June 29, 2015
This has to be one of the hardest blogs I have ever written.
For the last week, I have sat here and stared at a blank screen, racking my brain for the right words. And for the last week, I have had the worst case of writers block. It’s not that I don’t know what to say. It has more to do with how I want to express my feelings on this subject.
My feelings for Belle Grove Plantation goes back to July 12, 2011, the day we first saw Belle Grove Plantation. From the moment I drove into the plantation, my soul cried out that I belonged here. I knew it as the day was long that my purpose was to come here and open Belle Grove Plantation to the world.
After being on the plantation for two years, not a day goes by that I am not overwhelmed and in awe of the beauty of this place. One of the most moving moments came last year as I was moving the sprinklers yet again, in an attempt to save our grass from the heat of the summer. As I placed the sprinkler on the bottom terrace, I looked up at the mansion.
I lost my breath.
Tears began to stream down my face.
How could I be here?
What had I done to desire such an honor to present Belle Grove to the world?
I quietly said, “Thank you God. Thank you for allowing me to be here.”
Every spot, every nook and cranny has special meaning to me. Whether it is a special antique piece that was given to us or a tree that I admire and hope someday to be buried under. From the drive down the tree lined entrance lane to the fields of soy bean, corn and wheat that I view from the upstairs balcony. From the sun peaking over the tree tops in the morning to the sunsets that you could never describe the beauty of.
The history and the people that walked here has been laid into my lap to protect and preserve. And I hope to be a good steward of what I have been given.
Each day, I walk this plantation, knowing that there is yet so much left to do. But I am just one person. No amount of love and desire will help me accomplish the things that need to be done alone.
This is why I am coming to you now.
Over the past three years, I have watched in vain as the Summer Kitchen, Ice House and Smokehouse have deteriorated faster and faster. Every time a brick wall falls in or an exterior wall buckles and pops, my heart cries out for it to stop. Every storm with high winds or snow fall we get, I close my eyes and pray that the Smokehouse will make it one more time. As I walk around the Ice House and see the brick work being destroyed by animals burrowing in or flying out the one window pushing the fragile brick work away from the wall, I close my eyes as tears fall down.
My only solution is to restore these buildings before we lose them forever.
Back in 2013, we were inspected by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. They come out once every few years to ensure that there hasn’t been any changes to the historic mansion, which is a Virginia Landmark. After viewing the mansion and giving us an approval that all was original, I walked the representative to the outbuildings.
She was awe struck.
She told me that the Summer Kitchen with its half kitchen and half slave lodging was “priceless”. She said to me, “You don’t understand. These don’t exist anymore!” Most have been lost to fires, neglected or weather beaten until they fell in. To find one that dates to this time period is almost impossible. She also pointed out the rose head nail studded door on the Smokehouse. I have to laugh when I think of what she said to me. “Michelle, don’t you ever sell this door! These nails were made here in the 1700s!”She told me with all the authority she could muster. I assured her that I would never do such a thing. It would be like selling my right arm. It’s all attached to this place.
With all this precious history standing before me, I have to do something.
Time stands still for no man. Or woman on a mission.
We are currently in progress on our 501C Non Profit so we can work on getting grants for this kind of restoration. But 501C Non Profits take time. And time is something we have precious little of with these buildings.
We have been working on a two special projects to raise the needed money for these buildings.
We have our Amazing Race 2015 on July 18th. This event will see teams of 2, 3 or 4 traveling to King George, Caroline and Westmoreland County to complete “Location Challenges” for points. The team with the most points at the end of the day will win 1st, 2nd and 3rd place as well as “Best Dressed” team. We will have a special Finish Line Celebration and Award Ceremony after the day is over with food, fun and music.
We are still looking for teams to join us in the fun!
There is no cost to enter. Just sign up by Sunday, July 12th. Complete your form by going to:
Come be crazy and wacky for the day with us!
We have started a special GoFundMe Campaign called “Save Our History at Belle Grove”. Our goal is to raise $45,000 to restore and preserve these priceless treasures.
We are asking you to please visit our campaign at:
Watch our video. Make a donation. Then share this campaign with as many people as you can.
This really needs to be a team effort. So we are coming to you that have supported us throughout the years. You know how hard we have worked. What hardships we have faced and overcome. Now we need your help to overcome this wall.
Please help us before it is too late for these buildings.
Be a part of the history of Belle Grove Plantation.
If we reach this goal and after the buildings are completed, we will have a special invitation only Grand Opening for those who have supported us in this cause. We will also enter all the names into a special book that will become part of the history of how these buildings were saved.
What after they are restored?
The Summer Kitchen will become a small museum. The kitchen side will house all the artifacts and history of Belle Grove Plantation. The slave lodging will become a living memorial for the enslaved people of Belle Grove Plantation. It will not only tell the story of the slaves, but will have a bronze plaque with all the names of slaves we have been able to discover through wills, inventories and death records. We have long lost the slave cemetery. But through this effort, we hope to give them their names back to be remembered forever.
The Smokehouse and Ice House will stand as a teaching tool for this generation and generations to come. It is our hope to bring in historic performers and teachers to teach the general public as well as school aged children about live on the plantation.
Let us not forget the past, but remember it so we are not doomed to repeat it.
What a great gift we can give back to our children and their children. To have the original buildings tell their story.
Won’t you please help us?