Adventure to Ham Town

10/06/12 8:18 PM

Ok, after my disappointment with the lawyers, I need to do some retail therapy. This time, I decided to venture to a new place for some new finds. Brett and I have lived in Chesapeake, Virginia for 20 years now. But in all of this time, we have never gone to Smithfield, Virginia. Well, we have gone there, but only to someone’s house in the outlying areas. What we haven’t seen is the Historic District in downtown Smithfield. So our daughter, Alexa and I headed there for a day of fun. (IMPORTANT NOTE: Our plantation is not in or anywhere near Smithfield)

Smithfield, Virginia – Historic District – Main Street

Now you may know the name Smithfield from the hams that come from there. Paula Dean has recently started promoting them. (Brett asked me if we got to see Paula Dean while we were there. Sorry Brett, Paula is in Georgia.) But there is a whole different side of Smithfield we had yet to discover. According to the brochure “Smithfield Virginia, Historic Downtown District Walking Tour” that we picked up at the Visitors Center along Main Street here is a little about Smithfield:

“Born on the banks of the Pagan River and nurtured by the trade and commerce that sailed on its tides, Smithfield was, from its very beginning, a “river town” and its whole life and growth have been conditioned by the river. On our walking tour of Smithfield’s old town district, you will see a harmonious blend of the 18 century Colonial, Federal, Georgian and Victorian period houses and buildings side by side. Settled primarily by British merchants and ship’s captains, Smithfield, a river port town, thrived for more than 20 years as a British colony before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Today the town boasts fifteen houses that are authentically 18th century, ten of which are brick and ten of which pre-date the Revolutionary War. In the early 19th century, a number of excellent Federal period homes were built, but it was after the Civil War, in about 1876 that the big building boom began. It was in this era of steamboats and the flourishing peanut industry in Smithfield that many of the elaborate Victorian homes were erected. Their ostentatious elegance of turrets, towers, stained glass windows and steamboat Gothic trimmings is easily evident. After the Warascoyak Indians, the first person to own land was Arthur Smith in Isle of Wight County. On September 10, 1637, he patented 1,450 acres of Isle of Wight County, described as ‘a neck of land running southeast along a creek behind the Pagan Shore. It was Arthur Smith IV, who in 1750 had the land surveyed and laid off as a town. Smithfield derived its name from this Smith family, not from John Smith of Jamestown. The town consisted of four streets and 72 lots. The principal streets, as shown on the original plat, are now Main Street to Institute Street, South Church Street to the bridge at Smithfield Station, South Mason Street and Cedar Street from South Mason Street to South Church Street. Within two years after the town was established, 59 of the 72 lots had been sold, and before the Revolutionary War all of the lots were sold. Each lot sold for four pounds, six shillings.”

When Alexa and I arrived I was struck by the homes along Main Street. As you roll into town, first the homes and then store fronts greet you. It is everything you would imagine as a small town. The first place we stopped was “Smithfield Gourmet Bakery & Cafe”. This cafe was in a small older building that once served as a retail store. We were greeted by the wait staff as they rushed to help the large number of guests in and outside the cafe. We were seated in the front window area, which gave us a good view of the street and traffic that passed by. This cafe served some of the best food! And it was not little town style food you might expect. The chef created a sandwich for me of tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil and focaccia bread. Alexa had a turkey and roast beef with cheddar cheese on focaccia bread. The bread was made fresh and tasted it!

Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella on Focacia Bread – Smithfield Gourmet Bakery and Cafe

After we finished we headed out to shop. Our first stop was “Laura & Lucy’s”. This was a large antique store that once served as a retail space for a large department style store. It was beautiful inside with items arranged in “room” settings. I think I could have bought almost everything in there.

After this stop, we headed to the next shop, “Return Engagement Antiques and Consignments. This store was in an old house along Main Street. Each room was set up as a store area for consignments. Here we walked the main floor, then headed down into the basement. There I found our first find of the day. A beautiful blue salad plate.

