Carter's Grove

8797 Pocahontas Trail, Williamsburg, James City County, Virginia

Completed in 1755, for Carter Burwell (1712-1756) and his wife, Lucy Grymes (1720-1792). Situated on the north shore of the James River, it is considered to be one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the United States. Its most famous room is the Drawing Room dubbed the "Refusal Room" for it was here that George Washington was refused the hand in marriage of Sally Cary, as too was Thomas Jefferson when he proposed to Rebecca Burwell. The house stood all but unaltered until 1928 when the roof was enlarged to add the dormer windows and the dependencies were enlarged and attached to the main house by a pair of hyphens, similar to that at Westover. It was a museum from 1969 to 2003 but is now back in private hands, with the proviso that it must open its doors to the public for one day every year....

This house is best associated with...

Carter Burwell

Col. Carter Burwell, of "Carter's Grove" James City County, Virginia


Lucy (Grymes) Burwell

Mrs Lucy (Grymes) Burwell


Nathaniel Burwell

of "Carter Hall" Clark Co., Virginia


Lucy (Page) Burwell

Mrs Lucy (Page) Baylor, Burwell


Carter Burwell

Carter Burwell, of "Carter's Grove" Williamsburg, Virginia


Mary (Duncan) Burwell

Mrs Mary (Duncan) Burwell


Edwin Gilliam Booth

Lawyer, of Philadelphia


Henrietta (Chauncey) Booth

Mrs Henrietta (Chauncey) Booth


Thomas Percival Bisland

T. Percival Bisland, of New York City & "Carter's Grove" Virginia


Margaret (Buchan) Bisland

Mrs Margaret (Buchan) Bisland


Archibald Montgomery McCrea

President of the Union Springs Manufacturing Company, of Pittsburgh


Mary Corling (Johnston) McCrea

Mrs "Mollie" Mary Corling (Johnston) Dunlop, McCrea, of "Carter's Grove" Virginia


The land lies some five miles south of Williamsburg and was first acquired in 1620 by the Virginia Company of London but was abandoned just two years later after the Indian Massacre of 1622 and then sold to Robert "King" Carter. As a wedding present to his second daughter, Elizabeth, on her marriage to Nathaniel Burwell, she became entitled to the profits from the plantation that what was then known as "Carter's Creek".

When Carter died in 1732, he willed the 1,400-acre plantation to Elizabeth's second son, Carter Burwell (younger brother of Lewis Burwell, President of the Governor's Council) who extended his holdings to 30,000-acres and built the 200-foot long mansion house seen here today. He used a British architect, David Minitree, to supervise the team of bricklayers and cabinetmakers - all slave labor - creating one of the finest houses money could buy in Virginia. The glazed blue and red bricks were fired on the plantation and the woods (locust, cedar, poplar) used for the panelling, sills, floors etc., were all made on site. But, after moving in with his wife and children Carter Burwell died just six months later.

Carter's son, Nathaniel Burwell, duly inherited the plantation (one of several he owned through various inheritances) and lived here for a time before 1792 when he built himself the Greek-Revival Carter Hall in Clarke County. Carter's Grove, or "The Grove," remained in the hands of the Burwell family until 1838 when Nat's grandson, Phillip L.C. Burwell, sold the house and 938-acres to Thomas Wynne. It remained with the Wynnes through the Civil War before it was sold to the enthusiastic forward-thinker Edwin Gilliam Booth.

Booth took ownership in 1879, hailing it as a patriotic beacon of the "New South" and even going so far as to paint all the rooms red, white, and blue. The porches he attached were removed by the next owner from 1907, Thomas Percival Bisland (1865-1908), by which time the plantation was reduced to its present 400-acres. Bisland was a Southerner but had made his fortune in New York and wished to maintain the house as summer home, visiting on his yacht. But, he died just the next year, followed by his widow in 1910.

Over the course of the next few years, the house fell into a bad state of disrepair until 1928 when it was rescued by a Pittsburgh industrialist, Archibald Montgomery McCrea, and his Virginian wife, Mollie. They brought in architect Duncan Lee and restored it to its former splendor while also sympathetically adding the dormer roof similar to that at the Westover Plantation. After his widow died in 1960, through a gift from the Rockefeller Foundation, Carter's Grove was acquired by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. It was open to the public from 1969 to 2003 and has since been acquired by Samuel M. Mencoff in 2014 for $15.3-million with the stipulation that he open its doors to the public one day every year.

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 08/02/2023 and last updated on 09/02/2023.
Image Courtesy of Melissa Wilkins, CC BY-SA 2.0; Colonial Williamsburg Digital Library: Carter's Grove Historical Report


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