Located just outside the city limits of Newport News stands Endview Plantation. This plantation house was built in 1769 by William Harwood, whose ancestors had owned the land for nearly 130 years prior. Throughout the Antebellum Era, this plantation stayed in the Harwood family name and produced tobacco, wheat, and supported livestock. In 1858, Dr. Humphrey Harwood Curtis purchased the estate. Dr. Curtis was one of two surgeons in the peninsular region and he was a highly respected member of southern society. In 1861, at the outbreak of the Civil War, Curtis formed the Warwick Beauregards who later mustered in to the 32nd Virginia Infantry Regiment. During McClellan's Peninsular Campaign of 1862, Endview served as a Confederate field hospital and campground during the Siege of Yorktown. Curtis's wife, Maria, tended to the wounded soldiers before abandoning the estate when the Confederate army retreated that May. After the war was over, the Curtis's returned to their estate, which was under control of the Freedman's Bureau. Curtis had to sign an oath of allegiance to the United States in order to legally possess his home again. Endview remained in the Curtis family's possession until 1985.
You can see Endview's white structure clearly when pulling into the drive, surrounded by hundred year-old magnolia trees. I first took a walk around the property and came across an original, pre-Revolutionary War dairy house. This particular dairy house was moved to the property in 1999 from the Denbigh Plantation (originally on the banks of Deep Creek). The Digges Family, who owned Denbigh, built this structure in the 1740s. While exploring the grounds, I found a couple of nature trails in the wooded areas of the property. The first trail exhibits some of the plants Native Americans used in the years before colonization. The other trail leads to the natural spring. The spring has an interesting story behind it. According to family legend, George Washington's troops stopped by Endview on their way to Yorktown to refill their canteens at the spring. Of course, it's only legend. In actuality, General Thomas Nelson's French-American brigade of 3,000 camped on the property briefly. Backtracking a bit, the trail also passes by the Harwood family's graveyard. Some unmarked graves go all the way back to the 17th century. Across the property, tourists can see the Civil War-era earthworks constructed by Confederate troops and local slaves. Between May 1861 and March 1862, the Confederates constructed a series of redoubts to impede the Union advance.
Endview did not allow photographs of the inside of the house (more the reason to go if you want to check it out), but I can tell you that it was beautifully restored to its Civil War-era glory. There are many artifacts on display--recovered and donated--that represent the estate as it did in the 1860s. There is a relic exhibit in the basement of the house and a multitude of household items in each room of the building. One of the most prominent features of the home is a second-floor mantelpiece that contains the inscriptions from Union soldiers. The inscription reads: "BAND OF VETERANS FROM C 1 M R" which means 'Company C of the 1st New York Mounted Rifles,' a cavalry unit from around Oneida, New York stationed at Endview after the Battle of Williamsburg.
Endview was a quaint little exhibit of colonial and Civil War life. It was very interesting to learn about the family, the artifacts on display, and the history of the property. It didn't take long to tour and explore the property...about and hour and a half in total. Also, as the guides were telling me, Endview is never really crowded at all. I think that it's definitely a good place to check out if you're around the Yorktown-Newport News area. And if you happen to stop by, be sure to purchase block tickets to the Virginia War Museum and Lee Hall Mansion, both of which I will visit in the near future.
To learn more about the Endview Plantations and their events, check out http://www.endview.org/