Keswick, VA — Members of the public will have an opportunity to tour six farm estates in Albemarle County, as well as the Keswick Hunt Club and Grace Episcopal Church, on Saturday, June 16, 2012 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The tours are sponsored by Grace Episcopal Church, which is located near the farms in the Cismont/Keswick area. At Grace Church, participants can visit a country fair, tour the historic church and grounds, and enjoy organ music. The fair will feature food and craft vendors, pony rides, a fire engine and a raffle for prizes.
The six estates on the tour are Airslie, Bridlespur, Castalia, Castle Hill Cider Works, Edgeworth and Merrie Mill. The farm tour event, entitled Beyond the Gates, provides a rare opportunity to visit a selection of historic sites near Charlottesville. Highlights of the tour include a sheepdog demonstration, presentation of the Keswick Foxhounds, an exhibition by Paso Fino horses, and other events.
Randall Haycock, Interim Rector of Grace Church, said: “All of us at Grace look forward to welcoming the people of Central Virginia to our Beyond the Gates historic farm tour. We hope that both individuals and families of all ages will enjoy the events and fun of this day in the country.” Added the Senior Warden, Anne Shackelford: “We want our visitors to know that proceeds from the farm tour will go to support our community ministries, including support for non-profit organizations like Hospice of the Piedmont, Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity.”
Historic Grace Episcopal Church stands at the site of one of six colonial churches in Virginia that still have active congregations. Thomas Jefferson served on the Vestry of the original parish from 1767 to 1770. Every Thanksgiving Day since 1929, the church has conducted an outdoor service known as the Blessing of the Hounds. This colorful ceremony brings together foxhunters and their horses and hounds in the church yard for prayers and thanksgiving.
Airslie Farm’s main residence, which was renovated in the 1990s, was built by descendants of the Meriwether family around the turn of the 20th century. The barns and cottages on this 507-acre property still reflect the architectural style of an earlier time. The Wildlife Center of Virginia and Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation will feature displays at Airslie.
Bridlespur was derived from an area originally identified as Clark’s tract, where a tavern served travelers between Charlottesville and Gordonsville. Designed in 1938 by the renowned architectural firm Grigg and Johnson, the antebellum style manor home features superior craftsmanship and an outdoor living area that incorporates over 65,000 bricks from old chimneys.
Castalia was once owned by relatives of famed explorer Meriwether Lewis. During the past 26 years, the farm has produced outstanding Paso Fino horses, including national champions El Vicario Ltd. and Lisanna.
Castle Hill was built in 1764 as the home of Col. Thomas Walker, who was a guardian and mentor for Thomas Jefferson. Today, this 600-acre estate is the site of a cidery and a venue for weddings and large events. Castle Hill Cider began in 2009 with the planting of 600 apple trees of 28 varieties.
Edgeworth is a 1200-acre farm that features Angus cattle and sheep. Previous owners include the Rev. James Maury, who operated a school attended by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison; and Major-General William Fitzhugh Gordon, who fought in the War of 1812.
Merrie Mill began in 1857 when a retired Baltimore merchant purchased 600 acres and erected a two-story house, which he named Edgefield. Its interior is finished in polished chestnut and oak wood that was harvested on the property. Donna Lucey will be at Merrie Mill to sell and sign her book, Archie and Amélie: Love and Madness in the Gilded Age, which recounts the life of John Chaloner, who once lived on the property. There will also be a jumping exhibition.
The Keswick Hunt Club’s kennels are home to roughly 70 American Foxhounds that lead mounted club members on chases in designated territory in four counties. Founded in 1896, the Hunt Club has hosted at least one horse show every year since 1904.
Tickets for the Beyond the Gates historic farm tour cost $15 in advance through June 15th, or $20 per individual on the day of the event, and may be purchased at Grace Church and any of the tour sites on June 16th. Children ages 12 and under are admitted free. Each ticket allows admission to all sites, exhibits and demonstrations. The farm tour will take place regardless of weather conditions. Proceeds will support the church’s numerous community ministries, which benefit the church’s food closet and organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army, Hospice of the Piedmont, Boys and Girls Club of Central VA and many others. Ticket information and other details are available at www.gracefarmtour.org.
c/o Grace Episcopal Church
P.O. Box 67
Keswick, VA 22947
Phone: (434) 293-3549