STILL STANDING

The Historic Triangle has many historic structures; but the oldest is right across the James River in rural Surry County.

Bacon's Castle, built in 1665, has the distinction of being the oldest standing structure in North America. Plus, the trip to visit is its own small adventure.

Start with a ride on the Jamestown-Scotland ferry. Operated by the Virginia Department of Transportation, the free ride is a chance to step out of the car to gain a unique view of waterfowl and Jamestown Settlement's replica ships.

After disembarking, the drive to Bacon's Castle passes corn fields and other nature scenes on the way to the town's main square anchored by the Surry County Courthouse, complete with grand pillars at the entrance.

Once at Bacon's Castle, skilled interpreters from Preservation Virginia, the organization that owns Bacon's Castle, lead tours of the structure and tell the stories of the families that lived there.

Unlike most Colonial homes, this structure does not have the typical southern architecture with tall ceilings and windows to allow air flow. Instead, the original builder, Arthur Allen, who was 57 at the time, built a Jacobean style house, said Jennifer Hurst-Wender, Director of Museum Operations and Education for Preservation Virginia.

"That was the popular structure during his youth in England," she said.

The entrance includes a stained-glass window of Nathaniel Bacon who led Bacon's Rebellion of 1676. Although the home is named for him, Nathaniel Bacon never lived at home and there is no documentation he even visited it. The homeowners also opposed the rebellion, she said.

Following Allen as owner, the Hankins family took possession. They started the home's preservation in the 1880s. The Warren family owned it next, but they all perished in a car accident in 1972. The home was purchased by APVA in September 1973. They restored it and opened it to the public in 1984.

During the tour, Hurst-Wender noted there are imprints of all three families in the home.

The most notable imprints are love letters etched in a window from Dr. Emmet Robinson in 1838 and 1840 to his wife Indiana, a member of the Allen family. The other imprints are pencil drawings on the wall found during restoration underneath layers of wall paper. Neither the timeframe nor artist is known, but it appears to be the work of a child.

The longest to reside in Bacon's Castle was Elizabeth Bray who lived there for 63 years. The Williamsburg native married Arthur Allen III. She outlived Allen as well as her second husband Arthur Smith, of Smithfield, and all her children.

Behind the home, several slave quarters and a garden exist. Front yard picnic tables make it easy to pack and enjoy a lunch during your visit. Local restaurants in Surry County offer food ranging from Italian cuisine to seafood to ham and smoked meats. For a treat, College Run Farms, open seasonally, scoops up homemade ice cream. They also allow visitors to pick their own fresh produce.

Want to go?

Where: 465 Bacon Castle Trail, Surry

Hours: 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Friday-Sunday

General admission: $10; Preservation Virginia members free; $10 AAA members, military and senior citizens (60-plus); $9 students; $7 children; younger than 6 free

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