Berkeley's history begins in 1619 when settlers observed the first official Thanksgiving in America. The original 1726 Georgian mansion is the birthplace of Benjamin Harrison V, signer of the Declaration of Independence and governor of Virginia. The estate is also the birthplace of William Henry Harrison, ninth president of the United States, and ancestral home of his grandson, Benjamin Harrison, the twenty-third president. During the Civil War, Berkeley was occupied by General George McClellan’s Union troops. While at Berkeley, General Daniel Butterfield composed the familiar tune “Taps”, first played by his bugler, O.W. Norton. Enthusiastic guides in period costumes conduct tours of the mansion daily. The mansion is furnished with a magnificent collection of 18th century antiques and artifacts. Grounds tours are self-guided and include five terraces of boxwood and flowering gardens leading to the James River, monuments to the First Thanksgiving and to Taps, and the Harrison family graveyard. The gardens provide an elegant setting for weddings and private events. The first Sunday in November, Berkeley celebrates the historic 1619 landing with the Virginia Thanksgiving Festival. In December, the plantation is decorated with traditional holiday decorations of fresh greenery and natural arrangements from Berkeley’s gardens. A Virginia and National Historic Landmark.
Last Updated: 1/22/2015 3:12 PM