Steeped in a tradition of gracious Southern hospitality, Kingsmill on the James heralds a rich history dating back to Colonial America. The bucolic land located along the banks of the mighty James River contains the site where the first Englishman set foot in Virginia on May 12, 1607. Located in the heart of Virginia’s Historic Triangle, it should come as no surprise that the land now known as Kingsmill featured a bustling Virginia plantation life dating from 1619 through the 1800’s.
The chronicle of Kingsmill tells the story of a vivid plantation life. From tobacco farms and manor homes, to a ferry landing and tavern, Kingsmill represents a slice of Americana during the colonial era. William M. Kelso, Ph.D., director of Archaeology for the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities’ and author of Kingsmill Plantations wrote about the excavation at Kingsmill, “the study at Kingsmill, where numerous plantation sites represented the entire social and economic range of plantation life in colonial Virginia from her earliest years, promised to reveal for the first time substantial archaeological information about country life.”
Kingsmill played a significant role in the growth and development of the Jamestown colony. When the first settlers arrived in Virginia, colonist Gabriel Archer proposed to his fellow pioneers to consider the currently-named Hope section of Kingsmill their new home. Thought to be a true paradise and idyllic locale for their homesteads, the settlers eventually made their home slightly west at Jamestown, which permitted their ships to anchor closer to shore.
Several early colonists played a significant part in the development of Kingsmill and the growth of Williamsburg.
Richard Kingsmill, namesake of Kingsmill on The James Residential Community, was a member of the Virginia Company, an organization chartered in England and charged with the founding and settlement of Virginia. He was given one of the first land grants of 300 acres in the southwest area of Kingsmill.
Col. Lewis Burwell III was a member of the Governor’s Council, the first elected legislative assembly of the new world. He inherited his grandfather’s lands and built Kingsmill Plantation, titling it after the original owner.
James Bray II was one of the first legislative representatives for the new City of Williamsburg and acted as a Burgess and Justice of the Peace for the County.
These brave new adventurers carved out a gracious existence along the banks of the mighty James River. The foundations of several notable historical sites can be found at Kingsmill Resort & Spa.
Col. Burwell’s Kingsmill Plantation featured a grand mansion on what is currently the Plantation golf course. This manor house overlooking the James River was two-stories tall and built of brick, symbolizing a durable, permanent homestead. The manor home contained eight rooms with a total of 4,800 square feet. Granite stairs manufactured in Wales lead to two acres of beautiful terraced gardens on the riverside of the mansion.
The plantation also included two brick dependencies, a coach house, dairy, stable, barn and two wells. Although the main house was destroyed by fire in 1844, the two flanking dependencies and original garden steps remain. These buildings can be viewed on the 2nd golf hole of the Plantation Course.
Kingsmill Plantation was at the core of a thriving, small riverbank community with its own compilation of mansions, outbuildings and slave quarters, as well as an attended ferry landing and flourishing population.
Col. Burwell also established the Burwell’s Landing ferry and warehouse. This water landing became a major port of entry for Williamsburg during the eighteenth century. The site is visible from the 17th golf hole of Kingsmill Resort’s River Course.
As Burwell’s Landing grew in commercial importance, it developed into a social hub with the operation of the Ordinary (or tavern) at Burwell Landing. The Ordinary at Burwell Landing provided travelers with entertainment, horse stables, storage and supplies. This site can be visited on the River Course along golf hole #17.
Col. Pettus built his plantation in the 1640s and titled it Littletown Plantation. A profitable tobacco plantation, it was located on property now featuring Kingsmill Resort’s marina. Littletown Plantation’s manor house encompassed six rooms, several outbuildings and a well, all of which are marked at the site.
Around 1700, James Bray II built a brick house flanked by out-buildings overlooking the James River. The substantial foundations of this home still stand today and the main house, dependency and well are located on the path between the resort center and the spa.
Ever cognizant of environmental and historical issues unique to Williamsburg and the Kingsmill lands, Anheuser-Busch is committed to preserving and maintaining the historical record of Kingsmill’s history. Artifacts from the excavations are on display at the Resort Center, the Jamestown Settlement Museum and at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond.
In addition to the preservation of historical sites throughout Kingsmill, the names of original settlers have been preserved and incorporated into the naming of streets and subdivisions within the resort and in the residential division Kingsmill-on-the-James.
Kingsmill-on-the-James’s street names play tribute to Williamsburg’s, and America’s, early ancestors.
This street was named after Abigail Smith, the wife of Lewis Burwell II, who inherited Harrop’s Plantation around 1690. Their son, Lewis Burwell III built the grand plantation and manor house called Kingsmill.
Anderson’s Ordinary is named in recognition of Richard Heron Anderson. Anderson was the Lieutenant General CSA and was a commander during the battle of Williamsburg in May 1862. He commanded Longstreet’s 2nd Brigade.
Thomas Bransby was a settler in Jamestown and Archer’s Hope located next to Kingsmill. He served as the Commander of the Guard and Sheriff of Archer’s Hope in 1625.
