There is something eerily beautiful about ruins. They draw us into the past and stand as a testament to older times. Some were ordinary buildings while others were lavish plantations belonging to Virginia’s first families. All are of equal importance, because what’s been left behind is a tribute to Virginia’s rich history. You may have to use your imagination to fill in what has eroded away from these landmarks, but their stories will stand the test of time.
1. Rosewell Plantation (Gloucester)
On the bank of the York River once stood the most extravagant house in colonial Virginia. Built in 1725, this was home to the Page Family. Thomas Jefferson allegedly wrote a first draft of the Declaration of Independence in the house's "Blue Room." Rosewell was the site of elaborate social gatherings until a tragic fire in 1916.
There are many accounts of ghost sightings here. You may just have to go investigate for yourself.
2. Ambler House (Jamestown)
A visit to colonial Jamestown is a ticket to the past. Constructed in 1750, the Ambler House provides insight into what life may have been like in this early-Georgian style homestead. The house’s history was not quite so ideal; the property burned on 3 separate occasions. What remains are the ruins of the second renovation after the Civil War.
3. Wash Woods Church Steeple (Virginia Beach)
Virginia State Parks/Flickr
Legend has it that the Wash Woods community was established by shipwreck survivors of the late 1600s. Buildings were made from cypress wood that washed onto the shores of Virginia Beach. This church steeple survived the harsh Atlantic waters, which eventually caused early settlers to abandon their town.
4. Liberty Hall Ruins (Lexington)
The Liberty Hall ruins date back to 1749, when Augusta Academy began about 20 miles north of present-day Lexington. This small classical school founded by Scotch-Irish pioneers was the first site of Washington & Lee University.
The University preserved these ruins on campus and incorporates them into its traditions.
5. Barboursville Mansion
It was Christmas Day in 1884 when this fine residence fell victim to fire. Barboursville was commissioned by Thomas Jefferson for his friend, Governor James Barbour between 1814-1821. Jefferson’s vision of creating a romanticized villa in a beautiful natural surrounding can still be detected in the ruins.
What's left of Barboursville Mansion now stands as the centerpiece to its namesake winery.
6. Virginia Renaissance Faire (Fredericksburg)
The story behind these ruins is rather unusual. A few years back, drone footage captured a shot of this abandoned medieval fair. This mock feudal town was actually created in 1996 by Renaissance enthusiasts and entertainers. It ran only two seasons before the muggy climate became too much for fairgoers to bear. All structures were simply abandoned. This area has now become too overgrown to attempt visiting. Although these ruins are hardly ancient, they will certainly transport you to the past.
7. Menokin (Warsaw)
Deemed "the most engaging preservation project in America," Menokin is a must-see. The colonial plantation was built in 1769 and owned by Francis Lightfoot Lee, signer of the Declaration of Independence. In 1995, a team of locals began the glass house project to restore the building's original beauty.
8. Grove Shaft Mine (Midlothian)
The ruins at Midlothian Mines are a testament to Virginia’s coal history. The Grove Shaft would plunge 625 ft. into the ground, an area that was manually carved out by workmen. After a deadly mine explosion in February of 1882, the community gathered together to provide donations for the families of the lost miners.
The two-story stone structure that remains today was once the company’s main building until its close in 1920.
9. Old Dominion Iron and Nail Works (Richmond)
A hydro-electro plant was built on Richmond's Belle Isle in the early 20th century to fuel local operations. The power plant was permanently decommissioned in 1963.
Today you'll see dilapidated structures and lots of graffiti. The skeleton of this old industrial building could be considered somewhat of an eyesore, but its place in the Belle Isle landscape has been embraced.
These are but a few of the fascinating remnants that can be found in the old Dominion. If you’ve visited any of these sites or know of more, be sure to comment below and share your story!