Castle Hill, its very name exudes a storybook charm. Located 25 minutes from Charlottesville and in the heart of fox hunting and wine country, it is a grand, historic estate that has charmed its visitors for over 250 years with its magnificent 18th and 19th century mansion, fabled gardens and sweeping mountain views.
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Patrick Henry, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and Robert E. Lee all have trod its hallways. But, one cannot talk about Castle Hill without discussing the highly colorful, influential Rives Family that lived here for 200 continuous years. From the invasion of the British to the succession of the South, the politics of the founding fathers to Victorian oppression, they wrote about it. But certainly the most infamous family author was Amelie Rives, who grew up at Castle Hill in the late 19th century. Inspired by her family’s estate, she became a best-selling and notorious novelist, whose work scandalized polite society with its frank depictions of women’s sexuality. She was a gorgeous siren… one look at her nude self portrait tells all…and the literary elite of the day fell at her feet. Henry James, Thomas Hardy, Oscar Wilde, and William Faulkner all were in her thrall.
In 2005 all of this history was imperiled when developers were poised to build over 200 homes on the property. Fortunately for Keswick, Ray and his wife, Stewart Humiston stepped in and bought the estate, donated 400 acres of its gorgeous mountain acres to the nature conservancy and put the entire estate into permanent protective easement. Now Castle Hill and its gardens have been lovingly restored and brought back to their former state of grace and grandeur and the stage has been set for this magical home to continue its legacy as a gathering place for the literary elite.
And as for the talk of ghosts, really these are just the secrets that the house keeps, and if you listen very carefully, perhaps Castle Hill will reveal them to you. If you hear the faint chiming of the plantation bell ….listen perhaps Thomas Jefferson is playing the fiddle again for James Madison in the back hall. Or if the wind whistles under the door… stop.. listen more carefully, perchance it is the crinoline skirt of Judith wandering the halls at night looking for the daughter she lost at sea. And if you should notice the rusting of the boxwood, take pause, for perhaps it is the sound of the pencil pressing against the parchment paper as Amelie considers the curves of her body.