Founded in 1613 as a tobacco plantation, Shirley was acquired by the Hill family in 1638. In 1700 the Hill family joined the Carter family by marriage, and since then 11 generations of the Hill Carter family have continuously lived in and worked the plantation. The well-preserved manor home with its spectacular floating staircase was built between 1723 and 1738.

In 1771, Charles Carter, member of the House of Burgesses and grandson of colonial mogul Robert 'King' Carter, added the signature two-story porticos on the carriage-side and river-side entrances of the manor home. During the Revolutionary War, Carter joined the patriot militia and operated a supply depot at Shirley for Lafayette's troops on their way to the final defeat of the British at Yorktown. In 1793, Charles' daughter Ann Hill Carter married Revolutionary War hero 'Light Horse Harry' Lee at Shirley. The couple would produce another famous rebel - their son, Robert E. Lee. During the Civil War the Carter men enlisted in the Confederate Army, and eleven enslaved men escaped Shirley Plantation to join the Union Army. One of those men, Siah Carter, served on the ironclad USS Monitor until it sunk in a storm off Cape Hatteras. Shirley Plantation became a Union field hospital after the Battle of Malvern Hill. The Carter women made bread and soup for the Union soldiers and tore up sheets and pillow cases to dress their wounds.

If you're a fan of the AMC series TURN, you'll recognize Shirley Plantation serving as Strong Manor, the marital home of Anna and Selah Strong. Behind the house, facing the James River near Willow Oak, Anna Strong hangs her notorious black petticoat to signal George Washington's spies. Many other scenes were filmed on the grounds and in the outbuildings.

The current 11th generation of the Hill Carter family has extensively restored the manor home and outbuildings and generously shares the unique beauty and heritage of Shirley with the public. Shirley Plantation offers a self-guided tour of the grounds and outbuildings, a guided tour of the manor home, and a gift shop. The fascinating guided tour of the manor home features the parlor where Robert E. Lee's parents Ann Hill Carter and Light-Horse Harry Lee were wed and reveals how Shirley Plantation was saved from destruction during the Civil War and Union occupation.

Pictured at the top: The James River entrance of Shirley Plantation.

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Willow Oak overlooks the James River.

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The carriage-side entrance of Shirley Plantation decorated for the holidays.

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