Chiswell’s History


The history of Chiswell Farm & Winery’s manor house, built in 1920, begins with a tobacco auctioneer and railroad industrialist by the name of Chiswell Dabney Langhorne.

The next time you visit Chiswell, ground yourself in the rich history of your surroundings. When you look east across Greenwood road, that’s the Mirador estate, a childhood home of Lady Astor, the first woman seated as a Member of Parliament in Britain. When you look south and spot the large white house between two stands of trees, that’s the main house of the Ramsay estate, which originally stretched all the way to the mountains in the west.

Beginnings

The tale of how a slice of the Ramsay estate became Chiswell goes back to Lady Astor’s father. Colonel Chiswell Dabney Langhorne (1843-1919) was born in Lynchburg, Virginia and nicknamed “Chilly” (pronounced “Shilly.”) He married Nancy Witcher Keene during the Civil War, following his brief time in the Confederate Army. The couple had 11 children together, eight of whom lived to adulthood.

The family first lived in Danville, where Langhorne worked as a tobacco auctioneer and according to some, he invented the rapid-paced auctioneer’s chant that we know so well today. (I hear two dollars, two dollars, two dollars, can I get three?)

Langhorne made and lost money several times, first as an auctioneer, then as a railroad industrialist, with his first contract coming from the Chesapeake and Ohio (or C&O) Railway. The family moved to Richmond in 1885, and then to Mirador, in Albemarle County, in 1892.

From one generation to the next

Chilly’s oldest daughter Lizzie married Thomas Moncure Perkins. While the two of them lived in Richmond, they often stayed at Mirador. Their daughter, Nancy Perkins Lancaster, became a noted interior decorator. Their son, Chiswell Langhorne Perkins, bought the land that is now Chiswell from his father’s cousin in 1919. He built the original house in 1920 and lived here until his death in 1953.

The property was purchased by Hope Burkhardt, owner of Mirador, and there have been several residents and caretakers of Chiswell in the years since. In 1999, Mrs. Burkhardt sold it to Don and Elizabeth Russo, who continued to live in Florida while overseeing a major renovation in 2000-2001.

The Russos used Chiswell as a second home and had the intention to retire here. After Mr. Russo passed away in 2014, Mrs. Russo sold the property to the Chiles family in 2020.

Our stewardship

We are honored to be the stewards of this historic and beautiful property and to continue the long tradition of farming at Chiswell. In addition to the wine grapes from the vineyard we planted, the fields still produce soybeans, cover crops, and hay throughout the year. We continue to learn about the history of the home from locals as well as visiting descendants of the Langhorne and Perkins families.

The manor house is now open as an inviting space for sipping wine and enjoying good company. Each room is named and historically themed—please ask our staff for a tour and more details when you visit!


We love to add to our understanding of Chiswell’s past. If you have some history or photos to share, please contact us!