Historic Va. plantation to be sold at auction
RICHMOND—An 18th-century house in seemingly impeccable condition sits on nearly 5,000 acres of timberland and farmland along the James River in Prince George County.
The Brandon Plantation has changed ownership only a few times in the past four centuries. It is about to change again.
The house, “one of America’s most admired works of Colonial architecture,” according to the National Park Service, and its 4,487 acres will be sold at auction June 26, if not before—if the price is right.
The center section of the plantation house is said to have been designed as a wedding gift by Thomas Jefferson.
The 7,773-square-foot house has two wings, one of which was built circa 1765, seven bedrooms and 6baths.
The property dates to the founding of Jamestown in 1607. The original owner of Brandon Plantation, Capt. John Martin, helped establish the first permanent English settlement in North America.
The property also has a connection to William Shakespeare. The second owner’s brother married Shakespeare’s daughter.
And in the early 1800s, the property was transferred to the Harrisons, a prominent political family in U.S. history that produced Virginia governors and two U.S. presidents: William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison.
The most recent owner’s father survived the Titanic, the passenger liner that sank in 1912.
“There are so many points of history and components of the property; it’s almost comical,” said Todd B. Wohl, a partner of Los Angeles-based Premiere Estates Auction Co., the auction company for Brandon Plantation.
“The history goes on and on and on,” Wohl said. “The property has almost 5 miles of river frontage. It’s so difficult to put a price on it. Ultimately, the market will determine the value.”
The property is assessed at $10.3 million. A reserve or minimum bid was not disclosed. A deposit of $250,000 is required to bid on the property.
The property will be marketed regionally, nationally and internationally, Wohl said.
Josh Dare, co-founder of The Hodges Partnership, a Richmond-based public relations firm that is part of the sales team, said Brandon Plantation is a rare and unique opportunity.
“It’s a spectacular piece of history that goes to the public very rarely,” Dare said. “Someone has the chance to be the next chapter in a long historic story that has been on the James River since soon after the colonists got there.”
Brandon Plantation is on the south shore of the James River in Spring Grove, about 5miles north of Route 10 between Hopewell and Smithfield.
A working farm—with crops of corn, wheat and soybeans—Brandon Plantation is one of America’s oldest and continuous agricultural enterprises, according to the National Register of Historic Places.
The property has 1,600 acres for farming, 2,200 acres of timber, 2.5 miles on the James River and 2.8 miles on Chippokes Creek. The tract contains deer and turkey and is known for its waterfowl hunting.
In addition to the plantation home, the property has 11 residential houses—seven of which are rented.
The property also has a pool, a tennis court and 14 farm structures, including a horse stable, two-story brick mule barns, a dairy barn, wood and metal frame buildings for storage of farm equipment and three grain elevators.
The land was farmed possibly as early as 1607 but clearly from 1614, according to the National Register of Historic Places.
The land was granted to John Martin from the king of England in 1616, and the tract was named Brandon after the family of Martin’s wife.
In 1637, merchants John Sadler and Richard Quiney (Quiney’s brother was married to Shakespeare’s daughter, Judith) and mariner William Barker bought Brandon Plantation. They and their heirs farmed the land until 1720 when it was sold to Nathaniel Harrison.
The property was owned by the Harrison family until 1926, when it was acquired by Robert W. Daniel Sr., the Titanic survivor, and his wife. The couple undertook the restoration of the house and grounds. Daniel was a Virginia state senator.
The property has stayed since then in the Daniel family. Linda Daniel, the widow of Robert W. Daniel Jr., who died a year ago and served five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, is selling it.
The back of the house facing the river is pockmarked where cannon balls hit it during the Revolutionary War and, as Linda Daniel called it, the War between the States.
“My husband said he didn’t fix it because he still bore a grudge,” Daniel said with a smile.
“The first time I saw it, I was in awe of the place and the history,” said Paul E. Bernett with Wells Fargo, the co-executor with Linda Daniel.
“I was amazed at the condition of the main house that something that old could be so well-maintained,” Bernett said, noting that the property has changed hands only four times since the king’s grant.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire property like this,” he said.