They named the property “Rassawek,” in honor of the namesake village of the Monacan Indians, believed to be a series of camps that stretched out along the James River from the main hub at Point of Fork where the Rivanna and James Rivers converged nearby, and set to work planting a vineyard and reclaiming structures for the enjoyment of future generations.
The vineyard was planted in contour rows following the lay of the land. Ponds and roads were added to the property. It’s hard to say what came first- the serendipitous acquisition of materials or a master plan.
The property bears the signatures of the craftsmen, who contributed their skills to various projects, in the details. An arched stone bridge, crafted by a master mason, flanked by redbuds and dogwoods, invites visitors to follow the road which winds through rows of grapevines.
Perched on the top of the hill, a white gazebo, Rassawek’s most visible landmark, offers panoramic views of the river low grounds and three counties- Goochland, Fluvanna and Cumberland.
In 2003, the first building to find new life at Rassawek was the “Saylor” cabin, circa 1844. The two-story structure was moved one floor at a time and reconstructed with an eye for authenticity.
The “Cherokee” cabin, built in 1910, followed in 2008 and was reconstructed overlooking a pond at the north end of the property. Grapevines were then planted in a radial pattern with the Cherokee cabin as the hub.
Salvaged antique items fill the interior. The fireplace, built from native rocks and those original to the cabin, sports massive lintels that were hand-split on site. The floors and wavy pane glass are original to the cabin. A skylight and cupola provide ventilation and natural light.
Adjacent to the Cherokee Cabin is the greenhouse, originally from James Madison’s home, Montpelier. The spacious room, with its brick floor, fireplace and stunning glass, is not only an architectural gem but a perfect spot for gathering.
Rassawek continues to evolve, fueled by the family’s imagination, creativity, respect for the past and by the desire to teach future generations about an earlier time.