventured well beyond that initial mission, establishing itself as a place for classes for all ages, a lecture series,as well as a hands-on resource for local schools to teach young  children about the history and culture of the Eastern Shore .  ( Visit them at   www.barrierislandscenter.com  )

So Saturday’s anniversary celebration brought together the important 3 “F“s– Fun, Food and Fiddling and the equally important  2 “S” s-  Shopping and Sipping.    Under the leafy shade provided by the  Center’s  huge broad oaks, tables were set up for rest, dining or just enjoying a glass of wine from the tents set up by two local vineyards,  a tall cold glass of freshly brewed  iced coffee from Eastern Shore Coastal  Roasting Co. booth or perhaps a frothy pint from  Wendell Brewery’s travel truck.   Lots and lots to see, do and hear– from 40 little tents filled with local artists,  several booths bursting with flowers and colorful shrubs from local nurseries  to a sound stage set  for the 4 different musical groups set to perform.  We arrived just as the  Carribean group, Ban Caribe,  was finishing  its toe-tapping opening number to much applause, “we”  being husband,  daughter-in-law and 2 grandsons.    Right off the bat,  the boys gravitated towards  the little sheep pen where a freshly shorn mama stood in the shade with her sweet-faced tiny  lamb, carefully people watching  the people sheep watching.   From there,  we made our way over to the  Kids Activity Tent staffed by patient volunteers who helped the kids get started on making  their creative picture project while I drifed towards the Appleseed Nursery area which was doing a brisk business from their  colorful display of cut sunflowers and blooming perennials, so winsome to the eye.

                      

But it was the incredible  artwork  that  was the main focus of the day– some of the most famous artists on the Eastern Shore of Virginia  were there, works displayed  in  individual little white tents,  so many different creations,  a myriad of  art mediums.  Local painters like Thelma Peterson,  Mary Ann Clarke, Marty Burgess and Jack Richardson,  potter Elizabeth Hunt, sculpter  Maurice Spector,  metal artists  Copper Creations and Buck Doughty,  fine furniture craftsmen   Windsor Chairs, ceramics wizzard David Crane  and so many, many other fine artists and artizans were on hand, showing and selling  their unique creations.  Pungo Mills was there with their stone ground cornmeal, Chatham Vineyards was offering samples of  its  fine wine,  Machipongo Trading Company was madly selling cones of  delicious “Marsh Mud”,  the  super-delicious,  ultra- chocolate ice cream made homestyle by The Creamery.  Inside the Museum,  in the blissfully air-conditioned lecture room,  a  “Blues Workshop”  featuring the Harris Brothers was scheduled from noon to 1pm, followed by “Recollections from the Bay: Lives and Lore of Menhaden Fishing”  offered by the Northern Neck Chantey Singers.  Later in the day the well-known old time string band, Whitetop Mountain Band, was scheduled to appear out in the bandstand, see a video of that band below.  Out in the parking  lot,  a  sweet little collection of vintage cars caught a lot of eyes,  including my husband’s,  who has a real nostolgia for yesteryear automobiles.  All said,   having  enjoyed the 3 “F” s   as well as the  2 “S“s,  we set off for home, a few treasures in hand,  the end of a lovely Eastern Shore Day.

                     
http://youtu.be/9XUPTKmGzUI

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

Sears and Roebuck Historic Mail Order Catalog Homes– Alive And Well In Cape Charles, VA

