How did Prospect Hill, one of Virginia’s largest plantations with a dark past, become a country inn?

Stephen Nartey November 17, 2022

Prospect Hill was one of the thriving slave plantations in the 1700s with a land size of 1,576 acres. It solely concentrated on the planting of wheat. Its decline began after the Civil War when the slaves dispersed compelling the slaveholders to distribute the farm acreage into smaller farms and ranches. 

The plantation owners who had no option were left with no choice but to rent out their places to new occupants to make some profit off their property, according to the Washington Post. It used to be a pale shadow of what it used to be in 1732, but, until recently it has been turned into a country inn on 40 acres overlooking Charlottesville and Richmond. The idea to add value to Prospect Hill’s slavery past was mooted by Bill Sheehan, an American-born Irishman from New York, and his Italian wife, Mireille, who purchased the property. 

Visitors to Prospect Hill have a range of activities to engage their interests including hiking, camping, skiing and horse riding. The country inn and other historic stately homes are being preserved by the National Park Service. Prospect Hill does not only offer visitors a sanctuary to connect with the dark past here but also an opportunity to taste the comfort and luxury it promises through good food and wine. 

Sheehan said they decided to invest in the property because they were looking at ways to step out of their boredom after they got stuck in the mid-life crisis period of life. He explained that they wanted to reinvent the sense of community at Prospect Hill on the traditional values of bringing people together to dine and have a good time. He recounted that when they chanced on the once-talked-about plantation, it had been abandoned but they were willing to invest their life savings to breathe a sense of life into it.

Sheehan said they were interested in banking their investment in providing good food, wine and creating an enabling environment for their good friends to rejuvenate themselves. He said they focused on rehabilitating the edifice by scraping and painting the structure and started with two guestrooms and a bath. As time passed, the couple renovated former slave quarters which were made of three buildings in addition to modernized earlier structures. 

A large-sized stone has been erected to honor the memory of 75 slaves buried at Prospect Hill. These included Mammy Katie, Aunt Maria and Sanco Pansy Scott who were with their young owner through the four years of War from 1861 to 1865. A few meters away from Prospect Hill, the Louisa County Historical Society has preserved a museum next to the courthouse. It used to be the jail for the county and has a room designated for the United Daughters of the Confederacy and another for the Daughters of America Revolution. Visitors get to see old records, diaries, letters, old clothing, pictures and uniforms marking the various periods of history. 

Sheehan that this should give anyone who visits Prospect Hill the opportunity to appreciate what happened in times past at the plantation.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: November 17, 2022


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