Sherwood Forest Plantation

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Sherwood Forest Plantation, also known as John Tyler House, is located on the north bank of the James River in Charles City County, Virginia. It is located on State Route 5, a scenic byway which runs between the independent cities of Richmond and Williamsburg. The house is located approximately 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the river.

Sherwood Forest has the distinction of being the only private residence in the United States to have been owned by two unrelated United States Presidents. William Henry Harrison inherited the plantation, then named Walnut Grove, in 1790 and held it for three years. He sold the 3,000 acre (12 km²) property in 1793 having never lived in the house. Harrison's successor John Tyler purchased the plantation, which by then had been reduced to 1,600 acres (6.5 km²), in 1842 and lived there after leaving the White House.

John Tyler renamed the plantation Sherwood Forest in 1842. He said it signified that he had been "outlawed" by the Whig party. He was attracted to the plantation because it was near his birthplace at Greenway Plantation. He retired there when he left the White House in 1845 and spent the rest of his life there with his second wife and some of his children - he had eight with his first wife, seven with his second wife, and the last of them died in 1947.

The house was very run-down when Tyler bought it. Congress refused to pay him the allowance that was customary for upkeep of the White House, so Tyler had to pay for repairs at Sherwood Forest himself. He did much of the work himself.

As regional hostilities in the United States escalated to become the American Civil War in 1861, Tyler backed Virginia's secession, although he died in January 1862. Later that spring, the house was occupied by Union soldiers during McClellan's Peninsula Campaign of 1862 and again during Grant's Overland Campaign in 1864. During the latter, the Battle of Wilson's Wharf was fought nearby. When an Ohio regiment vacated the house in 1864, they attempted to raze it with fire as a punishment for Tyler's support of the Confederacy. The fire was quickly extinguished by a loyal slave and did little damage to the house.

Owners of the house who started restoring it in the mid-20th century started removing some home-made storm windows and then discovered from old records that Tyler had built them himself, so they kept them. One of the house's claims to fame is the length of the house; over 300 feet (91 m). It is also noted for its long, skinny ballroom, a "hyphen" Tyler had added to the house to accommodate the style of dancing popular then - what is today called "line dancing" but was then the "Virginia reel."

The house has been in the Tyler family since it was purchased by president Tyler in 1842. The house is currently owned by Harrison Ruffin Tyler, President Tyler's grandson, and the son of Lyon Gardiner Tyler. It is open to the public for tours.


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