Mount Stirling Summary
Mount Stirling is an important Greek Revival plantation house constructed adjacent to the Chickahominy River in north Charles City County, Virginia. William Jerdone, one of Charles City County’s wealthiest planters, built Mount Stirling in 1851 on the site of an earlier plantation house. An exceptional example of high-style Greek Revival architecture, the house was erected at a time when few major plantation dwellings were being built in eastern Virginia. Mount Stirling has survived relatively unaltered — its fine brickwork, Ionic portico, balustraded parapet and, on the interior, casework, doors, mantles and hardware are original. Its architectural formality is reinforced by its visual dominance of an attractively landscaped setting, which includes important early 20th-century gardens. A frame kitchen building, dating from a plantation that predates Mount Stirling, is the only remaining dependency.
Mount Stirling was listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register in 1992 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.
Charles City County, Virginia
Built in 1851
Acquired in April 2022
Situated on 147 acres
Structure fully cleared
Mount Stirling is a substantial brick, Greek Revival residence that is two-and-a-half stories tall over a raised basement; it is symmetrical in both elevation and plan. The front and rear elevations make use of a five-bay configuration, with the central bay as the focus. On the primary elevation, the paired Greek Ionic columns employ fluting and deeply carved volutes. Mount Stirling represents a late use of the Greek Revival style and is indeed one of the last substantial plantations built in the Tidewater before the Civil War. On the interior, a substantial amount of original fabric survives, including graining and marbleizing on millwork, especially the baseboards. Paint analysis, not yet undertaken, may reveal more original finishes obscured by modern decorations.
The residence is situated 300 meters east of Route 155 and south of Providence Forge. It is reached through a winding lane bordered by massive trees and a small lake formed by an embankment supporting the lane.
The Mount Stirling plantation tract was created by an agreement drawn up on September 24, 1835, between two sons of Francis Jerdone II – William and Francis III. In the land tax records for 1851, the value of buildings on the property increased to $8,500 and the property listed as Mount Stirling for the first time. The increase in assessed value apparently indicates the construction of the substantial Greek Revival plantation house. The house replaced the 18th-century plantation dwelling that was torn down at the time of the new construction. The old dependencies, however, were retained. The Civil War brought an end to much of William Jerdone’s fortune. Confederate and Union troops repeatedly passed through Charles City County and took food and supplies from its plantations and farms. A major point of crossing over the Chickahominy River was at the Forge Bridge, also called Jones’ Bridge, and this was accessible only by passing through Mt. Stirling’s lands.
In May 1862, as Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston’s troops were retreating from Yorktown to Richmond, General James Longstreet’s rearguard division of 13,000 encamped in the property’s “Middle Field.” In June of that same year, General J.E.B. Stuart approached the house with 200 of his men as he and 4,000 of his cavalry passed through Mount Stirling and crossed the bridge on his three-day ride around McClellan. On June 29, 1862, a body of Union cavalry and infantry appeared at Mount Stirling and set up their artillery about one hundred yards from the house. The next day, while the Federals were rebuilding the bridge that Stuart had burned, they were engaged by Confederate artillery on the opposite side of the Chickahominy River. For more than four hours, the shells from Confederate and Union guns, some of which were on Federal gunboats at Windsor Shades, passed over Mount Stirling. William Jerdone wrote to his brother Francis at Bloomsbury in Orange County that the cannon fire was so close that “some of the reports seemed to jar the house to the foundations.”
In the middle of August 1862, McClellan retreated from Harrison’s Landing on the James River toward Norfolk. Thirty-five to 40,000 Federal troops marched through Mount Stirling. Generals Philip Kearney, Samuel Heintzelman and David Birney established their headquarters in the house. The generals acceded to William Jerdone’s request that he be allowed to continue occupying enough of the house for his family. During that time, the army stripped the plantation of crops and livestock to supply the troops. Miles of fences were burned and horses were turned loose to forage in the fields, ruining what was not carried off.
The plantation was again crossed by Federal forces, this time under General Philip H. Sheridan, in late June 1864. Sheridan was on his way to join Grant and crossed the Chickahominy by way of the bridge at Mount Stirling on June 22. According to local lore, Sheridan pitched his tent on the lawn next to the house and used the drawing room as his office.
The Jerdone family, residents of the house from its construction in 1851 until about 1940, probably limited planting on the grounds to materials necessary for support of the plantation, such as orchards and vegetable gardens. In the 1940s, an ambitious landscaping scheme was undertaken, and what defines the exterior of Mount Stirling today is the maturation of that design. A wide, level lawn surrounds the house and is ornamented by grouped plantings of boxwood, holly and yew. The lawn to the north of the house is bordered by twin lines of tall boxwood, interspaced with symmetrically-planted trees. To the east of the house, the grounds are composed of a formal boxwood garden laid out in a design of four rectangles. Boxwood edges each rectangle and is planted around the perimeter of the entire composition. This garden is contrasted by the surrounding naturalized landscape, an arrangement of magnolias, wisteria, mock orange, holly and cedar.