Thursday, April 5th, 2012
Through the years Sears maintained a selection of some eighty house plans that were updated to keep abreast of developing trends and for the sake of variety.  The plans ran from the smallest sized bungalow  to a number of  truly substantial models including  the elaborate  “Magnolia”,   which  for about $5.000, offered  ” Eight rooms  and two and a half baths. Two story portico with fluted columns;  open terrace across the front, side porte-cochere;  decks and sleeping porch off second floor bedrooms; glazed front porch with sidelights and arched transom.  Fireplace and nook in living room;  French doors off hall; open stairs” .   But, in general,  the majority of their designs were  in keeping with the  popular American tastes of the period and were designed to have broad appeal by offering a quality modern home for an affordable price. For extra flexibility,  most home plans in their catalogs  were able to be ordered in reverse layouts.  The styles of the homes seem to almost always follow  recognizable architectural traditions.  The gambrel roof was a mainstay of the Dutch Colonial style.  Roofs with steep pitches evoked English ancestry. The most popular style though,  by far, was the well-liked American Colonial,  rivaled  only by the “bungalow” concept.
The building of houses in America prior to World War II reached its peak in 1925,  but Sears home offerings would continue to expand through 1929, the year of the great crash of the stock market.  By 1930, across the nation,  Sears had opened 48 sales offices employing over 350 salesmen. Their 1926 catalog was a masterful marketing piece, presenting their products in color and with exceptionally glowing remarks about the product attributes.  Even the type of wood used in the construction of the homes was referenced because of the interest created by the then recent discovery of  well-preserved cypress found in King Tut’s tomb. The  Sears Modern Home catalog descriptions addressed every concern imaginable,  from the basic reasons for buying a home to touting the then unusual and innovative step of  the company’s  placement of a woman on the Sears Architect’s Council because she “would understand the needs of the modern housewife.” Nobody imagined that this incredible line of prefabricated housing would last only eight more years. The 1930’s brought the first losses after nineteen consecutive years of profitability. No matter what great ideas Sears employed in supporting its line, the effects of the Great Depression could not be overcome. The first division to fail was the home mortgage industry where, as the “farmer’s friend”, Sears had loaned generous amounts of up to 100% of the cost of a  home’s construction.  But by 1934, Sears had proudly delivered more  than 100,000 housing units throughout the United States, very high quality homes, professionally designed and planned for a lifetime of use by their owners.
The Town of Cape Charles on Virginia’s Eastern Shore has a number of  authentic Sears homes, most restored and well-preserved.  For sale by Blue Heron Realty Co. is a reverse plan of the Somers Model ordered from the 1926 catalog and  found at 3 Randolph Ave.,  just a hop, skip and a jump from the Chesapeake Bay and the beautiful Cape Charles town beach.  Professionally restored and renovated for modern living,  this home is a terrific example of the very popular Sears bungalow style.  Elevated well above eight feet from grade level, this  front porch enjoys a wonderful view out towards the western horizon of the Bay.  The ground floor of the home consists of a solid masonry, red-brick foundation for the actual kit home which makes up the second level. The kit home has beautiful cedar wood shingle siding protected with a weather-proof stain that retains the wood grain and color. Also, energy efficient, double pane insulated windows have been installed. Built on two town residential lots, there is a paved driveway, spacious yard with mature plantings, and an access alley behind the home that serves for utility and service access.
Inside,  one is suitably impressed by the beautifully refinished original red oak and pine hardwood floors, a bay window in the dining room, a modern kitchen and two bedrooms served by one bath. A heat pump supplies central forced air heat and A/C for the upstairs portion of the house, while beautiful ceiling fans provide the comfort of moving air. The entire home has been updated and renovated for modern living yet retains its historic appeal. A stairwell leads down from the second floor to a first floor apartment with its own kitchen, great room, two bedrooms, a bath and storage area. One may retain the official duplex status of the home or restore it back to a single family house. At present, the upper level which comprises the kit home is offered for weekly summer vacation rental while the lower floor is rented from month to month.
Life in the Town of Cape Charles is truly the “sweet beach life ” !  One of the few places on the East Coast of the United States where one can observe a beautiful sunset to the west over a saltwater Bay. Easily accessible from this bungalow is the boardwalk and “fun pier” from which observations of boats, kite board surfers and the local bird life are frequently found. Nearby are the public boat ramps and municipal and private marinas, world-class, intersecting Palmer and Nicholas designed golf courses, eclectic shopping and restaurants, and our very special historic Palace Theater, one of the best performing arts venues in Virginia. Only a few miles east of Town is the village of Oyster which is perched on the seaside of our penninsula and offers access to an entirely different marine ecosystem. Interests in colonial history, the performing and visual arts, nature exploration and photography, boating and fishing, architecture, gardening, bicycling, hiking, swimming, and especially birdwatching are eagerly pursued here. Come and try on this incredible lifestyle offered from such a wonderful residence as this historic Sears and Roebuck Catalog home. For further information on this listing and other properties for sale in Cape Charles and on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, contact David Kabler via e-mail ( david_kabler@hotmail.com) or via mobile (757) 647-1755.

