Shirley Plantation is 9.5 mi. w. via SR 5 to 501 Shirley Plantation Rd. Founded in 1613, the plantation has been owned by the Hill and Carter families since 1638 and is purportedly the oldest continuously owned family business in the United States. The present mansion, built in 1723, was the birthplace of Anne Hill Carter and the setting for her marriage to Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee. In later years their son Gen. Robert E. Lee was a frequent visitor.
Historical interpreters highlight family portraits, silver and furniture—items handed down for 11 generations—on tours of the mansion, which sits on a bluff of the James River. A carved-walnut staircase rises three stories without visible support and is said to be the only one of its kind in America. Self-guiding tours of the plantation grounds, which also includes four brick outbuildings set in a Queen Anne-style courtyard, are available with admission. A stable, smokehouse and dovecote are other original structures included on the grounds tour.
Guided tours are available. Time: Allow 1 hour minimum.