Sherwood Forest Plantation from a Cirrus SR20 at ~1,800′ AGL
In one of history’s interesting coincidences, the ninth and tenth Presidents (William Henry Harrison and John Tyler) were both born in Charles City County, Virginia. Harrison was born in 1773 at Berkeley Plantation while Tyler was born seventeen years later just a few miles to the east at Greenway Plantation. But that is just one of many coincidences involving these two former presidents.
Their more significant connection, of course, was that despite their paths rarely intersecting during their lives Tyler found himself Harrison’s vice presidential running mate in 1840, and later became president due to Harrison’s death just one month into his term.
But their cosmic synchronicity has further to run. In 1842 then-President John Tyler purchased an estate known as Walnut Grove located a few miles from his birthplace. He renamed it Sherwood Forest Plantation, allegedly in reference to his being outlawed by the Whig Party during his presidency. Any guesses as to who once owned the property? Yes…William Henry Harrison.
As a result, this estate holds the distinction of being the only private US residence to have been owned by two unrelated presidents. Harrison inherited the property in 1790 and owned it for three years, but never occupied the residence (he was soon to join the army and move west). Harrison sold the estate and it was later purchased by Tyler who made it his full time residence from the time he left the White House until his death in 1862. Since that time it has been continuously owned by Tyler’s descendants.
Tyler’s “retirement house” has the additional distinction of being the longest frame dwelling in America, at just about three-hundred feet in length. If nothing else is clear from the photo, it is quite obvious this is no small home (it is not difficult to find from the air).
Because fate provided so little distance between these historical landmarks, I flew over both Harrison’s and Tyler’s estates on the same flight earlier this month. Flying from one to the other took all of three minutes, and they are just minutes from the Richmond International Airport, under the approach to runway 34.
Over half of our presidents never had the chance to enjoy the world as viewed from above. Not until Teddy Roosevelt left office and enjoyed a short flight in St. Louis did a chief executive (retired or active) fly in an aircraft. But for those precious moments when my cellphone is turned off and I’m enjoying the physics of flight, history feels truly timeless.