The efforts of the Foundation for Historic Christ Church, Inc., established in 1958, ensured the preservation and appreciation of one of the finest examples of surviving colonial church architecture in America. Completed around 1732 at the behest of one of Virginia's richest and most influential colonial planters and statesmen, Robert "King" Carter, Christ Church was constructed over top of an earlier, 1669 structure commissioned by his father, John, in the chancel of which Carter's two parents had been buried. The handsome building served its congregation until the period of the American Revolution, when with disestablishment of the state church, it reverted to the Carter family. By the middle decades of the nineteenth it was again being used by Episcopalians, but eventually only during summer months or for special occasions.
With the restoration of the church nearing completion in the mid-1960s, the Foundation's leadership quite naturally turned to The Garden Club of Virginia for assistance in providing an appropriate landscape that would complement this historic structure. The club's plan, formulated by landscape architect Ralph E. Griswold, was restrained and predicated on a desire to provide unobstructed views of the church itself. Members of the Foundation and the Club also desired to pay homage to "King" Carter's beneficence in one way by recreating the "row of goodly cedars" that, according to local lore, had run between the church and Carter's nearby mansion on the Corotoman River.
The resulting design placed the obligatory parking area as far from the church as property boundaries would allow, obscured from sight by a combination of holly trees, willow oaks and magnolias. Nearer the building, day lilies provided important ground cover to areas not cleared for the expansive lawn. The club also helped with the cemetery section that falls outside of the walls surrounding the church. The cemetery lies just to the south of the brick walkway through the cedars that brings visitors to the stately entrance of a most handsome and historically important edifice.
Note: The images presented here record various stages of the property's landscape restoration. Since additional work has been supported by The Garden Club of Virginia at many properties, these images do not necessarily represent the current-day experience. Also, accession numbers reflect the year in which an image was received by the Virginia Historical Society, not the year in which it was taken.
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1. Looking toward the narthex from the west through the surrounding shrubbery.
Slide, Historic Christ Church. Museum Collection Accession number: 1997.31.17.G