After Brett and I finished with our Afternoon Tea at The Blue Willow Tea Room in Petersburg, I made the suggestion that we head over to Hopewell, Virginia to see a plantation that I had read about the night before at La Villa Romaine. When I saw this plantation, the first thought that came to mind was, “This is what Belle Grove looked like before Carolinus Turner changed it by adding the porticos, porches and extensions.”
This plantation is called Weston Plantation. It was built in 1789, right around the same time as Belle Grove (1791) was built. Weston Plantation is located in Hopewell and sits on the Appomattox River. The house was built by William and Christian Eppes Gilliam. Today it is the only 18th Century plantation on the Appomattox River. Weston Manor is an example of late Georgian plantation architecture. It is located on a bluff overlooking the river and still retains its rural atmosphere. Today the house contains 85% of its original architectural fabric including the original beaded weatherboards, window sash and interior woodwork.
William Eppes Gilliam’s family came to the colonies in the 17th Century as indentured servants. But by the 18th century, the family had amassed several plantations in the area, most notably being Eppington Plantation. One family member of the Eppes Family, John Wayles Epps would become the son-in-law of Thomas Jefferson. Christian Eppes Gilliam was the daughter of Richard and Christian Robertson Eppes of the Appomattox Plantation. Her maternal grandfather was a descendant of Pocahontas.
During the Civil War, the Appomattox River was patrolled by Union gunboats. From these gunboats, many of the Confederate Plantations were either damaged or destroyed. Weston Plantation would also share in this fate. A Union gunboat fired upon Weston, leaving the house damaged, but not destroyed. During the shelling of Weston, one of the cannon balls lodge in the wall in between the first and second floor. It wasn’t until much later that the cannon ball was discovered when it finally fell to the floor from the ceiling in the dining room. Weston would also be used as the headquarters of Union General Philip Sheridan.
In the mid-1970s, Raymond Broyhill donated the house to the Historic Hopewell Foundation. Weston Manor continues to be maintained by the Historic Hopewell Foundation and is now open to the public as a historic house museum and cultural center. The Historic Hopewell Foundation has worked to find and fill Weston with period antiques and reproductions.
If you find yourself in Petersburg, I would recommend a stop by this plantation. But make sure you have a good GPS system. Hopewell is laid out in winding roads, not grid blocks. So it takes a little looking to find it.