c. 1823, Somerset, Virginia

It’s 1823 in Somerset, Virginia. The Revolutionary War ended just 40 years ago. James Monroe is in office as our nation’s 5th President and lives at Ashlawn adjoining Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello near Charlottesville. Monroe’s closest friend James Madison, our 4th president is in residence at Montpelier. James Barbour, Virginia’s 18th Governor and US Senator is in residence at his magnificent home now known as Barboursville. James Madison’s brother in law, Thomas Macon and his wife Sarah are living on a spectacular hilltop site at Somerset Plantation overlooking it’s 2000 acres and Phillip Barbour, brother to James and a U.S. Supreme Court justice is thrilled to finally have Frascati complete after two years of construction.

Each of these four magnificent brick homes were heavily influenced by Thomas Jefferson who played a major role in the renovation of Montpelier, designed Barboursville for James Barbour and sent his favored builder, John Perry who worked on both Monticello and The University of Virginia to build Somerset Plantation and Frascati.

All four of these Jefferson inspired homes are in Orange County and all are within six miles of each other. Montpelier is owned by the National Historic Trust now and is open to the public, Barboursville burned on Christmas day in 1884 though its remains have been carefully preserved by the Zonin family who own Barboursville Vineyards which now surrounds the ruins and some of the original out buildings. Somerset Plantation is owned and beautifully maintained by the Gingery family of Maryland and is a working farm of over 1000 acres comprised of cropland, pasture and woodlands. The home still stands proudly with one of the most magnificent views in the county.

Frascati, the most recent of these four stately brick homes, was just beginning its important history in 1823 with the Phillip Barbour family. Formal gardens surrounded by serpentine brick walls like those at The University were carefully tended and visitors who must have included Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, the Macons, and Phillip’s brother James Barbour would enjoy chamber music in one of the most beautiful parlors in Virginia. These were the founding fathers of our country in their mature years and one can only imagine the discussions that must have occurred about the past forty years, the revolution, the War of 1812, (James Barbour was Secretary of War then), the issue of slavery of which they were all enmeshed and the future of their new country expanding westward with unbridled potential.

Orange County’s important role in history continued for decades afterward with the plantation culture and naturally exploded in violence during the Civil War. Both armies massed in Orange County and in August of 1862 Confederate General Richard Ewell used Frascati as his headquarters with his 4000 troops. Stonewall Jackson presided over a court martial of a General Garnett at Frascati which was interrupted when Union troops were discovered advancing from the north. Frascati’s owner at that time was Captain James MacGruder who tragically lost four of his five sons in the Civil War, one of which was wounded at the nearby engagement at Jack’s Shop and succumbed once home at Frascati.

Today, Frascati stands little changed from that day in 1823 when it was declared complete. The brickwork all laid in Flemish bond is impeccable. The heart pine flooring could still “hold water like a bucket” as described by an early admirer of the house. Most of the windows still have original glass including a bedroom window with wedding names and dates engraved into the glass with diamond rings over the last two centuries. Most remarkable in this unspoiled historic gem, is the magnificent woodwork and plaster entablature that exists in perfect condition, embracing the signature elegance of that era.

John Ince


Wiley Real Estate

503 Faulconer Drive, Suite 6, Charlottesville, Virginia

132 E. Main Street, Orange, Virginia 22960