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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

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

Highland Springs field to be dedicated in honor of longtime coach Spears

The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.

Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.

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Entertainment

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


There’s no excuse for kids and families to not get out of the house this weekend! The Armour House and Gardens has an “Egg-celent Egg-venture” planned and Reynolds Community College will host the Reynolds Family Palooza. If you’re looking to give back to your community, Dorey Park will host Walk Like MADD and coordinators2inc will present the annual Kids Walk for Kids. And a special event for children with special needs will be on Sunday – the Caring Bunny will be at Virginia Center Commons. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

A new meaning for fried chicken

Is it heresy to say – in this bastion-of-tradition capital of the Old South – that it's time for Southern fried chicken to take a step back and make way for a new fried chicken king?

Count me among the new believers bowing to Bonchon Chicken's delectable double-fried bliss. Hand-brushed with signature garlic soy or hot sauce, flash-fried once and then again, the decadent drums and wings take "crisp" to a new level. If you're eating with a crowd and everyone bites in at once, be warned: you might need ear plugs to handle the din. > Read more.

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