Visitors from all over the country are flocking to Virginia for Historic Garden Week, considered to be the oldest and largest house-and-garden tour in the United States. The annual event, in its 59th year, opened yesterday in Hanover and Southampton counties, and it will continue daily through next Sunday, visiting more than 200 private homes and gardens in 33 areas of the state.
The Garden Club of Virginia, sponsor of the tour, has raised more than $5 million from past events. Funds have been used to improve and restore the grounds of many of the state's historic landmarks, including Monticello, General Robert E. Lee's birthplace at Stratford, Va., Kenmore Plantation in Fredericksburg and Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg. Fifty of these historic sites will be open during Garden Week.
Most of the houses are open between 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but a few tours have extended evening hours. Tour tickets generally are priced from $10 to $15; individual houses are $3. The block ticket price frequently includes tea or refreshments. Luncheons or box lunches are also available.
Garden Week provides an opportunity to visit the magnificent James River plantations: Brandon, Westover, Shirley, Berkeley, Belle Air, Evelynton and Tuckahoe. Also included among Garden Week's attractions are Salubria, said to be one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the country and the oldest brick house in Culpeper County; a three-day tour in the Richmond area; authentic 18th century gardens in Colonial Williamsburg, where some houses are open for the first time; or a visit to some of the contemporary homes in the Virginia Beach area.
Detailed information on the various tours is included in a guidebook, available free from Historic Garden Week headquarters, 12 E. Franklin St., Richmond. This week the headquarters are open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, call (804) 644-7776 or (804) 643-7141.
Irish Workers' Festival
The Irish Workers' Festival is one of the big events of the year at the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington. It will be held Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. to celebrate the contributions Irish workers made to the du Pont powder mills. The original mills and du Pont estate are located on Hagley grounds.
Much of the day's activity will take place on Blacksmith Hill, the restored worker's community, where performers include Irish step dancers, balladeers, a fiddler and a Celtic band. Other attractions are 19th century games, antique cars, demonstrations, a storyteller, toymaker, and tours of the du Pont family home. Traditional Irish ham and cabbage and other foods will be served from a decorated trolley, and Irish imports will also be for sale.
Admission is $9 for adults; $4 for children 14 and under, with a family rate of $24. Entrance to the festival will be from Buck Road east, off state Route 100. For information, call (302) 658-2400.
Homes of West Virginia
Houses in historic Berkeley and Jefferson counties of West Virginia will be on view Saturday and next Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sponsored by the Shenandoah-Potomac Garden Council, this year's annual tour, the 37th, features nine homes in Harpers Ferry, Charles Town, Shepardstown and Martinsburg, W.Va.
Among the places on tour will be a summer cottage built in the late 1870s that overlooks the Shenandoah River in Harpers Ferry; a fine Georgian home in Charles Town; an interior design studio and apartment in Shepardstown originally built as a barn in 1900, and the home of Martinsburg's founder, completed in 1789.
Tickets can be purchased at each of the homes. The price is $10 for a complete tour; $3 for single admission. Children under 12 pay $5 for a complete tour; $2 for single admission.
For information or a brochure, call (800) 848-8687 or (304) 535-2627.
James Monroe's birthday
Next Sunday, on the 234th anniversary of James Monroe's birthday, a Scottish block party will be held at the James Monroe Museum in Fredericksburg, Va. The free celebration begins at 1 p.m. in front of the museum.
Festivities include entertainment by Scottish dancers, a fiddler, a bagpiper and a guitarist, as well as a number of artisans demonstrating silhouette cutting, fan painting and other crafts. Interpreters dressed as President and Mrs. Monroe will be present to cut the birthday cake, along with several Monroe descendants. The party also marks the opening of a new exhibit, "Images of a President: Portraits of James Monroe." For information, call (703) 899-4559.
Lancaster marks 250th year
Lancaster, Pa., launches its 250th birthday year during the weekend of May 1-3. The city will be decorated with flying banners, and town criers will be passing out handbills in the downtown area listing weekend events.