For Sale At Historic Arlington Plantation Overlooking The Shores Of The Chesapeake Bay On The Eastern Shore Of Virginia

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Along the south shore of  the Old Plantation Creek inlet where it converges with the Chesapeake Bay close to what is now the quaint little town of Cape Charles,  Arlington Plantation was founded on the Eastern Shore  VirginiaThis special site is one of the most historic properties in our nation yet its significance is  little known.   For many centuries this area was inhabited by native American Indians, until occupation by English settlers of this site  and the area up to the Kings Creek inlet three miles north, Sir Thomas Dale established the first permanent settlement of English colonists on the Eastern Shore in 1617 known as Dale’s Gift.  Here, half a century later, a plantation was founded by John Custis II whose prosperity was demonstrated by the construction of the most magnificent mansion on the whole of the Chesapeake Bay.  Apparently he named the plantation in honor of his family’s benefactor, Lord Arlington,  although the name was possibly derived from the English village Arlington-Bibury,  home to the first generation of the Custis family.   More than three hundred fifty years after Arlington mansion first rose high above the waters of Old Plantation Creek,  the name itself still lives on, engrained in the minds of all Americans as the land upon which  thousands of  American soldiers rest eternally,  Arlington National Cemetary.

National recognition of the Custis name began when, in 1759, the widow of John Custis IV’s son Daniel, Martha Dandridge Custis and the heir to Arlington Plantation,  married army Colonel George Washington when he was only twenty-six years old.  As was the custom of the times, on his way to becoming the father of our country,  Washington  managed the affairs of his wife’s property here on the Eastern Shore.  And in the  paradoxical  twists and turns of history,  Martha’s great-granddaughter, Mary A. R. Custis to whom both Arlington estates passed,  married another young Army officer, who would become, like George Washington, an icon of the American story.  It is indeed ironic that Robert E. Lee would take reluctant command of the Confederacy’s  Army of  Northern Virginia which strived to split the nation that was hardwon by his wife’s  legendary ancestor,  its first President.   And so the prestigeous Custis family,  which founded Arlington Plantation on the Eastern Shore and Arlington Plantation on the Potomac River, links  George Washington, the Revolutionary War and the founding of our nation with Robert E. Lee,  the Civil War and the near destruction of the nation.

The name of the Custis family ancestral plantation, Arlington,  lives on today in the American consciousness despite the destruction of its mansion more than two-hundred fifty years ago.  In the early part of the nineteenth century, Martha’s grandson George Washington Parke Custis, who was adopted by General Washington and his wife as their son, built a mansion near Mt. Vernon overlooking the Potomac River.  He called it   “Arlington”  after the first Custis home on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and the vast lands surrounding  his mansion  became the National Cemetary after the Civil War.  The  Arlington mansion on the Eastern Shore was abandoned sometime during the early part of the 18th century.  Its ruins were pilaged and what was left eventually became buried in the farm fields surrounding its site,  the only evidence of its grandeur that remained were the prominent tombs of John Custis II and his grandson, John Custis IV.

During the spring of 1987,  an archeological survey of the Arlington plantation site near the Custis Tombs revealed sections of a brick foundation for a very large structure that was covered by a foot of soil plowed over a hundred years of farming activity. During 1994, an intensive archeological investigation of the cellars of the mansion was conducted. Eye witness accounts of the mansion dating from 1709  offer brief glimpses of its size,  elevations and orientation to the Chesapeake Bay.  As well, the beautifully  preserved historic records in Northampton County courthouse provide additional sources of information about Arlington.   A 1688 reference about a visit to the house in a lawsuit filed that year is one of the first mentions of a separate dining room in an early Colonial home in Virginia. This annecdote substantiates the archaeological findings at Arlington which determined the house to be the most architecturally sophisticated house of that period,  at least fifty years ahead of its time.*

