Sherwood Forest Plantation

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14501 John Tyler Memorial Highway, Charles City, VA, USA

Sherwood Forest Plantation Charles City Reviews

vances vances
541 reviews
I Sherwood like to see this place Jun 26, 2017
John Tyler’s Sherwood Forest is one of those many jewels off the beaten path. There is no doubt that Tyler’s limited accomplishment as chief executive contributes to the obscurity. Since Virginia is home to more US Presidents than any other state, lying in the shadows of Mount Vernon and Monticello probably does not help the cause. The upside is being able to wander about a lovely plantation with hardly another person about.

You can simply drive up and self-pay ($10 per adult; free to children under 15) to tour the plantation grounds. The grounds encompass twenty five acres and are quite pretty: there are many terraced gardens and several outbuildings to explore. The Milk House is one of the few with a brick foundation, featuring no mortar to better draw coolness from the ground and prevent milk from spoiling. One of the few buildings you may actually peek inside is the original Smoke House, nicely appointed with period pieces. I was also impressed with the Wine House, the oldest structure on the grounds. Raised in 1660 to cure tobacco leaves, Tyler converted it to making wine once he and Julia permanently relocated after his term ended. In the back yard there still stands one of the very first gingko trees which came to America: it was presented as a gift from Captain Matthew Perry upon returning from an Oriental visit in the 1850’s. My favorite outdoor attraction was the delightful Pet Graveyard. Apparently both John and Julia were animal lovers and marked a multitude of plots with miniature headstones for the various cats, dogs and horses that were family pets.

The affinity for animals is apparent when you gaze upon the Plantation Big House where the Tyler’s lived. A pair of cast iron dog pedestals greet you at the main entrance, transferred here from a Long Island estate in Julia’s family. To get inside the Plantation Big House you need to make contact and schedule an appointment (phone: 804-829-5377 / email: info@sherwoodforest.org) at a cost of $35 per person. It is important to note you pay at the conclusion of the tour, only by cash or check.

I am impressed this is the only presidential home which has maintained private ownership within the same family. Perhaps even stranger, it is the only one owned by multiple presidents who were unrelated – a remarkable coincidence and underscoring his advanced age at election, Benjamin Harrison (and please do not forget this was the person whose expiration accorded John the presidency) purchased the estate and owned it for several years in the 1700’s without ever residing here.

Plusses and minuses on the house tour. On the positive side is a quality collection of original pieces from the homestead (which only resulted from a concerted effort by the grandson in the 1970’s), a greatly relaxed atmosphere (it was only us and another party of two ladies) and focused attention from the guide (please see the review of Mount Vernon). Alas, our guide was not knowledgeable, and a bit worse, not passionate about her subject matter.

Regardless, she was intent upon providing a good tour and alerted to us to several interesting features. Most prominent was that this remains the largest frame house in the United States. To assuage his young wife after they moved in, Tyler had a 68 foot long ballroom added. I was astonished how narrow the dimensions were, but apparently it was sufficient to accommodate parties prancing the Virginia Reel, the trendy dance of the day. Julia was big on hosting parties.

The other fun story involves the ghost of the Gray Lady. As the legend goes, this was a servant, and they all typically dressed in gray, tending to an infant (curiously, the particular infant is not identified). Her charge passed away and she continues to parade up and down the stairwell used to transport the child from a first floor bedroom to a second floor nursery, and the creaking of the rocking chair she used to lull the child to sleep is rumored to be frequently heard. After relating the tale our guide directed attention to the stairwell, where there is a stain which remarkably resembles the gray portrait of lady!

An engaging legacy and a pretty spot to visit. Recommended.
Entrance to Sherwood Forest
Shall we?
Sherwood Forest Plantation Big Hou…
Pet Cemetery at Sherwood Forest
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vances says:
I agree, Bill - that totally blows me away!
Posted on: Aug 04, 2017
Zagnut66 says:
It's hard to believe, but this house is owned by Tyler's still-living grandson.
Posted on: Aug 04, 2017
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photo by: vances