Upper Shirley

600 Shirley Plantation Road, Charles City, Virginia

Built from 1868, for Captain William Fitzhugh Carter (1832-1901) and his wife, Bettie Pannill (1831-1898), as a wedding gift from William's father, Hill Carter (1796-1870), of the Shirley Plantation. According to tradition, the first guest they received here was Hill Carter's first cousin, General Robert E. Lee. It was built at an initial cost of $2,500 during the Reconstruction period when few could afford such an expense but recycled materials were used to cut down on cost: a doorway on the west elevation was salvaged from the Warren House in Harrisonburg and the bricks were taken from a ruined early 18th century building on the Shirley Plantation built by the Carter's ancestor, Edward Hill III. Today, it is home to Upper Shirley Vineyards....

This house is best associated with...

William Fitzhugh Carter

Capt. William Fitzhugh Carter, of "Upper Shirley" Charles City, Virginia


Eliza Pannill

Mrs "Bettie" (Pannill) Carter


Overlooking the James River, the original central portion measured 42-feet-by-47-feet and on completion it was covered with white stucco. Separate outbuildings included the kitchen, ice house and smoke house. In 1885, the Carters sold the house to Edmund Archer Saunders (1831-1898) who bought it as a wedding present for his son, Herbert, and Rosalie Bell. Five years later they almost doubled it in size, when it also became one of the first houses in the county to be fitted out with electricity and indoor plumbing. In 1943, "Miss Rosalie" sold the house but the proceeding ten years it fell into a state of disrepair.

In 1953, it was purchased by Benjamin Pollard Alsop Jr. (1910-1999) and his wife, Em Bowles Locker (1916-2015), a friend of former First Lady Mrs Woodrow Wilson who visited here in 1956. They renovated it and added the north wing and a double-gallery porch on the river facade. Mrs Alsop sold the property towards the end of her life and from 2013 Upper Shirley and its 9-acres has been home to the Upper Shirley Vineyards. The house has been significantly remodelled to the rear to allow for a restaurant.

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 21/02/2021 and last updated on 21/02/2021.
Image Courtesy of JERRYE & ROY KLOTZ, M.D., Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License; Nomination form, U.S. Register of Historic Places;


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