Berkeley Plantation, Williamsburg
Not far from Williamsburg is one of Virginia's most historic homes, Berkeley Plantation. In 1619, 38 English investors founded the Berkeley Company. They chartered this land to be farmed. So began the plantation known as Berkeley's Hundred. To celebrate their safe arrival, they held a special ceremony that became the first Thanksgiving held in America.
An Indian attack destroyed the place in 1622, but in 1691 Benjamin Harrison III restored it. His son built the present house, Georgian manor house, in 1726. The Harrisons became successful tobacco farmers, and were among Virginia's most prominent families for generations. Benjamin Harrison V signed the Declaration of Independence. His son William Henry Harrison became governor of the Northwest Territory (now Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio). He defeated the Indians at Tippecanoe, and ran for President in 1840 with the slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler too". After winning, he was inaugurated but died shortly after. However, his grandson Benjamin Harrison, served as President from 1889 to 1893.
During the Civil War, in the Peninsular Campaign, General McClellan made the house his headquarters. Afterward, it fell into neglect. But in 1907, John Jamieson, a former drummer boy in McClellan's army, bought and restored the home. It's now open to the public, with guided tours inside the house (no photos allowed inside). Part of the grounds remain a working farm. Be sure to visit the ten acres of Boxwood gardens, which extend to the James River.
Two other historical tidbits: During the Civil War, a Union soldier composed a eulogy for a fallen comrade, which became known as Taps. Also, the first American whiskey was distilled here.
The original Georgian mansion, built in 1726 of brick fired on the plantation, occupies a beautifully landscaped hilltop site overlooking the historic James River. The date of the building and the initials of the owners, Benjamin Harrison IV and his wife, Anne appear in a datestone over a side door. The mansion is said to be the oldest 3-story brick house in Virginia that can prove its date and first with a pediment roof.