Such a large home,  built of brick masonry,  required laborers and materials and facilities for making the bricks. It is believed that the kilns for firing the newly made bricks are located 3/8 mile south of the ruins on a 15 acre tract of land that contains a modern two bedroom home and barn with horse stable.  Behind the home,  hidden in the forest and covered with the detritus of fallen leaves,  vines and dirt are piles of old and crumbling bricks.  That site is at the head of a shallow tidal pond that probably provided the water necessary for mixing the brick clay.  This property is one of several  now offered for sale by Blue Heron Realty Co. located on what were the original Arlington Plantation lands.

This house on 15 acres was built in 1999  and offers ultimate  seclusion,  peace and quiet with a  location only 1/2 mile from the Chesapeake Bay and its sparkling sand beaches.  With its vaulted ceiling over the great room and kitchen, an easy living lifestyle goes perfectly along with its private rural setting. Originally planned as a complimentary guest cottage for a larger manor home on the property, this cute cottage has a very spacious master bedroom with ensuite bath and walk-in closet and a guest bedroom with full  bath. The enclosed porch overlooks the 2 acre fenced horse paddock and barn. The paddock is encircled with an underground electric dog fence and behind the barn is a four unti professional quality dog kennel. See redlined property in aerial photo at top of page.

Also available for purchase is a beautiful Bayfront lot with 100′ of frontage on the Chesapeake Bay with a sandy beach shoreline and spectacular  sunset views to the west. Purchase of this lot offers membership in the Arlington Homeowners Association with benefits to use the boat ramp on Plantation Creek and the beautiful common area beach at the point of the entrance of the creek into the Chesapeake Bay, one of the best swimming spots on the Shore. See aerial photo with red arrow. Contact David Kabler (david_kabler@hotmail.com 757-647-1755) at Blue Heron’s Cape Charles office, 757-331-4885, for further information and an appointment to see these two special property offerings.

(*”Archeology at Arlington:Excavations at the Ancestral Custis Plantation, Northampton County, Virginia”; by Nicholas M. Luccketti; published by the Virginia Company Foundation and The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities.)

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

Looking Back– Seeing The Sesquicentenial Through Exploring Richmond, VA

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Richmond District Federal Reserve Bank

December 31, 2011 marked the end of the  Sesquicentenial , the  150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, an event memorialized all across this country as  the nation looked back on its deadliest war,  nearly 700,000 casualties,  more than all of our other wars combined.  The virtual epicenter of the Civil War, Richmond, VA ,  is only a two and a half  hour drive from the Eastern Shore of Virginia so it makes a great week-end getaway trip.  Last fall  my husband and I decided to spend a few days in Richmond and,  in the spirit of the Sesquicentenial, to take  time  to tour some of  its famous Civil War memorials.  Standing on the overwalk  above the  River District’s Kanawha  Canal,  looking east towards the tall office tower of the  Federal Reserve  District Bank  in Richmond’s  bustling downtown area  and south towards the rocky rapids of the James River,  I  would never have guessed  that less than 150 years ago,  this entire spot was caught up in a mighty conflagration as the evacuation of Richmond, on  April 3, 1865,  signalled the near end of  the Civil War.  The morning of April 2nd,  General Robert E. Lee telegraphed  Confederate President Jefferson Davis, notifying him that Lee’s  line was broken in 3 places, concluding   ” I advise that all preparation be made for leaving Richmond tonight.”    Ordered by General Ewell,   Confederate troops set to work before evacuating to destroy their  armory, tobacco warehouses, navel vessels  and bridges so they wouldn’t fall into Union hands but  the fires they set  raged out of control.  It  completely destroyed much of the by- then nearly deserted Richmond but was eventually tamed by the Union forces who began occupying Richmond on April 3rd.   Within a week of  Richmond’s  evacuation,  General Lee would surrender his Army of Northern Virginia to  General Ulysses S. Grant’s  Union forces  at  Appomattox, VA.   Within a week of that surrender,  the tragic assassination of President Lincoln on April 14th,  especially tragic for the South as the Reconstruction envisioned by Lincoln was very different from the Reconstruction that ensued.

