Land will offer flexibility for recreation, schools, economic development
Henrico County has agreed to buy the historic Wilton Farm property on the James River in Varina for a variety of potential future uses, including a park with 2.8 miles of river frontage, economic development, schools and a history museum.
Board of Supervisors Chairman and Varina District representative Tyrone E. Nelson and County Manager John A. Vithoulkas announced the purchase today in a news conference at the eastern Henrico farm. The county plans to work with the community to develop a master plan to guide future decisions about the property.
The 1,184-acre site is off Osborne Turnpike and bisected by the Pocahontas Parkway (state Route 895). It includes 2.8 miles of river frontage and two lakes as well as extensive wetlands and cultural resources.
Nelson called the acquisition great news for Varina and Henrico and said the county will work closely with the community to create a vision for the property.
“We intend to take our time and to be good stewards of the land,” he said. “In addition to about 550 acres that cannot be developed, Wilton Farm has rich historical and cultural resources that deserve study and interpretation.”
The Henrico Economic Development Authority met before the announcement and approved an agreement to buy the property for $10 million from HHHunt. The company had purchased the property for $18 million in 2005.
HHHunt had intended to develop the property as Wilton on the James, a master-planned community approved for 3,209 residential units, including single-family homes, townhomes, garden condominiums and apartments.
“Opportunities to preserve land for open space on the river and for economic development and future schools do not come along every day,” Nelson said. “This is one of the largest properties ever acquired by Henrico. This monumental decision represents another investment in the quality of life of our residents, and it would not be possible without the support of our entire Board of Supervisors.”
Officials have begun to consider how the property might be used. Much of the land, including considerable river frontage, could be set aside for preservation and recreation. Land near Pocahontas Parkway could accommodate economic development and a museum site, while a smaller portion, off Osborne, could provide sites for an elementary school and a middle school.
The Wilton Farm property has an extensive documented history, with several areas potentially eligible for listing on the National Register for Historic Places. In 1639, English settlers referred to the area as “World’s End” because of its remote location. In the 1740s, the land served as a tobacco plantation and was named Wilton. During the Revolutionary War, American troops led by Lafayette camped on the property, which has remained largely untouched since then.
“We see a tremendous value for taxpayers and an exciting opportunity for the county at Wilton Farm,” Vithoulkas said. “Centuries ago, Wilton Farm may have seemed like it was located at the ‘World’s End,’ but that’s no longer the case, given its proximity to Route 895 and Osborne Turnpike. We look forward to working with the community to make Wilton Farm another jewel for Henrico that will benefit our residents for years to come.”