April, 2011. Louisa County, Virginia – Green Springs Historic District and Boswell’s Tavern

Posted on December 18, 2011


Green Springs National Historic Landmark District is a bit different from traditional Historic Districts, which usually are located in cities and include a collection of urban homes or commercial buildings.

Green Springs encompasses over 14,000 acres in the piedmont of central Virginia.  It consists of a rural landscape dotted with privately-owned homes, farms and their outbuildings, and a sprinkling of commercial structures.  The National Parks Service controls the development rights of 8,000 acres, and 35 buildings within the District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The fertile soil of the Green Springs basin has sustained agriculture for over 270 years.  Once known for wheat production, Virginian Cyrus McCormick tested an early version of his soon-to-be famous reaper in the District’s fields in 1841.

So, what’s there to see beside a bunch of fields?

Traveling down narrow, winding country roads within the district is an architectural trip into the past. You see what the rural landscape with its distinctive buildings has looked like for much of the past 270 years.

There’s an agricultural continuity here usually not found in the north – or at least our part of the north.  In addition to beautiful old homes, you’ll see smokehouses, granaries, timber-framed wood barns and unidentifiable little buildings that have long outlived their original purpose. No pole barns here. No culture of tearing stuff down simply because it’s old or no longer used. Yes, they farm with modern equipment; somehow you don’t really notice the tractors.

There’s nothing here open to the public, but that’s the whole idea.

One of the buildings at the edge of the District easily seen from the road is Boswell’s Tavern.

A landmark for travelers since around 1735, this weather boarded, four-chimney tavern was headquarters for the Marquis de Lafayette in 1871 before he advanced to Yorktown to face Cornwallis in what turned out to be the last major land battle of the American Revolution.

Later, a number of famous political figures including Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and James Madison frequented the Tavern.

Today it is a private residence.

Can you image actually living in such a place??  How cool it would be.