It was reputed to be America’s loveliest Colonial-era plantation house, a jewel of Georgian architecture. Its interiors, with opulent walnut and yellow pine paneling, parquetry and grand staircase — the work of a master joiner summoned to Colonial Virginia from England — are lauded in its National Historic Landmark paperwork as the most beautiful in the South.
For the better part of three centuries, Carter’s Grove rested serenely on the northern bank of the James River. It was built in 1750 by Carter Burwell, grandson of Robert “King” Carter, the English colony’s early land baron, to awe visitors with physical evidence of the bountiful riches that could be wrung from the New World wilderness.
Before the house, the land was the site of Martin’s Hundred plantation and Wolstenholme Towne, an ill-fated English settlement founded in 1620, just a few years after the establishment of Jamestown five miles upriver. Wolstenholme was destroyed during a native Powhatan massacre of English settlers in 1622.
But Carter’s Grove had better luck. For 260 years, it steadfastly survived looting, flood, hurricane, earthquake, a Hollywood crew filming a now-forgotten Cary Grant movie, and a marauding Revolutionary War colonel who billeted his Redcoats there and, legend has it, rode a horse up the main staircase, hacking the grand railing with his sword along the way. A 1928 renovation diminished the Palladian perfection of its exterior, but still, it endured.
Carter’s Grove may have finally met its ruin, however, in the unlikely form of Halsey Minor, a brash 40-something technology investor living in San Francisco.