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Grant funding boosts preservation of colonial mansion

Grant funding boosts preservation of colonial mansion

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A more-than-350-year-old property reported to be the oldest existing brick building in North America will benefit from a facelift funded by a national grant.

Built in 1665, Preservation Virginia’s Bacon’s Castle in Surry County has been named the recipient of a $400,000 Save America’s Treasures challenge grant for its ongoing preservation.

Funding through the Historic Preservation Fund, as administered by the National Park Service, will help provide needed support for brick repair, roof replacement, window repair and much more.

The oldest surviving brick dwelling on the continent, Bacon’s Castle and the landscape surrounding it are mostly unchanged, Preservation Virginia said, adding that “the site represents exceedingly rare architectural history and is a tangible connection to the formation and evolution of the United States.”

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In addition to the 1665 Jacobean-style main house, Bacon’s Castle includes several surviving outbuildings and archaeological resources, such as an original slave dwelling, smokehouse and granary.

Protecting the historic landmark is important not just for its architectural significance, but for the public programs conducted on-site, its supporters say. Surry County school students attend free of charge, and public special events include an archaeology day, African-American history tours, exterior architectural tours, vendor fairs and more.

Through local community input, a new exhibit in 2022 – “They Left Their Mark: The Many Lives of Bacon’s Castle” – helps share stories of indigenous peoples and free and enslaved African-Americans who lived at the site. The exhibit also features archaeological discoveries never before on display to the public.

“When the property was offered at auction in the 1970s, we took on Bacon’s Castle knowing it was a unique opportunity to restore and preserve this rare architectural survivor and tell the stories of the people who are associated with its history,” said Elizabeth Kostelny, CEO of Preservation Virginia, a private, non-profit organization.

“Caring for a 357-year-old structure and associated cultural landscape never stops,” Kostelny said. “Funding from the Save America’s Treasures program ensures we are proactively addressing preservation projects.”

The Save America’s Treasures program requires a one-to-one match to be raised from additional supporters. Individuals and groups interested in helping meet the match can find information at www.preservationvirginia.org.

According to Preservation Virginia, Bacon’s Castle was built for Arthur Allen and his family. Originally known as Allen’s Brick House, it earned the moniker “Bacon’s Castle” in 1676 when several of Nathaniel Bacon’s men occupied the home for four months during the uprising that became known as Bacon’s Rebellion against the colonial government of Virginia, which left the colonial capital of Jamestown burned, the governor recalled to London and 22 of those who engaged in the rebellion hanged.

The property is open for tours Fridays through Sundays (plus Mondays from Memorial Day to Labor Day). Located not far from the James River, the property it takes a little over three hours to reach from Northern Virginia by way of Richmond and Hopewell.

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