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Storm fells historic Varina tree

Friday night's ferocious thunderstorm toppled dozens of trees throughout Henrico County, but perhaps none more significant than the one it felled on Route 5 in Varina.

The oak tree that stood for some 150 years there, at the entrance to scenic Tree Hill Farm near the split of New Market Road and Osborne Turnpike, arguably was the most historic tree in the region.

It was known as the Surrender Tree because nearly 150 years ago, beneath its fledgling branches, Richmond Mayor Joseph Mayo surrendered the City of Richmond to Union forces during the Civil War. Six days later, on April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia in Appomattox, essentially ending the war.

In the years since, the tree steadily advanced skyward, ultimately sprawling out high above electrical wires and the two-lane road beneath it, rooted to the ground by a trunk that grew to more than four feet in diameter. It presented a grand welcome to visitors at Tree Hill Farm, ushering them along a rolling, gravel-lined path dotted with other stately, if less historic, oaks toward the farm's 237-year-old manor house.

Even as changes came to the 531-acre farm site – which was sold by the Burlee family to developers in 2006 – the tree remained a constant reminder of the site's significance. (Native American artifacts found on the site have led some to conclude that it may have been the home to the Tsenacommacah tribe of Virginia Indians, led by Chief Powahatan, the father of Pocahontas.)

In late 2007, the Henrico Board of Supervisors approved plans for a large-scale mixed-use development on the site, featuring nearly 2,800 housing units, 1.16 million square feet of commercial space and more than 250 acres of green space. Initial plans called for construction to begin by early 2009, but today the site remains untouched, its future put on hold by a faulty economy.

And so for the past six years, the Surrender Tree stood guard over its lonely but breathtaking Varina home, casting long shadows daily as the setting sun disappeared across the James River.

Until June 29, when at last, the Surrender Tree itself surrendered, uprooting itself as it fell across Route 5. It took power crews a number of hours early the next day to clear the tree from the road, which was closed through late morning.

Perhaps it was fitting that the tree's demise occurred on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Glendale (the fifth of the Seven Days Battles), which occurred just a few miles east in Varina.

Read more about the Surrender of Richmond here: http://www.henricocitizen.com/index.php/news/article/hasty_surrender_leaves_a_lasting_legacy_6327
Community

Celebrating 106 years

Former Sandston resident Mildred Taylor celebrated her 106th birthday Aug. 9. Taylor, who now lives in Powhatan, is still a member of Sandston Baptist Church. She was visited the day after her birthday by several members of the church, who played for her a recording of the entire church membership singing happy birthday to her during worship. > Read more.

YMCA breaks ground for aquatic center

YMCA officials gathered last week to break ground on the new Tommy J. West Aquatic Center at the Shady Grove Family YMCA on Nuckols Road. The center, which will featured 7,600 square feet of competitive and recreational space, including water slides, play areas for children and warmer water for those with physical limitations, is the fourth phase of a $4 million expansion at the facility. West was president and CEO of Capital Interior Contractors and a founding member of the Central Virginia Region of the Virginia Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. > Read more.

Rotary donates to ‘Bright Beginnings’

The Sandston Rotary Club recently donated $1,000 to the Sandston YMCA for its Bright Beginnings program, which helps provide children in need with school supplies for the new school year. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Journey to mediocrity

‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’ fails to capitalize on tasty concept
The Hundred-Foot Journey is a curious little Romeo and Juliet of a film. A family, forced out of their native India, begins a trek across Europe.

The family’s sole mode of transportation sputters and dies in a sleepy little French town, but the town’s food culture is high, and that’s a perfect place for a family of restaurateurs to settle down. There’s only one problem – the family’s rustic “Maison Mumbai” is right across the street (a hundred feet away, if the title didn’t clue you in) from a prestigious French bistro with a Michelin star, run with an iron fist by the dreaded Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren, pictured).

It’s here that a particular Romeo and Juliet story begins to develop, with Hassan (Manish Dayal) on the Indian side and Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) on the French side. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Enjoy the final days of summer with comedian Guy Torry, the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour or mystery writer Mary Miley Theobald at Twin Hickory Library. Another great way to welcome the beginning of fall is to check out the UR Spider Football season opener with man’s best friend. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Bottoms up

Short Pump brewery offers more than just beer
I am still (happily) thinking about my entire experience at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery last week. Knowing nothing about this new brewery out of Denver, I was leery of brew-pub in the heart of Short Pump Town Center – this is not what I’d usually think of as a perfect fit, and yet, it was.

The restaurant and craft brewery opened in early June and features 10 beers made by female brewmaster Becky Hammond (pictured). This is the restaurant’s second location in Virginia; the first is in Arlington. Behind glass walls, customers watched the beer brewing in massive steel barrels. For our up-and-coming beer region, it makes sense that Short Pump would jump on board.

As I walked up to the back of the mall near the comedy club, I was taken aback by what I saw: at the top of the stairs was an overflowing restaurant with outdoor seating, large umbrellas and dangling outdoor lights. > Read more.

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