Preservation Magazine, Summer 2019

Belle Grove Plantation Opens New Visitor Center

Beverley B. Shoemaker Welcome Center for Belle Grove Plantation in Virginia

photo by: Rick Foster

After a $1.2 million renovation, a 1918 forebay bank barn is now the Beverley B. Shoemaker Welcome Center for Belle Grove Plantation in Middletown, Virginia, a National Trust Historic Site that dates to the early 18th century.

The idea to turn the barn into a public interpretation space first came up eight years ago, says Kristen Laise, Belle Grove’s executive director. In the intervening years, Laise and her team began working with local architect Frederick S. Andreae to conceptualize the barn’s future while completing small stabilization projects.

After Shoemaker’s $1.1 million donation, Belle Grove was able to go ahead with the full visitors center project. Today, the barn welcomes guests with history exhibits, a gift shop, and restrooms. The steep, ladder-like staircase has been brought up to code, and a lift now carries guests to the second level. A catering kitchen stands in the former granary; reclaimed wood was used to build a storage closet. The lower level, once lined with stalls, now houses the exhibits and a meeting space.

“Ultimately, we decided we didn’t want to add another building to the property,” Laise says. “We wanted to utilize all the existing historic structures.”

Emma Sarappo is a former Editorial Intern at the National Trust. She can be found writing or in the kitchen of her century-old DC rowhouse.

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