The plantation was built for Carter Burwell, grandson of Robert "King" Carter, and was completed in 1755. It was probably named for both the prominent and wealthy Carter family and nearby Grove Creek. Carter's Grove Plantation was built on the site of an earlier tract known as Martin's Hundred which had first been settled by the English colonists around 1620. In 1976, an archaeological project discovered the site of Wolstenholme Towne, a small settlement downstream a few miles from Jamestown which had been developed in the first 15 years of the Colony of Virginia. The population of the settlement was decimated during the Indian Massacre of 1622.
After hundreds of years of multiple owners and generations of families, and the death of the last resident in 1964, Carter's Grove was added to Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's (CW) properties through a gift from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1969.
Carter's Grove was open to tourists for many years but closed its doors to the public in 2003 while its mission and role in CW's programs were redefined. Later that year, Hurricane Isabel rendered serious damage to Carter's Grove Country Road, which had linked the estate directly to the Historic Area, a distance of 8 miles, bypassing commercial and public roadways. In an efficiency move, Colonial Williamsburg shifted some of the interpretive programs to locations contiguous to the Historic Area in Williamsburg. The foundation announced in late 2006 that it would be offered for sale, under specific restrictive conditions.
In December 2007, the Georgian style mansion and 476 acres were acquired for $15.3 million by CNET founder Halsey Minor, who has announced plans to use the property as a private residence and a center for a thoroughbred horse breeding program. A conservation easement on the mansion and 400 of the 476 acres is co-held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
Archibald McCrea died in 1937, but his widow lived on at Carter's Grove another 25 years. Soon after her death, it was purchased from her estate and transferred to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1971.
However, while inclusion of a Colonial-era plantation was part of John D. Rockefeller Jr's aspirations for Colonial Williamsburg, the practical challenge with Carter’s Grove was that it did not connect directly with the focus on presenting Revolutionary-era Williamsburg and was unable to attract sufficient audiences. Audience development—the appeal to rising generations—is fundamental to the Foundation. On January 2, 2003, the site was closed to the public to save operating funds saying:
An additional hardship in the physical linking between the Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg and Carter's Grove Plantation was severe weather damage to bucolic Carter's Grove Country Road in James City County during Hurricane Isabel later in 2003. The storm destroyed many trees along the paved road, which is located almost entirely on private property, and required much of it to be semi-permanently closed, pending funding for costly repairs. (Since the hurricane, the Carter's Grove Plantation property continued to be physically accessible by its main entrance on U.S. Route 60 in Grove, Virginia, although still closed to the public).
In 2006, completing a four-year evaluation, CW concluded that the best approach to Carter's Grove was to offer it in a fully protected sale. This was to include restrictions to ensure protection of the James River view shed, wetlands and forest, exterior and interior architecture, and archaeological sites on the property as well as prohibit residential and commercial development. On March 31, 2007, Colonial Williamsburg announced that it would be listing Carter's Grove on with a real estate company based in Charlottesville, Virginia, for the amount of $19 million.
Colonial Williamsburg put Carter's Grove up for sale, asking $19 million.
On December 19, 2007, it was publicly announced that Carter's Grove, its Georgian style mansion and 476 acres were acquired for $15.3 million by CNET founder Halsey Minor, a Virginia native and wealthy entrepreneur. Per the press release from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation the new owner "plans to use the mansion as a private residence and use the site as a center for a thoroughbred horse-breeding program."
Colonial Williamsburg did not include the contents of the plantation in the sale. The contents, instead, are to be sold May 17-18, 2008 by Northeast Auctions at auction in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
A conservation easement on the mansion and 400 of the 476 acres is co-held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.