Building Description Bremo Plantation, Bremo Bluff Virginia

Bremo Plantation contains nearly a dozen structures of interest and significance. Chief among these is the principal residence, Upper Bremo, a five-section brick structure in the Palladian style popularized in the area by Thomas Jefferson. The central block of the house is two stories on the entrance facade and one story on an English basement on the river front. The house was originally covered by a flat roof of ridge and valley construction used so frequently by Mr. Jefferson. As this type of roof leaked badly, it was replaced with the present hipped roof by General John Hartwell Cocke not many years after the house was completed. Upper Bremo contains many other architectural features so often associated with Jefferson work, especially with the use of the Tuscan order in the portico, loggia, and side porches, the Chinese lattice railings on the esplanades, and the changes of ground level from one side of the complex to the other. The interior of Bremo also exhibits many Jeffersonian features such as the very high ceilings in the principal rooms, bed alcoves, narrow staircases, upstairs rooms with low ceilings, and a generous use of full entablatures and pedimented doorways in the principal rooms. The oak graining found on the woodwork of all the principal rooms except the parlor is thought to be the original finish.

Upper Bremo has been preserved with remarkably few changes and is currently undergoing a long-term renovation. Even the original benches in the schoolroom in one of the end pavilions remain. The outbuildings just to the east of the east end pavilion also survive in a good state of repair.

Other structures located on the Upper Bremo tract include the massive and unusual stone barn with its Tuscan portico, brick dressings, and central cupola. Adjacent to the barn is the stone and brick milk house with its high hipped roof and central pediment, and the large stable which also features the stone and brick construction of the buildings associated with General Cocke.

Southeast of the house at the foot of the bluff is the Temperance monument, a stone Greek Doric pavilion di-style in antis. Although the monument has been moved from its original location on the James River and Kanawha Canal, the setting has been carefully reproduced; the monument now overlooks a long basin near the opposite end of which is the large pitcher-shaped iron urn through which poured water from the spring.

Other buildings connected with Upper Bremo are the two rare slave quarters constructed under the supervision of General Cocke and the board and batten slave chapel.

The other principal structures associated with Bremo Plantation include Bremo Recess and Lower Bremo. Bremo Recess, a Jacobean style brick house, was, according to General Cocke, "copied from ... the well-remembered old six chimney house in Williamsburg, once the property of the Custis family, and Bacon's Castle in Surry." As in Bacon's Castle, Bremo Recess is cruciform in plan with curvilinear end gables and triple diagonally-set chimney stacks. Its brick and stone guest house also has a seventeenth-century appearance with its very steep gable roof and parapet gable ends.

Like Upper Bremo, Lower Bremo is set on the high bluff overlooking the James River, but being Jacobean rather than Palladian in style, Lower Bremo is more similar in appearance to Bremo Recess. However, Lower Bremo is H-shaped in plan rather than cruciform. Each of its gables has curvilinear ends and the chimney stacks are in clusters of four rather than three. The house was originally smaller but was given its present form by General Cocke about 1844. Lower Bremo also retains its massive stone and timber barn erected circa 1840.