NOTE: The descriptions of the places in this guide were accurate at the time the articles were posted. Please be advised that you should call ahead before traveling to any of them.

Smithfield Plantation

By: Rhoda and Chris Hall

Virginia TechNext time you're travelling the twisty back roads of southwest Virginia, plan to spend some time in Blacksburg. Home to the Fighting Gobblers of Virginia Tech, Blacksburg is a small university town with just enough culture and history to be an interesting place to live, or to visit. The University is home to 25,000 lively students during the school year, and on football weekends, it may be one of the largest towns in southwest Virginia. But visit in summer when the students are mostly gone, and the pace slows down a bit, and then you can almost have the place to yourself. And the weather's a little more predictable, too. We have a saying here that there's an equal number of days in summer, fall, winter and spring, but they're not all grouped into 3-month seasons.

Smithfield markerYou can get to Blacksburg by way of US 460 from I-81, or if you're inclined to avoid the freeways, from US 11, known in Virginia as Lee Highway. If you keep your eyes peeled on the way into town, you'll see a historical marker for Smithfield Plantation, near the exit for Prices Fork Road.



Colonial womanBuilt on the edge of the frontier in 1774, just a mile from the site of the Draper Meadows Massacre, Smithfield is a colonial-style frame house originally home to Colonel William Preston and his wife Susanna. Colonel Preston was a surveyor, farmer, patriot, and leader during a critical period in American history. In 1777 Governor Patrick Henry garrisoned soldiers here to protect the household from the threat of both Indians and Tories.

Many of the local children were educated at Smithfield, usually by one of Colonel Preston's apprentice surveyors. The Prestons were a wealthy family, and it shows: from the Chinese Chippendale staircase and transom windows in the entryway, to the Raleigh Tavern-inspired fireplace surround in the drawing room and the Prussian blue paint in the master chamber. In the winter kitchen you'll learn how to tell if a person was considered family or a guest. In the above-stairs chamber, you'll hear how the phrase "Sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite" entered our vernacular. And in the master chamber, you'll see what it means to be "turned down flat."

Smithfield PlantationSmithfield Plantation was donated to the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA) in 1959, renovated, and opened to the public in 1964. Each year, costumed interpreters guide thousands of visitors through the rooms, happily answering all their questions about the house and surrounding area. To get to the Plantation from Prices Fork road, turn south onto West Campus Drive, then right on Duck Pond Drive and right again on Plantation Road.

Period transportationFrom the Plantation, you can easily walk to the Virginia Tech Campus, taking the footpath by the Duck Pond and across the Drill Field. Consider stopping at the underground War Memorial Chapel before strolling down University Mall under the Torgerson Hall Bridge to the original downtown of 16 blocks laid out by William Black. By this time you'll definitely be looking for something to eat, and Blacksburg has a lot of college-town grub designed to satisfy college students' appetites and wallets. Restricting our attention to Main Street, we heartily recommend the awesome hamburgers at Mike's Famous Burgers and Pizza, the Razorback at the Hokie House, and the Buffalo Wings Pizza at PK's.

Smithfield Plantation
1000 Smithfield Plantation Road
Blacksburg, VA 24060
(540) 231-3947

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