Williamsburg and Hampton Roads Sights

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Westover Review

This home was built circa 1720 by Colonel William Byrd II (1674–1744), an American aristocrat and founder of the city of Richmond who spent much of his time and money in London. He was in Virginia frequently enough to serve in both the upper and lower houses of the Colonial legislature at Williamsburg and to write one of the first travel books about the region (as well as a notorious secret diary, a frank account of plantation life and Colonial politics). Byrd lived here with his beloved library of 4,000 volumes. The house, celebrated for its moldings, carvings, and classic proportions is open only during Garden Week in late April. However, it is worth the short drive off Route 5 to walk on the grounds beside the peaceful James River and smell the boxwoods. The grounds are arrayed with tulip poplars at least 100 years old, and other flowers are well tended. Three wrought-iron gates, imported from England by the colonel, are mounted on posts topped by figures of eagles with spread wings. Byrd's grave is here, inscribed with the eloquent, immodest, lengthy, and apt epitaph he composed for himself.

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