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BATTERSEA: A Testament to American Longevity

Battersea Mar 25
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A testament to American longevity and success, the 250-year-old Battersea estate represents our nations’ rich cultural history and heritage. In 1768, Colonel John Banister built Battersea near the bustling trade town of Petersburg, Virginia. “Colonel” Banister earned his title while fighting for American independence in the Revolutionary War and later signed the Articles of Confederation in support of the new nation. Banister also became Petersburg’s first mayor and his handsome Battersea estate signified both his gentry status and political power in the blossoming colonies. Battersea itself played an important role in America’s early history.

In 1781 during the Battle of Petersburg, Battersea was a hotbed for British military activity. According to Banister’s own reports, the redcoats occupied his home on three separate occasions, while the surrounding fields were utilized for infantry encampments. Luckily, no severe damage was done to the home, and its brilliant architecture remains well intact. In fact, Battersea is one of few Palladian estates in American today. Palladian architecture is inspired by the 16th century Italian architect Andrea Palladio. Palladio designed beautiful villas with stylistic grandeur and symmetry, and in the 18th century many wealthy Europeans and Americans had their homes fashioned after the designs. Another influencer of the day was Robert Morris, a British platebook printer who made Palladio’s designs easily accessible through his books on Palladian architecture.  As such, Battersea was constructed using Morris’ platebook patterns and Palladio’s architectural inspiration.

Visitors to the property today will also see a very rare original greenhouse, which was built in the 1825 – 1835 time period.  Col. Banister had a strong interest in botany and it is known that he and Thomas Jefferson shared that interest and plantings.  You will also see some of the oldest unique specimen trees in Virginia, including osage orange, gingko, magnolia, and huge pecan and walnut trees.

Visit Battersea when the Revolutionary War Battle of Petersburg is reenacted each spring, the British Redcoats and our passionate troops fighting desperately for independence.  Come to the Trades Fair where craftsmen will teach you how to do restoration projects on historic homes.  Come and eat VA oysters right off of the grill the first Saturday of November and enjoy the lush, scenic landscape with friends and a glass of Virginia craft beer or wine and a little music.  In a very festive, relaxed setting you may pick up some history that you had not known before – let us introduce you to John Banister.

Toni Clark

Editor’s note: Want to experience what life was like during early America? Visit the American Adventure exhibit today.


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  1. AE Curator March 27, 2019

    Thank you for sharing your story! Colonel Banister’s Battersea truly is a testament to our nation’s rich cultural history and heritage.


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