Historic Somerset: A Rare Opportunity to Own a Piece of History

When Frascati was completed in 1823 in Orange County, Virginia for Phillip Barbour who had just retired as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Somerset was already a pretty good neighborhood. Less than two miles away as the crow flies was Montpelier, the home of James and Dolly Madison where the United States Constitution was drafted. Madison had been retired since his second term as president ended in 1817. Five miles south was Somerset Plantation built for Thomas Macon and his wife Sarah, sister to James Madison. Somerset Plantation was the largest home in Orange County at the time and was situated on a commanding hill overlooking the Piedmont and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Just to the south was the home of James Barbour, Phillip’s brother, a lifelong statesman having served as Virginia’s Governor during the War of 1812 and then as Senator and Secretary of War from 1814-1825. Thomas Jefferson designed Barboursville and indeed influenced all four of these remarkable homes all of which employed the craftsmen he used to build Monticello and the University of Virginia.

The Frascati Estate is a chance to own a rare piece of history

Frascati c. 1823

Somerset plantation c. 1803

Somerset Plantation c. 1803

Montpelier c. 1760

Montpelier c. 1760

Barboursville Ruins c. 1822

Barboursville Ruins c. 1822

Today, Montpelier, Frascati and Somerset plantation still exist much as they did in the 19th century. Barboursville was gutted by fire on Christmas day in 1884 yet the ruins remain and are preserved by Barboursville Vineyards, one of Virginia’s premier wineries. This unspoiled part of Orange County is still entirely rural and each of these historic properties still command significant acreage. A drive through Somerset on Route 20, (Constitution Highway) or Route 231, (Blue Ridge Turnpike) will wind through rolling farm land, past antebellum estates and simple farm houses. You’ll catch your breath as each curve presents new vistas of grazing horses and cows and crops like corn, soybeans, alfalfa and sorghum with the Blue Ridge Mountains always present to the west.


I had the occasion to enjoy a gathering at Frascati with my wife this winter and as we sat in the magnificent parlor listening to someone playing the piano we imagined what other gatherings had listened to music in this very room. Surely, Phillip’s brother James, their neighbors James and Dolley Madison and the Macons of Somerset Plantation would have been regular guests. Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe were also contemporaries and friends and would probably have been overnight guests after a 20 mile carriage ride. History lives vividly in these important houses which are just four of the the 37 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Orange County https://www.dhr.virginia.gov/historic-registers/068-0304/.


Frascati is an historic treasure and the rarest of of opportunities to acquire to such an important home in museum quality condition in one of Virginia’s most beautiful estate areas. Frascati is proudly offered for sale through Wiley Real Estate.

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