Located in Tutter’s Neck, this street commemorates Colonel William Allen, Colonel Frederick Jones, Colonel Thomas Bray, Colonel Philip Johnson, Colonel William Claiborne, Colonel Thomas Pettus, and Colonel Lewis Burwell. All of these gentlemen owned plantations within the area know known as Kingsmill during the 17th and 18th centuries.
In the developing years, the land now known as Kingsmill Resort & Spa featured prominent citizen’s homes, community gathering places and significant business ventures.
William M. Kelso’s Kingsmill Plantations 1619-1800: Archaeology of Country Life in Colonial Virginia, published by University of Virginia Press, 1984.
Modern Day History
In 1969, August Busch II, president and CEO of Anheuser-Busch, sent his son August Busch III to Virginia to look for a new brewery plant site. Originally the company had an option to buy land in Newport News, Va. However, Winthrop Rockefeller, then Governor of Arkansas and Chairman of the Board of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, convinced Busch II to purchase a large parcel of land near Williamsburg, Va.
Anheuser-Busch purchased approximately 3,900 acres of land, including 3,600 acres from Colonial Williamsburg and additional properties from 13 owners who held small parcels in the same vicinity. At the time, the property was being acquired chiefly as a brewery plant site. As part of the agreement, Anheuser-Busch agreed to build a theme park on the site, similar to the Busch Gardens theme parks in Florida and California to help boost tourism to the Williamsburg area. However, a local minister from a nearby church objected to the brewery’s close proximity and to avoid any conflict, the company located elsewhere. When the present site was being considered, Anheuser-Busch went to the First Baptist Church on Scotland Street to ask the minister if he had any objections. The minister gave his opinion that “the Bible may say we shouldn’t eat pork, but it doesn’t say we shouldn’t raise hogs.” Thus, the brewery was built.
To help determine the best use of the land consistent with established standards, Anheuser-Busch hired developers and engineers, who determined that the company needed to acquire Camp Wallace, a U.S. Army area of 160 acres to completely integrate the property. In a land swap exchange, Busch II gave the government a larger parcel of land, which adjoined Fort Eustis, and promised not to develop the Camp Wallace acreage for a period of years. Kingsmill Resort’s Woods Course and some of Jefferson’s Hundred are on that site today.
Anheuser-Busch’s initial investment was $40 million, the largest investment ever made by an out-of-state company. The plant opened for business in 1970 and shipped its first barrel of beer in 1972. Since then, the plant has expanded repeatedly and today represents investments of nearly $500 million with nearly 1,000 employees at an annual payroll of over $56 million.
In 1970, Busch Properties was formed as the real estate development and management subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch to provide a wide range of corporate real estate services to its parent company, and to handle the development of various corporate and industrial parks in the U.S. Early on, Busch Properties drew up a Master Plan that provided the layout of the main roads and large multi-family parcels. The plan called for to keep 40 percent of the area green spaces which is in effect today, and property values have increased because of it.
Archaeological discoveries were being made along the way and Anheuser-Busch gave a grant to the James River Institute of Archaeology. Archaeologists made discoveries that led to the restoration of the sites of the Kingsmill and Pettus Plantations, and Burwell’s Landing. Many of the artifacts recovered are on display in the Kingsmill Conference Center.
On October 3, 1973, the Kingsmill Community Services Association was incorporated. This signaled the beginning of a new era for Busch Properties as lots in the community were sold to builders and potential home owners. Many street names in Kingsmill were named after colonists who received grants of land in 1619, such as Richard Kingsmill, John Jefferson and William Fairfax.
Since then, Kingsmill has grown to a mixed population of about 5,000 retirees and families. Many people who initially purchased their lots in 1974 still own their properties today. Present development of River’s Edge luxury townhomes and future development at River Bluff’s condominiums and Spencer’s Grant could add an additional two to three hundred units by the year 2015.
Kingsmill Resort is totally separate from the residential area, however there is no question that the 400-room resort is considered part of many residents’ lives and the history of Kingsmill on the James. The resort was incorporated in September 1975 to coincide with the grand opening of the golf club which today has more than 1,200 members. Other features of Kingsmill Resort include the Kingsmill Marina facility, Tennis Center, The Kingsmill Conference Center, The Sports Center, The Spa at Kingsmill and five restaurants.
In July 1975, the River Course opened. It was designed by Pete Dye. At the time, Judy Rankin was the touring pro. Today it is Curtis Strange. Completed in 1985, Arnold Palmer designed the Plantation Course on the colonial historical site of Kingsmill Plantation. The Woods Course followed ten years later and was designed by Curtis Strange in conjunction with Tom Clark. Many nationally known sports and show business figures, including Presidents Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton have played at Kingsmill Resort.
Kingsmill was home of the Michelob Championship since July 1981. It was moved from Napa, California where it was called the Anheuser-Busch Classic. Since its humble beginnings of a purse of only $300,000 and attendance of 49,360, the tournament grew to a purse in 1998 of $1.55 million and attendance of 142,500. Although Curtis Strange has not been a top winner of this tournament, he lead the pack in placing among the top ten in the past seven years. Twice he’s won third place.