Holiday Tour in Hopewell/Prince George, Virginia, Featured Six Historic Properties

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A “Colonial Christmas” tour was jointly sponsored by the Prince George County Regional Heritage Center and the Historic Hopewell Foundation on December 21. The tour, which featured historic homes and churches in Hopewell and Prince George, Virginia, gave visitors a peek into the life and times of local residents in the 1600s through the 1800s.

Gateway to Aberdeen Plantation

A “Colonial Christmas” tour was jointly sponsored by the Prince George County Regional Heritage Center and the Historic Hopewell Foundation on December 21. The tour, which featured historic homes and churches in Hopewell and Prince George, Virginia, gave visitors a peek into the life and times of local residents in the 1600s through the 1800s.

The self-guided tour included six historic properties decorated in early traditional fashion with local greenery and hand-made ornaments:

Merchants Hope Church, located on the South Shore of the James River in Prince George County, is among the oldest Protestant churches in America still used as a house of worship. The parish dates back to 1657 and the current sanctuary was built in the mid-18th century. The church is an example of the brick rectangular room church derived from the English model, complete with a flagstones for the floor imported from England. The walls are made of solid brick two feet thick.

In 1676 Nathanial Bacon and other settlers met at Merchants Hope Church to protest to the British Governor William Berkeley for help against the Indian attacks. The governor ignored their request. The settlers took up arms, attacked the Indians, chased Gov. Berkeley out of the Colonial capital of Williamsburg and torched the city. Bacon’s rebellion was the first rebellion by American colonists against British rule.

Aberdeen plantation, a private home in Prince George County, dates back to the early 1800s. Owners Carol Marks Bowman and her husband Dr. Chris Stevenson opened their home for this holiday tour. The home and surrounding farm has been in Ms. Bowman’s family since 1884. Aberdeen is a two-story, temple form brick building with a pedimented roof and a small entrance portico with four Doric columns. The Christmas tree in the parlor was decorated with antique glass ornaments dating back to Colonial times.

The third stop in Prince George County was the Prince George Heritage Center, located in the original County Courthouse, which was restored in 1883. Holiday exhibits featured “Toys of Yesteryear,” donated by local residents and a Christmas tree decorated with ornaments made by local children. Displays in the center also included “The Traditions of Our Past: A Czech and Slovak Christmas” exhibit, which will be open until January 15, 2015.

Transitioning to the City of Hopewell, the tour included St. John’s Episcopal Church, built at City Point in 1840 on land donated by the Eppes, a wealthy plantation family who owned nearby Appomattox Plantation. When Union gunboats started shelling City Point, slaves from Appomattox Manor took refuge in the cellar of the church. With Gen. Grant headquartered at Appomattox Manor from 1864 to 1865, the church was used as a signal station, a theater and a dance hall. Left in disrepair by the Civil War, the church was rebuilt in 1894 in the Norman Gothic Style.

First United Methodist Church in Hopewell is the result of the merging of the City Point Methodist Church (1750) and the Trinity Methodist Church. First United Methodist Church started as a wood frame building covered with tarpaper. Known as the “Tarpaper Church,” the wooden building was used for 14 years until it was demolished in 1930. A new brick sanctuary was completed in 1931. In the mid-1960s the sanctuary was renovated and expanded.

The final stop on the tour, Weston Manor (1789), is considered a classic example of Virginia Georgian architecture. Much of its original interior has been preserved and the house has been furnished with antiques from the period as well as selected reproductions. Also, the plantation includes two reconstructed outbuildings, which originally housed a kitchen and laundry. A gift shop is now located in the laundry building. The gift shop sells a Civil War diary by a 12-year-old girl, who sought refuge at Weston with her family, who fled Union forces in Hampton only to find themselves within a mile of the Union Forces at City Point.

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