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A stroll through history at Virginia's Berkeley Plantation

ThanksgivingBenjamin HarrisonWilliam Henry HarrisonCharles City (Charles City, Virginia)

A place of beginnings and endings, Berkeley Plantation, about halfway between Richmond and Williamsburg, Va., is part of your life. Each time you celebrate Thanksgiving, there's an echo of the first Thanksgiving held here in 1619 (pre-Pilgrim, Berkeley happily reminds us). Each time the solemn notes of taps play at the end of a day or the end of a life, they echo the notes first sounded at Berkeley during the Civil War.

Why it's a treasure: Power radiates from every handmade brick in those 3-foot walls completed in 1726. Benjamin Harrison V, son of the builder, signed the Declaration of Independence. Two presidents, William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison, claimed Berkeley as their ancestral home.

Why you'd want to live here: The view of the James River is as romantic now as when builders Benjamin IV and Anne Harrison stamped a heart between their initials high on an exterior wall.

Why you wouldn't: You'd be longing for the double-decker porches upriver at equally impressive Shirley Plantation, where the 11th generation of the Hill Carter family still enjoys the view.

The surprise: The man who restored Berkeley in 1907, John Jamieson, had been a drummer boy in the Union Army encampment here during the Civil War.

Info: Berkeley Plantation, 12602 Harrison Landing Road, Charles City, Va.; (804) 829-6018 or (888) 466-6018, http://www.berkeleyplantation.com. Open 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily mid-March through December, 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. January through mid-March. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. Admission $11 for adults, $7.50 for students 13-16, $6 for children 6-12; 10% discount for military, senior citizens and AAA members. The 2012 Virginia Thanksgiving Festival will be held noon-4 p.m. Nov. 4.

travel@latimes.com

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