Windsor Castle Park tour set

Published 9:24 pm Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A piece of Isle of Wight County history will accept visitors this Saturday.

A public tour of Windsor Castle Park will be held at 2 p.m. Visitors will learn about the history of the 208-acre riverside park on Jericho Road in Smithfield, and about the ongoing restoration of the property.

The park was originally part of the 1,450 acres of land owned in 1637 by Arthur Smith. The Smith family owned the property for generations. In 1752, Smithfield was established with a portion of the property granted by Arthur Smith IV.

Windsor Castle restoration project site superintendent Roger Ealy inside the historical building that was formerly a kitchen.

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“He carved up a piece of his property, which became the town of Smithfield,” Isle of Wight County Museum curator Tracey Neikirk.

The 208-acre park was gifted to the town in 2010 by Joseph Luter III, former chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods. The Windsor Park Castle Park Foundation has begun restoration of the historical buildings to satisfy Virginia Department of Historic Resources mandates.

Crews have been renovating the exteriors of several historical buildings in the restoration’s first phase. This includes a kitchen separate from the manor house, and a smokehouse with the capacity for 200 pigs.

“It is one of the largest smokehouses in Isle of Wight County,” said site superintendent Roger Ealy.

Artifacts discovered during the restoration are housed in the Isle of Wight County Museum. These findings are part of the investigation into the history of both the property and the Smith family.

“It’s piecing all the components together,” Neikirk said. “The Smiths didn’t leave a lot of papers detailing their history.”

The restoration is planned to be completed in three phases. Archeologists will supervise any excavations for historical findings, which will affect the restoration’s schedule. Funding is another big factor in the restoration’s completion.

Windsor Castle restoration project superintendent Roger Ealy stands in front of the historical building known as the caretaker’s house. “It was not an elaborate house by any means, but it was a nice, solidly built house,” Ealy said.

“The timing is heavily dependent on funding,” said Rick Bodson, project manager for the restoration.

The three phases are expected to cost $5 million. The town has contributed $2 million towards that goal, while Smithfield Foods has contributed $1 million. Fundraising is under way to cover the remaining costs.

Bodson said that Smithfield VA Events has offered to fund $90,000 for interior work on the caretaker’s historical building to lease the building for office space and storage.

“They’ve also offered to fund the reconstruction of two barns to lease them,” he said.

Smithfield receives revenue from the park as an event venue. Amy Musick, Smithfield Center and outdoor venues director, said the site is popular for weddings and photography.

“People love Smithfield for its history and rustic appeal,” she said. “It gets people excited.”

The park features a four-and-a-half-mile hiking trail, fishing pier, dog park and other attractions. The “Park Lovers Party” fundraiser on May 12 will raise funds for improvements to the “Children’s Natural Playscape.”

“We’re specifically earmarking funds raised from that event to close out that project,” said Windsor Castle Park Foundation board member Bruce Aird.

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