November 03, 2010

Rosewell Ruins

Of all the things I've been looking forward to exploring in Virginia, the Rosewell Ruins have occupied the top spot on my list. So when the local photography club organized a trip to visit the ruins, I was thrilled to go along and share the experience with other photography buffs.

After stopping at the Visitor Center to orient ourselves, watch an informational film about Rosewell, pick up maps, and chat with the knowledgeable museum curator, we headed through a few fields toward the ruins themselves.

The ruined mansion is surrounded by fields and woods near the York River... a peaceful and secluded setting that makes it easy to transport one's mind back to centuries past.

It didn't take us long to walk over to the mansion itself. Its construction dates back to 1725, making it one of the Colonial Era's architectural gems. It first belonged to the Page family, one of the First Families of Virginia: an illustrious and exclusive circle of high-society colonists who settled in Virginia in the 17th century. The Page family included a governor of Virginia (John Page, 13th Governor of Virginia) and associated closely with the Jeffersons. Legend even has it that Thomas Jefferson, on one of his visits to the mansion, worked on a draft of the Declaration of Independence in this very house.

Rosewell Mansion was built primarily of brick, and the grandeur of its three stories can still be intuited from the lofty heights of the ruins today. A catastrophic fire in 1916 left little more than a shell of the structure's former glory, and time and the elements have contributed to further decay.

Today, efforts are being made to prevent the ruins from collapsing further. Horizontal support beams and new mortar in certain spots are two of the readily visible elements designed to preserve the historic structure for generations to come. And the efforts are worth it. Even in its run-down state, Rosewell is a beautiful and spectacular place to visit.

It's exciting—and also a little eerie—to scramble into the ruin, explore the cellars, look up at the towers, see where the floor levels once were, and imagine what life may once have been like in that very spot.

Inside the mansion.

One of the cameras I had with me was a Polaroid Sun 600 camera I found at a thrift store. It was loaded with the Impossible Project's PX 600 Silver Shade film. This particular film is surprisingly sensitive to temperature and light, so there's always an element of uncertainty and surprise. But in this case, the mild weather and shady woods turned out to be agreeable conditions for this feisty and unpredictable film... and the photo turned out!

Rosewell Ruins

Picture in picture: the fresh instant photo on a bed of dry leaves.

Rosewell Ruins is worth a visit... both for the beautiful natural surroundings...

...and the picturesque remnants of a colonial mansion. I had a great time on this first visit, and I can't wait to go back.

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