Then we headed back up to the top floor up some of the narrowest, steepest stairs I have ever climbed. At the top, Alexa and I got a little laugh that they had even used the bathroom as a store front.

Up here is where we found our second find of the day, a lovely pestle cup.

Next stop was the house next door, “Olive’s”, where I met Donna Lowery. Here we made a find we weren’t expecting! A gift for Brett for Father’s Day. Sitting on a shelf, tucked behind some other pieces was a blue, white and gold plate from Penn State University. Brett is really a devoted Ohio State fan, but just last year he completed his masters from Penn State. So we thought this would be something neat he could place on his desk. Donna was very helpful! We talked about our B&B and she let me know that she could help us locate some of the items for the house. We look forward to talking to her soon!

We headed down Main Street towards more shops, but took a moment to enjoy the beautiful old homes along the way. Brett and I have a passion about old homes. Our first home was built in 1885 and we spent our first two years restoring it. So to see these homes brought back memories of our old historic neighborhood.

Our next stop had to be one of our most pleasant visits. We stopped at “Olde House Antiques” where we met Pasty Privott. Pasty warmly welcomed us as we walked up the stairs to her front porch. We explained our mission and she right away showed us in to view her wares. She pointed out pieces that she thought I would like and allowed me to wander around, looking for those just right pieces for our plantation. We found most of what we purchased here. While she checked us out, we had a grand conversation and I really look forward to returning to see her!

Our last stop of the day had to be one of our greatest surprises! We found a tea shop, “Olde World Tea Company” where we met the owner, Jacki. We discussed our needs for the plantation and she informed us that she could do some research and come up with a blend that they would have used back in 1790! What a great addition to our teas!

After our shopping, we strolled down Main Street and viewed the homes and took more pictures. The homes here all have great charm and we even found an Inn and a Bed and Breakfast! May be sometime soon, Brett and I will have to come back and do some more “research” before we jump into our own project.

Smithfield Inn

Mansion on Main Bed and Breakfast

Today, I did make one more trip out to look for more finds. This time, it was off to Norfolk and the Ghent Historic District. Here we found five more pieces to add.

All and all, therapy kept me busy and helped me forget, if only for moment that we are still waiting. Maybe this week will be the week! Fingers crossed and holding my breath!

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 41 Comments »

41 Comments on “Adventure to Ham Town”

  1. Dianna Says:

    You should have let me know you were coming! Did you happen to go in Smithfield Flags? My son and his dad own that business! Thanks for showcasing our little town. If you come back for another visit, maybe we could get together!

  2. I’m sorry! I thought you were going to be busy with your family! No I am sorry, we didn’t make it to Smithfield Flags. I think we did see it though. We are going to be coming back soon. Alexa really liked the Smithfield Ice Cream shop and wants to eat lunch there sometime!

  3. What a beautiful little town..,,I could almost smell the bakery..thank you kindly for sharing your visit to Smithfield.


  4. Thank you! It did smell really good in there! We were sitting next to the cakes and pies and I think we gained weight just from the smell alone!

  5. Dainty teacups and plates, fabulous town and buildings. Looks like a great day. Now. About the food. You at killin’ me with all this glorious food!

  6. Well, I didn’t make these items. Just ate them. I did leave out the ice cream shop we stopped at just before we headed home! I will try and be more gentle in future post…. may be. 😉

  7. Oh, the antiquity on the east coast! We have nothing like that here in Wenatchee, WA. Our town recently celebrated its 100 year anniversary. That’s not very old. The house we live in was built in 1949–post World War 2 housing that is typical here.

  8. My husband has traveled to Washington on business many times. He tells me that it is a very beauitful place. 100 years is nothing to sneeze at! I think all history is important whether its 1949 or 1791!

  9. Megan Says:

    I love the pictures! In fact, they made me hungry!

