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Feature: Historic Chelsea

By Christie Miller, Co-owner of Historic Chelsea

Historic Chelsea is the second oldest Virginia plantation, next to Shirley Plantation. The main house, pictured here, was built in 1709 by Augustine Moore.

Like a baroness from Colonial days past, she sprawls along the banks of the Mattaponi River attracting admirers from near and far. For some, she’s a familiar landmark that inspires curiosity. For others, she’s a place where memories were made during simpler times.

For my brother, Erik, and me, she’s the place where we grew up.

Her name is Historic Chelsea, and her nearly 600 acres in King William County were our playground as children. We played hide and seek among Chelsea’s rows of English boxwoods, learned how to ride bikes without training wheels on her brick carriage trail, and caught our first fish in her 25-acre pond.

Today, as the third-generation of Richardsons to own her, we spend more of our time pulling weeds, making repairs and slowly bringing her back to her former glory.

But it’s those childhood memories—and the desire that our children make them, too—that motivate us to keep the property in our family, along with a sense of obligation to our community and our father—who in 2017 left Chelsea in our care.

In spring 2021, we opened the more than 300-year-old estate to the public as an outdoor event venue. Available for everything from birthday parties and family reunions to weddings and corporate events, the property comprises 19 outbuildings, uninterrupted waterfront and one of the largest private boathouses on the East Coast.

The boathouse at Historic Chelsea is believed to be one of the largest of its kind on the East Coast. It’s a popular Mattaponi River landmark and a hot spot for catching catfish!

The main house, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1709. Its 18th century Queen Anne Georgian design boasts a green hipped copper interlocking shingled roof with Flemish bond brickwork lining its exterior walls, while the interior is enveloped in black walnut paneling.

Historic Chelsea is one of only two 18th-century American homes built with black walnut paneling. The other home is Tuckahoe in Goochland County. Pictured here is the drawing room, the historic term for what we now know as a living room.

Visitors who wander Chelsea’s grounds may find themselves walking in the footsteps of Marquis de Lafayette who camped there prior to the Yorktown victory. Or they may enter a room once visited by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and many other famous Virginians who are said to have frequented the estate.

Our hope is for this unforgettable lady to live on for generations to come. So if you are searching for a unique and memorable experience, make a date with Historic Chelsea. Her simple elegance and timeless charm will be the perfect match!

For more information, please contact us at

With breathtaking views of the Mattaponi River, the bridal suite provides ample space for the bride and her attendants to prepare in historic style.

Property Facts, Courtesy Historic Virginia Land Conservancy

Situated on the shores of the Mattaponi River in King William County, Historic Chelsea is owned by Erik Richardson and Christie Richardson Miller. In 2012, the Richardson family worked with the Williamsburg Land Conservancy (now Historic Virginia Land Conservancy) to protect the homestead in perpetuity.

Historic Chelsea was built in 1709 by Colonel Augustine Moore, a socially and politically well-connected gentleman and a highly successful tobacco entrepreneur in the Tidewater area.

The property contains prime agricultural soil and is farmed. There are numerous springs, marshes, small wetlands, and streams. The land is home to extensive wildlife and plant species and also contains mature forests. The grounds surrounding the historic home encompass nearly five acres of lawn with extensive English Boxwood gardens overlooking the Mattaponi River. The house is listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Historic Registry. The surrounding curtilage includes historic buildings, such as a school house, smokehouse, kitchen, seed building, milking parlor, a barn with two silos, and a wash house.

Historical moments at Chelsea include the following:

♦ During the Revolutionary War, General Lafayette encamped there during the campaign of 1781.

♦ Robert E. Lee’s grandmother was born and married there.

♦ Thomas Jefferson attended the wedding of his best friend Dr. John Walker at Historic Chelsea.

♦ The Knights of the Golden Horseshoe was formed at Historic Chelsea by Governor Spottswood.

♦ Captain John Smith passed by Historic Chelsea on his way to Chief Powhatan at Werewocomoco when he was taken captive.

Historic Chelsea is a treasure that the Historic Virginia Land Conservancy is thrilled to protect. This land has natural beauty, history and stories that will be shared and preserved for the next generation.

To learn more about all there is to see and do in #WPKW, check out our Plan Visit page as well as 30 Things to See and Do in King William County, Virginia.

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