Historic Sites and Buildings
John Tyler, who was born in Charles City County and retained life long ties to Tidewater Virginia, acquired this residence during his Presidency and made it his retirement home.
In 1842, about 2 months after the death of his first wife in the White House, Tyler purchased Creek Plantation, a 1,200-acre estate only about 3 miles from his birthplace, Greenway. Considering himself something of a political "outlaw," he whimsically renamed his new home "Sherwood Forest," after the legendary Robin Hood's hideout.
At the time Tyler bought the property, the main house, built about 1780 and then known as the "Grove" for its setting in a grove of oaks, was a 2-1/2-story, clapboarded structure with two 1-1/2-story wings. About the time of his second marriage, in 1844, he renovated the structure. He added a covered colonnade to connect a 1-1/2-story detached kitchen-laundry to the east wing, and duplicated this pattern on the west end of the house to provide space for an office and ballroom. The completed building, only one room deep, spanned 300 feet and was one of the longest private residences in the country. Tyler used the present rear of the mansion as the front; that side faces the James River and he found it convenient to use the road that then passed between his house and the river.
Tyler's expanded home served the requirements of his ever-growing family; he and his second wife, Julia, had seven children during the years they lived in it. He retired there after leaving the Presidency in 1845, though he maintained a summer cottage near the ocean at Old Point Comfort (present Hampton), Va., and usually spent some time each year with his wife's mother on Staten Island, N.Y. Living quietly for many years, he devoted himself to raising his family and tending to agricultural pursuits.
In February 1861 Tyler journeyed to Washington, where he chaired the unsuccessful Peace Convention. Later in the year, he participated in the Virginia secession convention, and won a seat in the Confederate Congress. He died the next January in Richmond. Soon after his demise, his wife and their younger children crossed Union lines and joined her mother in New York. Before long, Union troops ravaged Tyler's estate, cut down the grove of trees, and destroyed many of his possessions. By 1864 the house stood deserted, but members of the family returned after the end of the war.
Although the estate has been divided, largely among Tyler descendants, the house is still owned by one of them and is a private residence. It has changed relatively little through the years, and contains a number of original furnishings and mementos of President Tyler's life. The mansion, which is painted white, is surrounded by a large yard, in which traces of the old formal garden can be seen. At the east end of the house stands an 18th-century wine house; at the west end, a dairy; and two other dependencies near the house are extant. Some buildings also survive on other portions of the original estate, which remains mainly in agricultural use. Sherwood Forest has been restored and repaired it, and is open to the public.
Last Updated: 22-Jan-2004