Letters to New Kent County – Installment 2

Dear Friends in New Kent,

Thank you for allowing me to update you on the progress made by the Tidewater and Big Bend Foundation (TBBF) and its work in New Kent and Charles City. The Foundation takes its stewardship role seriously and periodically reviews with the public its accomplishments and still-to-be-completed work. This update follows a previous letter to the Editor and an article in another publication and provides the current status of all the properties within our portfolio.

Foundation properties today are bordered by sizable forest clearances on #155, #249, Olivet Church Road, Poindexter Road and Cumberland Road, and are recognizable by our distinctive white fences, historical markers and restored residences.

As many of you know, the Foundation is committed to the restoration of the rural landscape and is precluded from real estate development. I do own acreage not yet in the Foundation but in general, as the founder of the Tidewater and Big Bend Foundation, I share its views. Thus, there should be no developments of shopping malls, strip centers, convenience stores or truck stops from me.

Cumberland Estate

Among our present ten historical homes, Cumberland stands out as our most refined property. You may easily see it by driving to 9007 Cumberland Road and following the blacktop downhill to the main entrance.  In front of the property there are seven historical markers and a handsome view of the Pamunkey River.

Cumberland’s origin extends into the seventeenth century when it was owned by the first Sheriff of New Kent County. The present house was probably constructed in the eighteenth century and the brick wings date to the 1930’s. The other structures on the property were built by me, including a dovecote originally designed by Thomas Jefferson for Monticello. The house is furnished mostly with period antiques and is my personal residence in Virginia. I acquired the property in 2012, before the inauguration of the TBBF and today we use it for public, political, business and Foundation discussions and dinners.

Hampstead

Hampstead, in the northwest corner of New Kent County, is the most ‘monumental’ of our historical residences. It was constructed in 1825 and was at the time one of the most lavish rural properties in the Tidewater region.

Hampstead contains three large floors, a spacious built-in attic and a ‘widows walk’ on the roof. The building and 500 acres were acquired a few years ago and restoration has proceeded almost daily since the acquisition. When completed, Hampstead will be the prime property in our Foundation’s portfolio. Please view the site from Old Church Road, starting at Hampstead Lane.

Mount Stirling

Mount Stirling, at the boundary of New Kent and Charles City Counties on Route 155 South, is another prime property. Restoration is only starting now after the residence’s purchase a few years ago. Mount Sterling has a long and distinguished history, including being a prominent stop during Jeb Stuart’s ride around the Union Army in 1862. Like Hampstead, its interior decoration and furnishing is being guided by Colonial Williamsburg.

Other noteworthy properties include Shuttlewood, north of Route 249 and South Garden on Highway 60 west of Providence Forge. Shuttlewood has completed its restoration and is in the process of being furnished. The landscape has not yet been addressed around the house, partly due to archaeological excavations, and the site is not accessible by the public.

South Garden is just beginning its restoration. It is a distinguished house that once was the center of a large plantation. The building is situated dramatically on a sharp ridge with commanding views to the south and is easily seen from Highway 60 east of Providence Forge.

Just north of Highway 249 near the intersection with Poindexter Road, you’ll see Cedar Lane, constructed by my ancestors in the 1820s or earlier. It has been meticulously restored and furnished and is available as a vacation rental. Moss Side Manor, a half mile west of Cedar Lane on #249 was built just after the Civil War. It also is fully restored, furnished, and available as a vacation rental.

The Foundation’s final property is Spring Hill located on Highway 60 near the east end of the County. In the past, the residence has been utilized as an inn, a private home and once boasted a long straight-away horse racing track. We will delineate the racetrack and expect to rebuild three vanished structures on the property.

As you recognize, if the Foundation’s restorations and landscape renewals are successful, New Kent will be the beneficiary of a beautiful historical endowment. You should see miles of white fences, managed landscapes and stately houses together with the honest story of the good and evil of antebellum plantations.

I invite you to visit TBBF’s website at https://tidewaterandbigbend.org/tidewater/ for further details on our restoration efforts and photographs of these lovely properties.

John Poindexter

New Kent County

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