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Colonial Williamsburg to sell plantation anew

(AP) — The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation submitted the only bid for Carter’s Grove on Wednesday, then hours later said it would put the historic plantation on the market.

The announcement came hours after a U.S. bankruptcy judge in Norfolk approved the court-ordered sale and the foundation’s $7.4 million bid.

The 400-acre property and its massive, historically significant plantation house on the James River had been part of Colonial Williamsburg’s holdings for decades until a wealthy Virginia businessman purchased it in 2007 and quickly fell on hard times.

The property is valued at just under $15 million.

The closing on the property is expected by month’s end, said Bob Taylor, senior vice president for finance and administration at Colonial Williamsburg. “At that time, the foundation will market and sell the property,” he said in a statement.

The court-ordered sale attracted strong interest but only Colonial Williamsburg qualified to bid, trustee Stanley J. Samorajczyk said in an interview.

To qualify, bidders had to submit a $250,000 deposit and proof they were financially qualified to purchase the Tidewater plantation with more than a mile of river frontage and a fully restored mansion. It is miles from Colonial Williamsburg in James City County.

Samorajczyk blamed the still-dicey economy for the dearth of qualified bidders. “I think it’s a function of today’s marketplace,” he said.

The 18,700-square-foot plantation house, considered among the best examples of Georgian architecture in the U.S., was built in 1755 and has ties to the very earliest European settlers in Virginia. It’s only miles from Jamestown, the first permanent European settlement in America.

The Rockefeller Foundation donated the property to Colonial Williamsburg in 1969 and it was open to tourists until 2003.

In 2007, Halsey Minor, a wealthy dot-com entrepreneur from Charlottesville, purchased Carter’s Grove for $15.3 million. He planned to live there and use the property and its stables as a thoroughbred horse farm.

In a Fortune magazine article shortly after the sale, Minor bragged he had purchased the “most historic property in America.”

But Minor lost his riches in the recession and he never lived at Carter’s Grove. He filed for personal bankruptcy in 2013.

In a separate proceeding, Carter’s Grover was placed under bankruptcy protection in 2011 after Colonial Williamsburg closed on the property.

Colonial Williamsburg’s bid equals what remains on the property’s mortgage, Samorajczyk said.

But he said the final purchase price will balloon because of “significant” other costs related to the sale. More than $600,000, for example, was spent on repairs of the mansion since Minor purchased it.

Historic preservationists were alarmed when the plantation house fell into disrepair under Minor’s ownership, but Colonial Williamsburg said the property is not threatened by the upcoming sale.

“The preservation and conservation easement that was placed on Carter’s Grove in 2007 applies in perpetuity and is not, therefore, affected by any sale to a new owner,” Taylor said.

– STEVE SZKOTAK, Associated Press

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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