Enjoy tour this Saturday

Published 9:01 pm Wednesday, April 4, 2018

An Isle of Wight County historical site will welcome visitors for a free tour of the grounds this Saturday.

Isle of Wight County Museum curator Tracey Neikirk will lead a tour of Windsor Castle Park at 2 p.m. The group will park and gather in front of the manor house located in the 208-acre riverside park on Jericho Road in Smithfield.

Tourists will walk through the grounds and observe some of the historical buildings, such as a kitchen separate from the manor house and a smokehouse with capacity for up to 200 pigs. There will also be reproductions of artifacts found around the manor house.

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“We encourage folks to bring questions,” plus walking shoes, Neikirk said in a phone interview.

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

Joseph Luter III, former chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods, gifted the park to the town in 2010.

“One thing I like to emphasize on my tour is that the farm and the manor house continued to be a working family home up until the 1990s,” Neikirk said. “This wasn’t frozen in time. It continued to grow.”

The Windsor Park Castle Park Foundation has been conducting a three-phase, $5-million restoration of the historical buildings to satisfy Virginia Department of Historic Resources mandates.

The foundation also has an ongoing capital campaign to raise $500,000 in order to integrate a play area for children into the park’s landscape. The area is popular for weddings and photography, and Smithfield VA Events leases land at the park for three annual fundraising events.

Project manager Rick Bodson said all but one of the outbuildings has been rehabilitated, and exteriors are expected to be painted when the weather warms up “for more than two days in a row,” he quipped.

Two barns will be fully reconstructed as maintenance and storage buildings by the end of April. Crews will then proceed with work on the manor house such as repairing the dormers, rebuilding the front and back porches, removing modern day stucco and replacing the roof.

“Somewhere between now and the start of summer, work will be well under way on the manor house exterior,” Bodson said.