Landscape Photography
of James L. Snyder

The Great House at Shirley Plantation
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The Great House at Shirley Plantation
Mamiya RZ67 Pro II camera, 65mm Mamiya SEKOR-Z f/4 W lens, polarizer, Fujicolor Reala film, 79 megapixels
All Images ©Copyright 2010 James L. Snyder. All Rights Reserved

The Great House at Shirley Plantation

Charles City County, VA, 5/26/2005

During the year we lived in Virginia, my mother and I visited Shirley Plantation on a perfect spring afternoon. The weather was comfortable and overhead was my favorite kind of sky: deep blue with a beautiful arrangement of cumulus clouds. The plantation is situated on the James River in Charles City County southeast of Richmond. While touring the property, I walked partway downhill toward the shore of the river and made this photograph looking southeast at the Great House. Lying in the coastal plain or tidewater region of eastern Virginia, the house stands only 25 feet above sea level, while being nearly 50 miles inland from Chesapeake Bay! The plantation started as a royal land grant given to Sir Thomas West and his wife Lady Cessalye Shirley in 1613. During the 1730s John Carter (1696-1742), the eldest son of former Colonial Governor of Virginia Robert "King" Carter (1662-1732), began building the current estate. The mansion or main house, also called the Great House was completed in 1738. At its core, the three story house is a 48-foot cube. It is constructed in the Georgian style with a mansard roof originally made of red clay tile; the current Buckingham slate roof was added in the 1960s. The red bricks were made on site and laid in Flemish bond pattern. Glazed headers give the walls a lively checkered appearance. Instead of a single front entrance, both the riverside and courtyard side entrances are framed by a two story Palladian portico with Doric columns supporting a pediment. The porticos were added in the 1770s by John's son Charles Carter (1733-1802), who also altered the building's interior. In 1830 Hill Carter (1796-1875), grandson of the first owner, added the Doric columns to the porticos. The double-hipped roof rests on an entablature containing dentil moldings. The roof is broken up by dormers and two large brick chimneys. On the center of the roof is a white pedestal supporting an overturned pineapple. Shirley Plantation is the oldest active plantation in Virginia and is one of the oldest family-owned businesses in North America, with operations starting in 1638. Shirley was the birthplace of Anne Hill Carter (1773-1829), mother of American Civil War Confederate general Robert E. Lee (1807-1870). The plantation was added to the National Register in 1969 and declared a National Historic Landmark the following year.

The Great House at Shirley Plantation

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