Sherwood Forest, State Route 5 vicinity, Charles City, Charles City, VA
Significance: Home of President John Tyler for the last 20 years of his life. Architecturally, the house is particularly interesting as one of the longest frame dwellings in America.
John Tyler bought this 1,200-acre plantation in 1842, when he was still serving as 10th president of the United States, and it was his retirement home from 1845 until his death in 1862. He expanded the original 1780 frame plantation house into one of the longest private residences in Virginia—300 feet long but only one room deep.
Tyler was the first vice president of the United States to succeed to the presidency and set an important precedent by claiming the full powers of that position. His major goal as president was the annexation of Texas, which occurred shortly after he left office. Expelled from the Whig Party that nominated him, he was the first president threatened with impeachment. He named his plantation "Sherwood Forest" because he considered himself a political outlaw—like Robin Hood.
Tyler's additions to the house included a covered hyphen to connect the east wing with an existing kitchen and laundry and a west wing containing an office and ballroom. The ballroom reportedly was designed by Tyler for dancing the Virginia reel. The two wings created a long narrow house with a unified, symmetrical façade. The interior displays ornamental woodwork based on the pattern-book designs of Minard Lefever and fashionable Greek Revival details.
Remnants of the terraced gardens and lawns said to have been designed by New York landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing survive on the 25-acre property. There are also over 80 varieties of trees including a gingko tree given to Tyler by Captain Matthew Perry, when he returned from the Orient in the 1850s.
Survey number: HABS VA-722