The Richmond region is losing one of its links to early American history.
Flowerdew Hundred, the 1,400-acre plantation along the James River in Prince George County that operates as a museum and historic site, is closing its doors.
Employees yesterday said the plantation, which offers visitors a view of Colonial, American Indian and Civil War life, will close to the public Oct. 12. Its fate beyond that is unclear.
Employees referred questions to Karen Shriver, the curator of collections. She is away on vacation this week.
Federal tax forms show that the plantation, which is run by the nonprofit Flowerdew Hundred Foundation, has struggled to generate income in recent years and has relied on the largesse of the family of David A. Harrison III, who died in 2002.
A lawyer, investment banker and philanthropist, Harrison purchased Flowerdew Hundred in 1967 and began converting it into a museum and historic tourist attraction.
Marjorie H. Webb, one of Harrison's daughters who was also an executor of his estate and is a foundation manager, confirmed yesterday that Flowerdew Hundred is in its final months as a tourism venue.
"It was a family decision, and we just thought it was the best thing for the farm and the foundation," she said in a telephone interview from her home in Greenwich, Conn.
Webb declined to comment further on the fate of the site.
The Flowerdew Hundred Foundation's two most recent federal tax returns on file show it reported combined revenues of $1,061,446. Of that total, $850,000 came from two gifts from the Harrison Family Foundation.
In the most recent tax year, ending Nov. 30, 2005, Flowerdew Hundred reported revenue of $11,612 from admissions, which covers less than one-third of the site's repair costs of $36,164 for the same year.
"It's very difficult for a small, private tourist and education attraction to make a go of it," said Catherine Slusser, a deputy director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. "Visitor revenues are never enough. But at the same time, it's a great shame when a place with such great potential for education and such great historic importance is unable to make itself available to the public."
Flowerdew Hundred was established in 1617 by Sir George Yeardley, an early Virginia colony governor. He named the plantation for his wife, Temperance Flowerdew.
Before it was a plantation, the land was occupied by Virginia Indians. It was also the site of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Civil War crossing of the James River in 1864.
After Harrison's purchase, he oversaw restoration of an 1850s schoolhouse that serves as a museum exhibiting archaeological artifacts excavated on the property. He also commissioned construction of a reproduction of the first known windmill in the early English colonies.
"Flowerdew Hundred is an extremely important historic site," Slusser said, "and the family is truly to be commended for the effort it has made over many years. It's been a remarkable family effort. They have put together a remarkable team and a wonderful educational program."
Contact Joe Macenka at (804) 649-6804 or firstname.lastname@example.org.