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Berkeley Plantation Visitor Tips

With many claims to fame, Berkeley Plantation in Charles City County is a must-see attraction for anyone who is interested in Virginia history.

The stone marker above the door reminds visitors that this Georgian mansion was built in 1726. It is the oldest three-story home in the entire state. Benjamin Harrison built the home with a bit of advice from his friend Thomas Jefferson. At one time it was a thriving plantation, just like so many others in the South.

“The estate is also the birthplace of William Henry Harrison, ninth president of the United States, and ancestral home of his grandson, Benjamin Harrison, the twenty-third president,” the plantation website says.

Today, it stands as a reminder of the rich history of this area. While some think of Plymouth in Massachusetts as the site of the first Thanksgiving, many experts agree that the actual first Thanksgiving took place right on the grounds of this beautiful mansion.

The celebration in Plymouth took place in 1621, but two years earlier, in 1619, a celebration of Thanksgiving took place along the shore of the James River at Berkeley Plantation.

This was to become an annual event as ordered by the Charter of Berkeley Plantation which read:

“Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”

During the Civil War, the plantation was occupied by Northern troops. It was at Berkeley Plantation where the haunting military song TAPS was written.

Sadly, the Harrison family never regained possession of Berkeley after the Civil War. It fell into disrepair.

The mansion and grounds were purchased in 1907 by the Jamieson family who began the task of restoration. Now beautifully restored and opened to visitors, Berkeley remains in the possession of the Jamieson family.

When You Visit

Visitors to Berkeley Plantation will find that much of the interior is accessible to the public.

Members of the Jamieson family still live on the third floor, but much of the rest of the house is open to guests.

Guides will take visitors through the main living areas as well as bedrooms, all of which are filled with period antiques. The guides are knowledgeable about the plantation. They help to make the house come alive with stories of past occupants.

The basement holds artifacts that have been discovered on the plantation’s grounds. Visitors also can also watch a short film about the history of the plantation.

After touring the house, visitors can tour the gardens on their own. They can spend some time sitting in the gazebo or strolling along the banks of the James River.

Nearby Attractions

Berkeley Plantation is in Charles City County, which was first settled in the early 1600s but event today has a population of less than 10,000 people. The county seat at the village of Charles City has a population of a little more than 100 people.

The only attractions of interest in the immediate vicinity are more James River plantations. Edgewood Plantation is a little more than one mile north at 4800 John Tyler Memorial Highway. Shirley Plantation, which also has an important story in history, is six miles west at 501 Shirley Plantation Road.

Hours and Location

Hours: Hours of operation vary by season and may be impacted by private events, so be sure to call before you visit.
Location: Charles City
Address: 12602 Harrison Landing Road, 23030
Telephone: (804) 829-6018
Web site:
Latitude: 37.319471
Longitude: -77.178686

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