Apr 15, 2013 12:00am - 1:00pm
Apr 20, 2013 12:00am - 1:00pm


Historic Garden Week Tour features Somerset Estates



Since the 18th century, the rolling countryside with gentle blue mountains in Virginia’s Piedmont near Somerset has attracted the establishment of impressive estates. Three of these historic mansions with their beautiful gardens will be on view – Annandale, Rocklands and Frascati-  in the 2013 Orange County Historic Garden Week tour, Somerset: Where Tradition Meets Today,  April 20th from 10am -5pm. In addition, the tour will include a visit to Grelen Nursery, one of the largest retail nurseries in Virginia, featuring its new Farm Market and Garden Shop.


The future of development in and around Somerset has drawn major controversy to this tiny community during the past year.  Proposals to re-develop the General Shale property as a large scale weapons training facility and statewide efforts to permit commercial exploration of uranium deposits, widespread in Orange County, have led to unprecedented local grass root efforts to protect and preserve the landscape surrounding Somerset.  This Historic Garden Week tour, sponsored by the Dolley Madison Garden Club, offers a unique opportunity to visit private estates in the area, located less than two hours from Washington D.C., and understand why Somerset has become a focal point in the development/conservation debate in the Piedmont. 


Tickets are available on-line at http://www.vagardenweek.org/.  Proceeds go to the Garden Club of Virginia for use in restoring historic gardens throughout the Virginia.



Annandale – Over 200 years ago, in 1804, the Annandale property was acquired by Revolutionary War veteran, Sargeant Reuben Boston. He constructed a two-story home of unpainted brick, with a hipped roof, combining elements of both the Federal and Neoclassical styles popular at that time. The property later passed to his son, William, and then William’s children, and remained in the Boston family until 1871. Reuben’s daughter named the property, Annandale, for the name of the town in Scotland from which the last of her husband’s clan emigrated. Tradition relates that there was a hospital at Annandale during the Civil War, probably in the main house and extending to subsidiary buildings on the property. The house was remodeled in the second half of the 19th century with the interior plan with its central stair hall flanked by a room on either side remaining unchanged. The exterior was redone in the Georgian Revival style in the 20th century. During these renovations, the present slate roof was installed and the brick was white washed. Visitors will see this solid brick home with gracious public rooms with twelve foot ceilings, original mouldings, heart pine floors and mantels. The grounds surrounding the home offer views of gently rolling farmland with gardens and beautiful pond and mature shade trees. There is a center-aisle barn for horses that has been renovated, a two-bedroom guest home and other dependencies to be viewed. The home has been beautifully maintained and carefully renovated to retain its historic integrity by the present owners, Janet and Sumter Pendergrast.


Frascati – The impressive and architecturally significant main house at Frascati has survived little altered for nearly 200 years. The original historic gardens are well-documented. Brick serpentine walls, made famous by Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virginia, were said to have surrounded the nearly three acres of formal gardens at Frascati and were razed towards the end of the nineteenth century. The estate is named for a famous wine district near Rome, Italy. The rectangular brick mansion was built for Supreme Court Justice Phillip Pendleton Barbour. Completed in 1823, the house was constructed by John M. Perry, one of the master builders employed by Thomas Jefferson for building the University of Virginia. Jeffersonian influences may be seen in the Doric columns on the front Tuscan portico, in the gracefully traced fanlight above the entrance door, and in many other interior details such as the drawing room ceiling cornices. However, according to a 1982 booklet, “Notes on Virginia,” published by the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission, “the plan and general outline (of the house) follow the more conventional Federal schemes of that day.” While little remains today of the original English formal gardens the bare bones of the garden’s structure are intact. Visitors will view the original allée of boxwood, that is approximately 30 feet tall and extends 130 feet to the pool. These old boxwood specimens stand as a testament to the garden’s past. The front lawn of Frascati has been maintained very closely to the historic layout. The tour will include viewing the first floor rooms of the home. Admiral and Mrs. John Barrow, upon acquiring Frascati in 1985, completed extensive restoration work. The house is furnished with family antiques. The owner is Mrs. John Barrow.


Grelen – In 1990, Dan Gregg founded Grelen Nursery as a wholesale nursery on property that had been in his family for three generations.  The business expanded to include sales to retail clients and a full range of landscaping services, and in 1997, Zeke Galvin was hired to manage the landscaping division of the nursery.  Success bred success and in 2003, Grelen expanded its operations to a 200 acre farm in Somerset located just off Route 231.  Since then Grelen has purchased two more contiguous tracts of land comprising a total footprint of almost 600 acres.

 Grelen Nursery currently has approximately 250 acres planted in 100s of varieties of trees and shrubs which are sold throughout the East Coast, and it employs seven crews providing landscaping and hardscaping services to the Central Virginia area. 

 Dan Gregg has a commitment to demonstrating that  responsible economic development and viable  agriculture operations are compatible with, and in fact necessary, for the preservation of agricultural lands and open space which contribute so much to the identity of this region.  The Historic Garden Week tour will coincide with the grand opening of Grelen’s newest venture:  The Market at Grelen, a farm and garden shop.  Visitors will be able to visit Grelen Nursery and The Market while enjoying a leisurely box lunch (must be ordered byApril 15th by calling Sparks at (540)672-0060).



Rocklands – The estate of Rocklands, a Georgian Revival mansion set in beautifully landscaped grounds is today comprised of 2200 acres with formal English and French gardens. Rocklands was largely assembled and developed after 1851 by Richard Haxall of the noted Richmond milling family. After Haxall’s had a fire, the mansion was renovated in 1905-07 for Thomas Atkinson, also of Richmond. In the 1930s, renowned New York architect, William Lawrence Bottomley, devised the renovation plan for an extensive remodeling for Doris and Charles Neale, who purchased Rocklands in 1926. Heading any list of outstanding farming estates, today Rocklands is registered as an Historic Landmark by both the Commonwealth of Virginia and the U.S. Department of Interior. Rocklands was the scene of considerable military activity during the Civil War. During the war, General Robert E. Lee was a guest at Rocklands as he was a good friend of then-owner, Robert Barton Haxall. Visitors will be able to view the rooms on the main floor of the mansion, in addition to wandering the grounds which include a medieval stone tower and the formal English and French gardens, complete with fountains. The rolling pastures, sloping down to a large pond, with views of cattle, wooded hills and the gentle blue hills form a background. The present day owners are Jacqueline and O. Bruce Gupton. Their restoration work with Rocklands is spectacular as well as their immense efforts in reinvigorating downtown Gordonsville itself.


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