Located at a sharp curve of the Pamunkey River in New Kent County, Cumberland has operated as a residential and agricultural estate for nearly 300 years, at its peak encompassing 1,500 acres. The present house, constructed during the early 19th-century, sits atop the foundations of an earlier 18th-century residence. The dwelling evolved from its origins as a central-hall plan, constructed for the Littlepage family, through an important restoration and expansion in 1938. The dwelling overlooks the site of the extinct Cumberland Town, an important 18th-century residential, warehouse, and river port. Cumberland has been the site of significant military activities as well, including functioning as a storage depot during the Revolutionary War and serving as a significant Union Army encampment during the Civil War.
Cumberland was listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register in 2016 and on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017.
New Kent County, Virginia
Originally built around 1700
Founded by the Littlepage family
Acquired in July 2013
Situated on 111 acres
Structure fully restored
At the heart of Cumberland is a two-story, five-bay, single-family dwelling constructed on a central hall plan, likely built in the first quarter of the 19th century and probably on an 18th-century foundation. An important restoration and expansion of the residence occurred around 1938, when architect Harden de Valsen Pratt led the effort to restore the building. Pratt, who also designed the restorations of the nearby Criss Cross and St. Peter’s Church, added a full-height, three-bay entry porch and a pair of two-story, two-bay wings, each connected by one-and-a-half story, one-bay, gabled hyphens. On the interior, Pratt restored existing features while adding architectural elements taken from demolished structures in New Kent County. The result is an architecturally rich residence that speaks to the many lives of those who resided within its walls.
Today, the Cumberland property is accessed by Cumberland Road (Route 637) from the southwest and is bordered by the river and the Cumberland Marsh Natural Area Preserve. The preserve is located to the north of the property in an area once part of a 1,500-acre plantation.
The first residence at Cumberland was built shortly after a 1663 land grant was acquired by Richard Littlepage, whose descendants occupied the property through the mid-18th century. During this time, the adjacent village, officially established in 1748 as Cumberland Town, developed as an important port on the Pamunkey River, with the Littlepage family closely involved. At Richard Littlepage III’s death in 1767, a two-story, four-room dwelling with a brick cellar stood at Cumberland. During the Revolutionary War, both British and American armies marched through the area and Cumberland Town was used to store provisions by American forces under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette.
Cumberland also saw significant activity during the Civil War. During the Peninsula Campaign of May 1862, U.S. Army General George McClellan designated the site of Cumberland Town as the encampment location for his army of more than 100,000 troops. The campaign had as its principal objective the conquest of Richmond and the subjugation of the Confederacy, a goal frustrated by the emergence of Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson. Because of the size of the encampment, many journalists, photographers and engravers visited the site and the vast encampment is well documented as a result.