Tedegar Iron Works, Now a Civil War Museum

The observance  of this 150th  anniversary, the Sesquicentennial,  of the beginning of the Civil War,  was especially poignant in Virginia,  on whose soil almost 80 % of the battles were fought.  Richmond,  one of the South’s most powerful and industrialized cities at  that time,  became the Capitol of the Confederate States of America and its wealth and industrial capacity became crucial to the Confederate military campaign.  Probably no single company was more influential than the  Tredegar Iron Works,  which was the largest company of its kind in the South.  Located on a bluff overlooking the James River and utilizing the river’s water to produce steam and to run water wheels, Tredegar  produced the majority of the artillery pieces and munitions for the Confederacy during the War as well as the  rails for the railroad,  rails which became vital in keeping troops and supplies moving.  Several of the original buildings are still standing at Tredegar,  apparently due to the foresight  of  its owners in hiring nearly 50 armed guards to prevent its buildings from being set on fire during  Richmond’s  1865 evacuation .

Statue of President Lincoln with Son Tad

 The  Tredegar site and the surviving buildings are now a museum and serve as the Visitor Center for the   Richmond National Battlefield Park,  operated by the National Park Service.  It is also the location of the famous statue of  Abraham Lincoln,  sitting with his son Tad,  memorializing  their visit to Richmond on April 4, 1865.   Just to give an idea of the important battles that were fought in and around the Richmond area, the Richmond  National Battlefield Park  self-guided driving tour includes the preserved battlefields of  Beaver Dam Creek battlefield, Gaines Mill battlefield, Glendale battlefield, Malvern Hill battlefield, Drewery’s Bluff battlefield  and the  Cold Harbor battlefield,  all of which have self-guided walking trails winding through them.  
One of  the most poingnant aspects of the museum is its  ” Voices From The Home Front” display, recorded narrations of  letters and diary entries from both soldiers and everyday people written during the War. One letter, written by a young soldier to his father, starts out by saying that  “this is the last letter you shall receive  from me…”,  explaining that he had  been struck  by a large piece of shrapnel and is not expected to survive much longer.  A diary entry from a young Richmond girl noted that  “all of Cary Street is burned and Main Street is on fire”,  that the fire is spreading rapidly,  that she and her friend Flory run to her front  gate almost every minute to see if the Yankees are coming into the city.

Tredegar Museum Cannon

A bronze cannon, actually produced by the Tredegar company,  typically so heavy it took six six draft horses to pull,  plus an exhibit of the ammunitions  used in such artillery pieces is one of  the museum’s most dramatic exhibits.  Precision workmanship, cast from heavy, solid  metal,  it took 6  men to fire that cannon —  2 men on the ammunition supply box,  called a  “Limber Chest”  which was placed well behind the cannon,   1 runner between the Limber Chest and the cannon, 1 loader,  1 rammer whose job was ram the shot in and then, after  firing,  to sponge out the cannon interior to extinguish any remaining sparks  and  an officer whose job was to finalize the location to be targeted, the particular shot or shells to be used,  the degree of elevation of the cannon ( which was determinate of  the range the shot would travel ) and then to actually call the  order to fire.  But what really struck me was the ammunition itself. I had supposed that  “cannonballs”  were solid balls of metal– which they were previously.  But no, by the time of  the Civil War the military machine  had already invented a more deadly product,  a cannonball with  a hollow center which was then filled with 1 inch  munition balls.  Today,  in this  era  of  Hellfire missiles fired from drones, cruise missiles fired from offshore ships, intercontinental ballistic missiles poised at the ready all over the world,  missiles with names like Apache, Viper, Sidewinder and Tomahawk, names heard almost nightly on the news,  it seems like there is a numbness to the destruction of war,  like it’s not even real.  But standing in Tredegar,  looking at the exhibit of the solid cannonball next to the new, “improved”  cannonball crammed to the max with deadly smaller shot,  the escalating  efforts of man to create ever more destructive weaponry came through loud and clear. 

