High Hopes for Rosegill


  This article appeared in the May 13, 2004 issue of the Southside Sentinel.  


High Hopes for Rosegill

by Mary Wakefield Buxton

Urbanna, Va.—Everyone who enters the town of Urbanna from Cook’s Corner via Route 227 (Urbanna Road) sees the same splendid view. You rise up on the crest of the road just as you begin turning a bend and there, spread out in all its glory, are the historic fields of Rosegill.

Beyond, stretching out like a dream, is the blue-ribbon vista of the Rappahannock River and, on a sunny day, a sky so wide and wonderful that it can take your breath away.

The view is so magnificent that I am surprised people, so momentarily mesmerized, don’t just sail right off into space in their cars and land “ker-plunk’ in the cornfields of Rosegill plantation.

It was that first view on a trip to Urbanna in 1984 at first sold me on moving to Middlesex County my home in Newport News. A view once seen. can never be forgotten; once enjoyed, like a spot of brandy after dinner, the brain can never quite forget the rush.

Like so many other Middlesex County residents, I have high concern over any future development of our area historical treasure. We love Rosegill. We are right to be concerned for its future.

It is time to talk concerns. Land developers Diane Cox Basheer and Ken Thompson have a contract to purchase Rosegill and are in the midst of planning its future. They have been kind enough to share these plans with the public. Now is a good time to reflect on such plans.

Concerns range from the quality of residential homes eventually built on the land, the size of the lots, along with the preservation of the present vista from the road, but also the future of the historic home, which was established in 1649 and is a flagship of Middlesex County, and especially the eventual development of the land along the road that leads into Urbanna.

The thought of strip shopping malls, gas stations and convenience stores being built along this road in some hodgepodge fashion, on the now bucolic sight of the Rosegill fields of soybean and corn, is surprisingly upsetting. Fields, I might add, that are consecrated in my opinion; fields that have taken on an almost holy aura, because these fields of Rosegill that we know and love so well today once were farmed by the slaves of Rosegill, many whose descendents still live in Middlesex County today.

So it was most auspicious for Alfred Scott to call me several weeks ago. He and his brother, Strother Scott, have owned and lovingly cared for Rosegill for the last 30 years. He must have known I had concerns about the development of Rosegill.

“Tell the people of Urbanna and Middlesex County nobody needs to worry as my brother and I will continue to own an interest in the property for the next 10 years,” Scott assured me. “During these years we will continue to care for the old homesite,” including plans to make architecturally correct improvements to the house; including improved kitchen and bathrooms and possibly even air conditioning the place, which will help preserve it by cutting down on damaging humidity and moisture damage.

“Someday the house and some of the surrounding land will be offered for sale to a private owner,” Scott said. By then there will be beautiful homes already built on the land.

“Diane Cox Basheer and Ken Thompson are top-notch people who will do the very best work possible in developing the land,” Scott added. “I talked to every land developer on the East Coast in the last 30 years looking for just the right people to do the job right.”

Scott believes these two developers are the best in the business. He assured me he had no less than five references from people who knew of their land development work in other parts of the country.  Everything—presentation, architecture and construction—is always done well.

Over the telephone I shared with Scott my worst fear. Commercial development for the road leading into town. Imagine a huge discount store on such a road, or auto dealership or other giant concern with seas of parked cars, neon lights and signs.

I have high hopes for the development of Rosegill. I trust the land developers to do a first class job. But I know the roadside land will be used as future commercial sites. I only hope we will never see along this road the unsightly development that came about on other portions of once rural roads; specifically parts of Route 17 in Gloucester.

There are reasons to believe all will turn out well for Rosegill. Diane Cox Basheer has a personal interest in Middlesex County. I understand her mother lives in the area.

There is another reason to be hopeful. With the building of first-class homes at Rosegill as a business investment, Basheer and Thompson are going to want the road leading into their property to be just as attractive as county residents do.

Lastly, Gordon Lohr of the APVA is talking to the developers about the future of the old homeplace. Such conversations may lead to an assurance that Rosegill will be preserved forever, perhaps in a similar fashion as what eventually was planned for Wilton, another historic Middlesex County home.

At this point county residents must also have high hopes that government officials responsible for future development in Middlesex County have in place all the protective restrictions needed regarding land development.  It is a good thing for all of us to have high hopes. But we must be realistic too. The land at Rosegill is valuable and there will be eventual commercialization along the road front leading to town.

Yet, as far as I can tell at this point in time, what is happening now with plans for Rosegill is the best possible scenario that there could possibly be for Middlesex, County. ©2004