  10. Thank you! Sadly, I didn’t eat the sticky bun. 🙁

  11. I love the old homes that you photographed. It looks like a nice place to visit.

  12. It was a really fun. We enjoyed seeing the history and meeting the kind people that are part of this sweet town.

  13. What beautiful crockery you are finding!
    I also collect similar and antique linens.
    I enjoy imagining the hands that made and used them.
    It’s a lovely part of the world you are in, rich history
    Greetings from Australia

  14. Thank you! I need to start looking for linens next! But it is cool finding them and thinking about who used them. We look forward to seeing more from your blog in Australia!

  15. You’re doing a great sales job for Virginia! It’s never been on my list of places to visit, but your blog has put it high on the list now. Definitely an English home-from-home, with added colonial style! Do hope the lawyers earn their money and come through very soon for you. Tea in the post today, btw!

  16. Now I’m homesick even though I grew up in Tennessee. I ordered the hams sent here to San Diego when my children were little so they could taste real ham. We’ve decided to make it a tradition again. My son at Virginia Tech told me I need to visit Smithfield the next time I come to see him and you’ve really made me want to go. Thanks for a great blog!

  17. Thank you! I have to say this blog has really enriched our lives and allowed us to share some of our adventure. And what we are finding is that it has inspired and shown others the rich history here in Virginia. Yes, you must go to Smithfield. Its a great day trip. But also make sure you stop by our plantation too!

  18. Thank you for your ‘like’ and I *love* the idea of a tea from 1790! That will really be something special – hope she manages it!

  19. Thank you! I was very excited to hear that we might be able to pull it together! We look forward to seeing more of you blog too!

  20. Pretty plates and cups! 🙂

  21. Thank you! It has been so much fun finding each piece. It makes them all very special.

  22. lvaletutto Says:

    Oh my gosh, I love everything you bought! You have a lot of great antique shops near you. You are so lucky! Keep posting your finds, they’re positively enviable!

  23. Thank you! I made list last week of all the area antique store and will be working my way down the list over the next few weeks! So more to come!

  24. rosyragpatch Says:

    Smithfield looks like such a pretty place …and I loved your china finds.

  25. Thank you! It was really a nice day trip! And we love the pieces we are finding too!

  26. georgiajosie Says:

    I am in LOVE with the dishes!

  27. Thank you! Hopefully we will be able to find more of these special pieces!

  28. What a charming town! i have never visited Smithfield before, but will add it to my ever growing Virginia list. Thank you for inspiring me.
    xo, Lissy

  29. Thank you for stopping by! Don’t forget to put us on your list once we reveal the location!

  30. putneyfarm Says:

    Funny, this looks a lot like New England. Maybe it is just similarities with port / trading towns…

  31. Well, New England was settled by the same British colonist, so that could explain the similarities. Either way, they both are cool places to visit!

  32. Jen Says:

    Oh, how I like the tea shop! Very fun—especially the period-appropriate teas! All of your finds are very lovely, too.

    You’ll have to put a list of these places together for your guests to visit!

  33. Thank you! We enjoyed the tea shop as well! We are looking for to the period appropriate tea for our first big tea event in December! I will have to work to remember all the places we have been finding our “treasures”! But hopefully soon we can list them for you!

  34. What a beautiful place! I am really enjoying your journey. Thank you for sharing.

  35. Oh my my, what a picturesque town! And that sandwich looked heavenly!

  36. soccernorsk Says:

    mmm…really miss the bread, living here in China! yum yum! lovely old homes too.

  37. Thank you! They don’t do breads in China?

  38. soccernorsk Says:

    Well let’s just say their strengths are vegetables, noodles, and dumplings. Just like Europe as a whole and Germany and France in particular have pastries and breads as a strength…

  39. more lovely tea cups! love these! those pastries are making my mouth water. 🙂

  40. Thank you! We are working on putting our tea serve together. I knew it would take some time to find just the right ones so I had to start early. We are hoping to have our first event tea event in December for our Holiday Tea.

  41. thats fantastic! i love the heart put into finding special tea cups. little touches like that make everything a grand experience!