Brady’s 1st Traveling Darkroom

Our final stop in the museum was  the book store, filled to the brim with books and DVD’s about the Civil War and its various campaigns.  The National Park Service actually has created a series of  short, about 50 pages or so,  but informative booklets about various aspects of the War  and we bought  “The Seige of Petersburg“,   which detailed  the decisive  campaign of the War.  Located less than 25 miles from Richmond, Petersburg, VA  was held under seige for  nine and a half months by Grant, resulting  in over 40,000 Union casualties and about 30,000 Confederate casualties.  But when Grant’s army finally broke through Lee’s entrenched lines surrounding  Petersburg,  it was all over but the shouting.   The  Union occupation of Richmond and Lee’s surrender at Appomattox were a direct result of the fall of Petersburg.   The other book I ended up buying  chronicled War  photos  by  Mathew B. Brady.  Brady was the most famous photographer of  his day, if you were an important person you sat for a Brady portrait.  In fact,  one of his portraits  of  Lincoln was used for the engraving for the five dollar bill.   When the War broke out,  Brady set up several horse-drawn mobile photography wagons, including darkrooms,  to photograph all aspects of  various Union campaigns on site,  something never before undertaken.  As he had official permission from Chief of the Army McDowell  to  accompany the Union troops,  effectively Brady was the first military “embedded” photographer.  Entitled “Mr Lincoln’s Camera Man”  by Roy Meredith and printed by Dover Publications  (www.doverpublications.com ), this book is a tremendous visual accounting of the Civil War and includes  350 photographs taken by Brady during that period which have been reproduced directly from the negatives owned by the Library of Congress. It’s primarily because of Brady that we can look back 150 years later and see much of what really happened during those bloody years.
 

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

On The Eastern Shore of Virginia, January 1, 2012 Dawned Auspiciously Bright And Beautiful

Friday, January 6th, 2012

There may have been  blizzards  raging across other parts of the US  but here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, January 1, 2012 dawned as a bright and beautiful day which,  ever the optimist,  I took as a sign of good things to come for our area this year !   And it was particularly auspicious for our plans for the day which were to go to Williamsburg  for brunch and a walk  through the  historic area before they take down the Christmas decorations in Colonial Williamsburg’s Restored Area.   Clear blue skies, temps forcast for the mid-60’s — who could ask for anything more for a New Year’s Day stroll  down cobblestone streets in the historic area, a living museum harkening  back to the early 1700’s  ?

Setting off about 11 am, we breezed right along.  Views  from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge were spectacular, water shimmering in the morning sun, seemingly thousands of seabirds out to greet the New Year, soaring gaily above the Bridge, calling to their fellow revelers,  diving for a  fine fishy feast for the holiday.  Out on Rt. 64 west, the roads were nearly traffic free, likely thanks to the ever-popular Rose Bowl parade and we made excellent time, arriving at the luxurious  Williamsburg Inn well in advance of our 1 pm brunch reservation so we took a moment to just sit and relax,  soaking up some sun outdoors on the Inn’s peaceful back patio overlooking  the golf course.

The Regency Room at the Williamsburg Inn is a truly beautiful dining room, filled with soft light streaming in from a full wall of windows running along one entire side, beautifully decorated , lovely and quiet,  just a wonderful restaurant to celebrate the arrival of the New Year,  a  surprise treat from my very thoughtful husband.   But they really outdid themselves with a spectacular brunch buffet,  a true foodie’s delight.   After ordering a bottle of Virginia wine, a  Barboursville  Chardonay, we set off for  the Cold Salads Station where my husband helped himself to some Eastern Shore oysters on the half shell, salty and flavorful, straight from our pristine waters, shucked before his very eyes, while I sampled the marinated shrimp, perfectly chilled,  a smige of Ceasar salad and a tiny wedge of Stilton cheese.   There were so many delicious hot offerings at the Hot Foods Station I had to circle  around twice before I could decide on what to try first whereas hubby loves breakfast and opted right off the bat for  a  slice of  the shrimp, scallop and sausage fritatta, some eggs benedict served with choron sauce and the  grilled fingerling potatoes with carmalized onions.

