Garden Week comes to Isle of Wight

Published 10:03 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Six Oaks is one of several historic buildings in Isle of Wight County that will be open for tours during Historic Garden Week.

Six Oaks is one of several historic buildings in Isle of Wight County that will be open for tours during Historic Garden Week.

History and modern-day beauty will collide during next week’s Historic Garden Week celebration.

Historic Garden Week in Virginia lasts from April 23-30. The annual recognition has taken place since 1929, and profits are used for the restoration and preservation of historic gardens and landscapes of historic properties.

Statewide, more than $17 million has funded 50 projects, including at Monticello and Mount Vernon, said Betsy Brantley, one of the local event chairs. Locally, projects have included Bacon’s Castle and Historic St. Luke’s Church.

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The Franklin, Elizabeth River and Nansemond River garden clubs cooperate on the Historic Garden Week recognition annually. This year, Franklin has the lead, and Brantley is a member of that club.

On April 23, the local tour, “Down Country Lanes: Historic Isle of Wight County Homes,” will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Open during the tour will be four homes, two churches, Boykin’s Tavern and a historic farmstead. The buildings trace their beginnings to no later than 1873, and most are a century or two older.

“It’s not just flowers and fancy houses; it’s history,” Brantley said.

Each of the buildings on the tour has contributed greatly to the history of Isle of Wight County, Brantley said. One in particular housed a family that was instrumental in preserving the county’s oldest records, protecting them from the fate that many other counties’ records suffered during the Revolutionary and Civil wars.

The Young family lived in the Oak Level home at 15107 Courthouse Highway, Smithfield. They were clerks of the court for 118 years.

During the Revolutionary War, Elizabeth Bennett Young, wife of Francis Young, buried the records, thus saving them from a fiery destruction.

During the Civil War, the family gave the records in a cart to Randall Booth, a slave, who hid the records in the woods in Greensville and Brunswick counties. The records room in the courthouse is now named after Booth.

It wasn’t only records that have been lovingly preserved in Isle of Wight. The homes on the tour have been added to carefully and restored throughout the years, Brantley said.

“It takes a special family to love a historic house,” she said. “It’s a labor of love, and it’s a real commitment to love an old house enough to put up with its eccentricities. I admire that a great deal.”

The two churches on the tour, Historic St. Luke’s and Woodland United Methodist Church, date from the late 1600s and 1873, respectively.

St. Luke’s is the oldest church building in Virginia.

Boykin’s Tavern, a restored tavern from around 1790 that now serves as a museum and county office, will serve as the tour headquarters.

“Isle of Wight and Smithfield really have done a great job of preserving and honoring their history,” Brantley said.

Also open are the Colonel Thomas Darden Home, 20485 Orbit Road, Windsor; Six Oaks, 14470 Great Springs Road, Smithfield; Davis Day House, 15400 Mokete Trail, Smithfield; and the Darden Farmstead.

Special events taking place at various sites include antique quilts and tractors on display, early farm craft demonstrations, a ham-smoking demonstration, plein air artists painting if weather permits, beehives available for inspection, and more.

Lunch will be available for purchase at Woodland United Methodist Church for $15.

Tickets are $30 in advance or $35 the day of the tour. Those wishing to purchase tickets on the day of the tour must start at Boykin’s Tavern, which will be the ticket headquarters.

Advance ticket sales are available at the following locations:

  • Alphabet Soup, 107 E. Second Ave., Franklin
  • Peanut Patch, 27478 Southampton Parkway, Courtland
  • Windsor True Value Hardware, 5 Joyner Ave., Windsor
  • Smithfield & Isle of Wight Tourism Visitor Center, 319 Main St., Smithfield
  • A. Dodson’s, 2948 Bridge Road, Suffolk
  • Suffolk Visitor Center, 524 N. Main St., Suffolk
  • 18th Century Merchants, 3591 Forest Haven Lane, Chesapeake
  • Bowman’s Garden Center, 315 Green St., Portsmouth