Touring Berkeley Plantation is a necessity for anyone who’s come to Virginia to learn about Colonial history and culture. It puts the past in prospective and explains the years between the arrival of early English colonists in 1619 and the establishment of a new nation in 1776. Historic Williamsburg may explain the lives of shopkeepers and the pre-Revolution ruling bureaucracy, but Berkeley Plantation completes the picture. There you can see and experience how colonists felt and how early Americans lived.
Berkeley Plantation is one of the nation’s most significant homes. It is the home of the Harrisons—one of America’s first families. Benjamin Harrison V, who signed the Declaration of Independence, was born there. So was his son, our ninth president, William Henry Harrison. The family lineage also includes Benjamin Harrison V’s grandson, also
named Benjamin Harrison, who was our 23rd president. The present Georgian brick mansion—built in 1726, the year Benjamin Harrison V was born, is the oldest three-story brick home in Virginia—a beautiful relic of a time long past.
But a visit to Berkeley Plantation is not just about the handmade bricks made onsite or the exquisite 18th century home furnishings that grace the mansion’s interior. It’s not even about the five acres of boxwood hedges and flowers that comprise the Plantation’s tiered gardens. And although most visitors love the story, it’s not even about the classic Adam woodwork added at Thomas Jefferson’s suggestion. A trip to Berkeley is a visit to the very beginnings of American settlement, including the celebration of the first Thanksgiving.
While visiting any day is a delight for those who love American history or colonial architecture, a visit in November honors living, breathing history. Treat your family to the celebration of the 1619 landing of early colonists and the festivities that made up America’s First Thanksgiving. Berkeley Plantation is the traditional site of the first Thanksgiving and its annual recreation is a family-friendly holiday festival, perfect to kickoff your own Thanksgiving celebration. History, food and fun combine with home tours, strolls through the fall garden, colonial games for the children, a keynote address and readings from a new children’s book to create one of the most exciting holiday celebrations in the Historic Williamsburg area.
It’s the perfect launch of the holiday season, too. You may find yourself wishing to return to Berkeley in December for the plantation’s Christmas celebration, when costumed interpreters explain how the plantation was decorated with greens from the garden to celebrate the holiday.
Berkeley Plantation is located between Williamsburg and Richmond on the James River. The mansion and its surrounding gardens are open for tours daily.