     

Following  the long-time  southern tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for good luck,  I started with some black-eyed pea and ham chowder, smoky and delicious,  followed by 3 cheese ravioli in a sauce of oyster mushrooms, a slice of  breast of duck and a slice of cold prime rib, sliced paper-thin, served with with horseradish cream, all  accompanied by a salad of wild greens and spinach dressed with a luscious vinaigrette,  everything pairing well with our chardonay.   Hubby was back at the Cold Salads Station for another little bit of the  Scottish smoked salmon, which he declared “the best I ever ate” and some of the  Caesar salad.  For my final go-round ( before dessert),   I visited the elaborate Carving Station, opting  for a thin slice of beef  fillet, piping hot, rare and juicy,  along with some of the roasted potatoes.   Even though we  had been taking care  to only have very small tastes of everything, we were both getting pretty full.  But…… I never miss a wonderful dessert if I can help it so I just had to visit the Crepe Station for one of the little crepes, made while you watch, topped with fresh berries and a drizzle of rich caramel sauce.  And I did save room for what I was pretty sure would be the piece’ de resistance,  the Bananas Foster.  Was I right or was I right ??    Expertly wielding  an omelet pan,  Chef’s assistant  Michael Ellis made the best Bananas Foster that I have ever had,  possibly  that I may ever have,  a supreme combination of  banana slices, spices, sugars and rum  flaming nearly to the sky and then dying down into a simmering ambrosial concoction, poured over a creamy scoop of rum raisin ice cream,  the perfect end to a very special  meal.

And then,  off  for our stroll through the historic area, an absolute necessity after all those  Regency Room calories !   For those not familiar with the Colonial Williamsburg  historic  area,  it is the amazing restoration and re-construction of  many of the most important buildings that existed in Williamsburg during the Colonial era including  the Capitol building, the Governor’s Palace and the Bruton Parish Church.  As the capitol of  colonial Virginia, Williamsburg  was a well-known and very important city,  really the center of  commerce and government of the colony as well as the location of most respected college of that era,  the College of William and Mary,  alma mater of  George Washington and  Thomas Jefferson,  among its many  famous graduates.  In the early 1930’s,  John D. Rockefeller and his wife created the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation  ( www.history.org ) , whose mission was and is to re-create a Colonial era town and educate visitors about life in that period, to be in effect a living museum for  that period of American history.   Re-enactors work and dress in contumes  of the period and speak to visitors about Colonial customs, all of  which is always a lot of fun.  Holiday traditions of the era are observed which is how the door and window decorations of  Williamsburg have come to be so famous.

     

Virtually every  house in the Restored Area is decorated by a  wreath made  only of material which would have been available and used by residents of that time.  Boxwood, cedar and pine woven into roping,  decorated with fruits, seed pods, plant materials, shells, cloth, etc.  which are the allowable materials for the beautiful wreathes desplayed each year in the Foundation’s  blue ribbon door contest.  Numerous books and articles have been written on how to make a Williamsburg style natural wreath, no plastics, no doo-dads,  just raw materials straight from Mother Nature,  fashioned into a festive, eye pleasing decoration.  It’s  such an easy drive from the Eastern Shore to  Williamsburg and we try to come every year  during the holiday season to see the decorations,  usually eating  in one of the authentic period taverns which serve a menu of 1700’s holiday fare. Sunday happened to be a day when all the horse drawn carriages, elegant reproductions which according to one of the drivers were handmade in Austria ( except for the wheels,  which are fashioned by  Colonial Williamsburg’s very own wheelwright) and cost in the vacinity of $250,000 apiece.  That’s a pretty steep price but  they are truly gorgeous and a 15 minute ride for 4 people costs about $15/ person so it doesn’t take too many years to amortize the investment.  At any rate, there’s  always something new to see in Williamsburg and its   a wonderful way to kick off a brand new year .

