Elsing Green is believed to be named for Elsing Hall, a small country manor house in Norfolk, England. Elsing Green has a rich and diverse history traversing a span of three centuries. Although many of the records concerning Elsing Green, were destroyed during the War Between the States, the following is believed to be an accurate account of the history of this Pamunkey River Plantation.
In the seventeenth century Colonel John West acquired land. West was the family name of Lord Delaware, and the town of West Point was named for Colonel West. Colonel West built the fine, small brick Jacobean lodge, the East dependency of the manor house, before 1690. Upon his death in 1692 Colonel West's son Captain Nathaniel West, inherited Elsing Green. Captain West's only child, Unity West, received Elsing Green as a dower upon her marriage to Captain William Dandridge. Dandridge, a member of the same family as George Washington's wife, Martha Custis, was a captain in the British navy and fought at Cartagena, St. Augustine and Savannah.
The Dandridges resided in the Jacobean lodge until Captain West's death at which time Unity, the sole heir, inherited her father's fortunes. It is believed that the Dandridges built the stately Queen Anne manor house and flanking kitchen with Unity's inheritance sometime between 1715 and 1720.
Upon Unity's death in 1753, Elsing Green was sold to Carter Braxton who had been born at nearby Newington on the Mattaponi River. Braxton served as a Burgess in Virginia's General Assembly, attended the Revolutionary Convention, and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
In the late eighteenth century, the plantation was sold to William Burnett Brown who is buried in the old family cemetery at Elsing Green. Brown gave the property to his son-in-law William E. Claiborne, upon the condition that he changes his name from Claiborne to Brown, which was accomplished by a special act of the General Assembly. On December 16,1820, it was sold to William Gregory. The Gregory family owned the plantation for over a century, eventually selling it to Beverly D. Causey in the mid-1930s. The timely restoration efforts of the Causeys returned Elsing Green to its former state.
In 1950, Edgar R. Lafferty, Jr., and his wife, Margaret, purchased Elsing Green from Mr. And Mrs. Causey. The Laffertys also brought to Elsing Green previously acquired, additional acreage substantially increasing the size of the plantation. The Lafferty family continued the restoration work initiated by the Causeys and are continuing to restore Elsing Green to its original, simple elegance. This restoration is being done to preserve Elsing Green as a monument to America's heritage and the founders and in honor of our nation's past as well as its future.
In 1980, Mr. Lafferty granted a preservation easement on Elsing Green, and 2,454 acres of farmland, forest and marsh land surrounding Elsing Green, to the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. These historic preservation easements not only protect the property from demolition, inappropriate change, but also subdivision and commercial development in perpetuity.
In an effort to insure that Elsing Green remains a working 18th century plantation never to be subjected to development the Lafferty Foundation was created, and incorporated on August 6, 1982. The Lafferty Foundation now owns Elsing Green after being passed to the Foundation upon Mr. Lafferty's death. The Foundation will continue the family pursuits, the operation of the farm as a working plantation and to maintain and preserve the grounds, various buildings and furnishings, and wildlife refuge of Elsing Green as an historic and cultural landmark.
In addition, Elsing Green is listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and in the National Register of Historic Places. The Secretary of the Interior has designated Elsing Green as a National Historic landmark.
The main house at Elsing Green is one of Virginia's outstanding examples of Colonial architecture. Elsing Green's U-shaped plan with two wings to the north is unique for a house its size.
The main house is two stories with an English basement. The Flemish bond brickwork is executed in the highest Colonial Virginia Standards. The brick walls are laid with random glazed headers above and below the water table. Rubbed brick surrounds the windows, entrance and corners of the house. The belt course and splayed flat window arches (said to be among the deepest found in Virginia) consist of gauged brickwork.
The main house is largely furnished in eighteenth century American and English furniture. Included among the furniture is the "Surrender Table" upon which the American and French Commissioners met with English Commissioners to negotiate the terms of surrender of the British forces at Yorktown. This resulted in the conclusion of the American Revolution in 1781.
To the east of the main house is the small lodge built before 1690, an excellent example of one of the very few Jacobean period brick buildings in Virginia. The lodge is one and a half stories with an English basement. Like the main house, the walls are laid in Flemish bond above the water table, and rubbed brick surrounds the windows, doors and corners. To the west of the main house lies the old kitchen where the meals were prepared to be served to the family in the main house.
Elsing Green is located along the Pamunkey River in King William County, Virginia. King William County was formed in 1702 and named for William of Orange, King of England. The county lies on Virginia's middle peninsula between the Mattaponi and the Pamunkey rivers, which ultimately join to form the York River. While King William County continues to be a rural county, it is rich in history. Elsing Green is an historic, Colonial Virginia plantation and has been in continuous operation for over 300 years. Elsing Green currently consists of approximately 2254 acres. Much of the land is cultivated to continue to maintain Elsing Green as an operating plantation. The remainder consists of woods, marsh, and swampland, currently serving as a wildlife refuge, and gardens, which have been returned to their earlier state by planting formal and informal gardens in the English style around the home. Also situated on the property are a smoke house, springhouse, gatehouse, two necessaries, and a plantation office. The Lafferty family personally designed, laid out and planted the gardens, shrubbery and trees resulting in a beautiful, simple and natural setting for one of this country's most beautiful homes. The preservation easements placed on Elsing Green protect the gardens, graveyard and entrance to Elsing Green as well as its buildings. The Pamunkey River lies about 250 yards in front of the lowest terrace in front of the manor house.