By Winkie Motley
The 2017 County Fair will provide a day packed with events, displays, and family fun all taking place on the historic grounds of Grace Church. There will be local and regional craft and art vendors along with food, sweet treats, and the popular Grace Church hot-dog and hamburger stand. The children’s area will become the site of an old style English Country Fair with games, balloons, and pony rides. As you walk the Oak tree shaded grounds of Grace Church, you will hear local artists performing foot-tapping music! The Church will be open for guided tours with historical information and background being provided by local parish members and history buffs. Organ recitals are also scheduled throughout the day. Everyone will have the opportunity to watch and observe farm animals at this year’s $-H show ring and display area. Young 4-H’ers from Albemarle and surrounding counties will use the Grace Country Fair as a 4-H sanctioned “warm up” for demonstrating their showmanship skills with cattle, goats, rabbits, chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese. There will be animal handling demonstrations and explanations about the different animals and birds which will provide an understanding of the work these young people put into raising livestock.
For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.gracefarmtour.org.
Grace Episcopal Church
Historic Grace Episcopal Church stands at the site of one of six colonial churches in Virginia that still have active congregations. Foundation stones of the original church, constructed of wood and completed in 1748, are visible today under spreading oak trees in front of the present structure. A mountain chapel had previously existed on the premises, having been built by the earliest settlers in the area, probably in the 1730s. From 1767 to 1770, Thomas Jefferson served as a member of the Vestry of Fredericksville Parish, which included the original church and two others in Albemarle and Louisa Counties. The present church edifice was completed in 1855 at a cost of $20,000. A fire in 1895 left only the tower and four walls standing, which were incorporated into the present structure when the church was rebuild. A 1,575-pound bell was salvaged from the ashes and is still in use. The first annual Blessing of the Hounds service was held at the church in 1929. Each Thanksgiving Day, this colorful ceremony brings together fox hunters and their horses and hounds in the church yard for prayers and thanksgiving. The Parish House was constructed in 1933 and expanded in 1971 and 2002. Today Grace Church has over 200 members and provides personal and financial support for numerous charitable missions, including the church’s food closet, Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels, the Ministry for the Aging, and many others.
Old Keswick is part of a track that was given by Thomas Walker to his daughter, Jane Frances Walker, who married Dr. Mann Page. The estate’s residence was built in stages, beginning with a log house in 1736. Originally called Keswick, the farm remained in the Page family until 1952, when it was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Ellsworth Augustus. Keswick Stables was formed at Old Keswick as a major Thoroughbred breeding and racing operation. Over the years Keswick Stables has sold many notable horses, including the 2015 Eclipse Award winning three-year-old filly Stellar Wind. Today Old Keswick is home to seven foster horses from the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, which will have horses available for adoption at the yearling barn. The Wildlife Center of Virginia will display rescued birds and animals, and U.S. Equestrian Team veteran Josh Rector will give demonstrations of “combined driving” on a carriage drawn by a pair of horses at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm.
Linden Lane Farm
Linden Lane Farm is a working horse farm that specializes in breeding and advanced training of dressage horses. Established in the 1930s, it derives its name from the linden trees lining both sides of the lane that runs through the farm. There are some historical indications that the lane predated the settlement of Virginia and once served as an old Monacan Indian trail. During the Farm Tour, there will be demonstrations on training a dressage horse at 10:30 am and 12:30 pm. After an absence of one year, the antique car show will return to Linden Lane Farm to add to the attraction of this historic property. As in the past, the show will feature a wide range of vehicles, many of which are examples of styles long gone from the roadways of America. These cars are all privately owned by local people who only rarely show them in public. Several knowledgeable antique car collectors will attend to answer questions about the cars and to ensure an enjoyable and interesting visit at the farm.
Castalia was owned by relatives of famed explorer Meriwether Lewis during much of the 18th and 19th centuries. The farm was purchased in 1894 by Murray Boocock of New York, who raised beef cattle on the property. He build two large livestock barns, one of which was destroyed by fire in the early 1900s. The second barn, known as the “upper barn,” was a massive two-story frame structure with central sliding doors with large single-pane, divided light windows. Hay was stored in the ventilated second story, and chutes leading to the ground floor allowed hay to be dropped directly where it was needed. In 1986 Castalia was acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Reuben Hitchcock, who bred, raised, and showed champion Paso Fino horses. In November of 2013, Paul and Diane Manning purchased Castalia Farm and undertook an extensive restoration of the circa 1903 upper barn, restoring it to active use while preserving the original fabric. During the Farm Tour, visitors can enjoy the beautiful views of the picturesque Southwest Mountains, which the historic “upper barn” will be filled with antique dealers offering an array of “treasures.” Special hours are 9 am to 5 pm.
Montanova Stables is located on Stony Point Pass in the heart of the Keswick area. The farm features 45 acres of paddocks, access to trails, a sand riding ring with an adjacent “jumping field,” and a beautiful 16-stall barn. Montanova Stables has been teaching horseback riding to children and adults in the Keswick area since 1996. The Foundation is one of the many organizations that have received financial support from Farm Tour proceeds. The Foundation’s after-school program and week-long summer camps benefit children from a variety of backgrounds, helping them to develop valuable life skills such as patience, trust, responsibility, and a strong work ethic. Students gain a valuable sense of accomplishment and increased self-confidence as they learn to ride and care for horses. Montanova Stables Foundation partners with local schools and family support staff to identify children who can benefit from its horsemanship and mentoring program. During the Farm Tour, the Foundation will host an exhibit by the Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary.
Ben Coolyn was first settled by James Clark on a portion of the original 11,000-acre Meriwether grant under the name of Clark’s Tract. Clark build the first dwelling in the early 1800s on a site to the east of the current home. In the late 1940s, the Hallock family moved from their Long Island farm to Ben Collyn. Harold and Kay Hallock downsized the house by removing the sleeping porches and the second story north bedroom. Ann and Peter Taylor moved from Eldon Farm to Ben Coolyn in 1989, while several generations of Hallocks still reside on a large portion of original land. The Taylors restored several original gardens and created an arboretum in the old front hayfield. They planted many native trees, including 176 willow oaks along the driveways, as well as a vast array of deciduous flowering magnolia cultivars and crosses. Ben Coolyn, which is under a permanent conservation easement, has a circa 1850 dogtrot corn crib and a balloon framed bank barn that was built on an older rock barn foundation. The Farm will be open for driving tours to see the scenic views.
Keswick Hunt Club
Keswick Hunt Club was founded in 1896. Fox hunting has been an important part of this community since 1742, when foxhounds were brought to the area by Dr. Thomas Walker of Castle Hill, who also helped found the city of Charlottesville. The Keswick Hunt Club clubhouse was built in 1898. The hunt club has hosted at least one annual horse show since 1904. Initially, the lower ring’s proximity to the railroad tracks was a convenience for spectators who travelled to the event from Charlottesville by train. The upper ring was built in 1957. The kennels are home to approximately 70 American Foxhounds who lead mounted club members on chases in designated territory in four counties. The three-day-per week hunting season stretches from late summer to early spring. The huntsman spends the rest of the year as well as non-hunting days during the season training the pack. A select group of the Keswick Hunt Club’s American Foxhounds are looking forward to entertaining visitors on Farm Tour day! There will be Foxhound demonstrations at 10:30 am and 1:00 pm, followed by riders demonstrating jumping and sidesaddle techniques.