   

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

Majestic Historic Home, Circa 1912, Located In Belle Haven, VA Just A Few Minutes From The Chesapeake Bay

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Belle Haven VA Neoclassical Design Historic Home With Rolling Green Lawn And Mature Landscaping

Auspiciously,  this magnificent historic home listed for sale by Blue Heron Realty Co. is located in Belle Haven, VA,  a little Eastern Shore of Virginia town which straddles the county line between Northampton and Accomack County,  a beautiful retreat, which indeed this home  is.  Of  dramatic neoclassical design,  its most striking architectural characteristic is the line of tall Doric order style Greek  columns which dramatically define the entry portico. ( Interesting bit of trivia,  in ancient Greece,  the height of a column was described as “diameters” of  height, a ratio between the width and height.  So what we  would describe as an 10″ column 10′  tall would have been said by the Greeks to be 10  diameters high although apparently Doric order columns were often not much more than 8 diameters high whereas the more elaborate Ionic order columns were generally 9 diameters and the ornate Corinthian order columns 10 diameters high.  All that being said, in this post  I’ll just detail the height  in feet, 20 feet tall to be exact,  and  not diameters.)  I mention this detail about the imposing  columns because  only a very few historic homes on the Eastern Shore were built in this really grand style,  making  this particular home even more special.  Custom built in 1912  for  a very prominent local doctor whose offices were in the basement,  according to local lore,  this was the very first house on the Eastern Shore to have both telephone and electricity– it even had a built-in  tube  intercom system throughout, one of the newest gadgets of that era.  Complimenting  the elaborate  inside features is its  magnificent  facade, three course thick brick  embellished with large modillions and intricate dentil moldings.

Large Foyer Featuring Double Set Of Leaded Glass Sidelights And Transom Lights

Walking up the marble steps and into  the  house,  one is struck by the spacious size of the foyer and its light and airy  feel.  This is because not only does the solid mahogney front door have double set of  elaborately etched  leaded glass sidelights and transom lights,  but the current owner has installed seven skylights including a large skylight centered over the elegant cantilevered staircase so  natural light streams gently down,  bathing each floor  with uplifting golden sunlight.  Together with the  many windows throughout,  this home  is much enlivened with the warmth and brightness of  natural daylight,  giving each room a relaxed, very pleasant feel.

 

 

 

 

A Spacious Dining Room With Fireplace And Hand Carved Mantelpiece

Interior details include all original woodwork and original hardwood floors, elaborate crown moldings throughout,  wainscoating in many rooms,  four sets of massive pocket doors,  hinged doors throughout constructed of  top quality mahogany and still retain their original crystal doorknobs,  seven elaborate fireplaces with hand carved mantels plus a simply gorgeous antique crystal chandelier which highlights the spacious dining room.   Close to the back stairs accessing the 2nd and 3rd stories  is a large Butler’s Pantry which features the original sink and cupboards.  Hoping for a cozy spot to curl up with your favorite author’s newest book  ?   Try  the large library with floor-to-ceiling bookcases and a great fireplace !  It’s   a very comfortable feeling room, the kind of room that is heavenly even on a cool, grey, rainy day,  a crackling fire burning,  a steaming mug  of  java at the elbow,  stretched out on the sofa,  toes encased in toasty fleece sox, soft music in the background,  yep, heavenly is the word for it …..

 

 

Plenty Of Room For Horses And Good Pasture Lands

Love open air lunches ?  Two large porches, one screened, one open, stand for scads of  comfy wicker outdoor furniture with colorful, thick Sunbrella cushions,  the better to enjoy our balmy summer breezes.   Love horses ?   The property includes  a horse stable and the house is  available with  5 acres up to 24 acres,  so lots of room possible for  pasture.   Close to shopping,  boat ramps,  restaurants and marinas.  Two public beaches are located less than 20 minutes away .  This is a wonderful, versatile home,  lovingly built,  featuring fine craftsmanship and only the very best materials.   Call  Blue Heron Realty Co. at 757-678-5200 for pricing details and more information on available adjacent parcels.

 

 

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)