Bellair has been in continual operation as a working farm since the 17th century and is closely linked to the early history of Albemarle County. Many original buildings still stand on the farm.
The Reverend Charles Wingfield, Jr., prominent landowner who served as both Magistrate and Sheriff of Albemarle County, built the main house between 1794 and 1817. Also an important cleric, Mr. Wingfield was personally asked by Thomas Jefferson to officiate the funeral of Jefferson’s sister, Mrs. Carr.
In 1817 another prominent citizen of Albemarle County, Martin Dawson, bought Bellair farm. A respected businessman and trader, Dawson was instrumental in the formation of the Rivanna Navigation Company but he is perhaps more famous for his support of public education. Dawson helped found the Albemarle Educational Commission, supported the establishment of the University of Virginia and three academies in Nelson and Albemarle counties, and provided for the largest private donation to the University up to that time in his will.
In 1843 ownership of the farm passed to another clergyman, The Reverend Walker Timberlake, who ran a mill on the property. The mill was dismantled in 1962 and now serves as the ‘Old Mill Room’ at the Boars Head Inn in Ivy. In 1894, the farm was sold to the Richardsons, and then in 1936 to the Massey family, who had some renovations done to some of the historic buildings with the help of architect Marshall Wells. After that, some more renovations were done under the Price family in the 1960s and then Cynthia Davis and her family bought the farm in 1975.
Cynnie and her husband Mike operated a cattle dairy through the 1980’s. After that, the farm was leased to a corn and soy farmer and was hayed by a neighbor.
In the early 2000′s Cynnie began to envision starting a business here that would sustain the tradition of the working farm and engage the surrounding community in local food and agriculture. The CSA and the transition to organic began in 2011, and the soy farmer stayed on for a couple years, operating organically. After that, pasture renovations began and eventually beef cattle were moved onto some of the former soybean fields. The goat and sheep dairy lease began in 2013 with a renovation of the former cattle dairy barn.
The current historic buildings on Bellair farm center around the two-story main house, which overlooks the Hardware river and the Green Mountains in the distance. The main house was built at the turn of the 19th century in the Federal architectural style with additions made in the 1930s and 1960s in the Colonial Revival style. To the western side of the house is a mid-nineteenth century guest cottage, which may have been Timberlake’s office. To the eastern side of the house are a cluster of three buildings, a 1930s guesthouse, a mid-nineteenth-century pyramidal-roofed smokehouse, and an early-twentieth-century overseer’s house. Also on the eastern side is the Timberlake family cemetery where Walker Timberlake (1781-1863) is buried alongside his family.
In 1992, Bellair farm was added to the National Register of Historic Places, where you can find more details on its history and significance to the region.