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Fire ravages Nomini Hall again

The owner of a historic plantation house in Westmoreland County that caught fire Tuesday said the structure appears to be a total loss.

Tommy Mitchell, a Fredericksburg property owner and developer, said he is baffled that Nomini Hall sustained major damage by fire for the second time in less than a year.

“After eight months of restoring and renovating, we were only a week away from being finished,” he said Wednesday. He said the floors were the last part of the project that needed to be completed. Volunteer firefighters were dispatched to the 70-acre property around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday for the structure fire. Assistant Chief Todd Padgett of the Cople District Volunteer Fire Department said the main part of the house was destroyed by the time units arrived, and the back part of the house had significant smoke and water damage. The Virginia State Police’s arson division is investigating the fire.

Mitchell said he was told that preliminary reports show it was an electrical fire that started near a chimney.

The fire in November 2013 was ruled accidental, the result of spontaneous combustion after a worker left linseed oil rags on the roof.

That fire destroyed the back part of the house, Mitchell said.

“So much time and effort was spent trying to restore it back to it’s grandeur,” he said, still in disbelief.

The property, which is about 58 miles southeast of Fredericksburg, was settled in 1729 by Robert “King” Carter.

The original house was three stories high and sat on 2,000 acres with a view of the Potomac River and the Nomini Creek dock, according to the plantation’s website. That house, too, caught fire and burned to the ground. A frame structure was rebuilt on the same spot in 1850. Carter’s descendants include presidents William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison. His grandson Robert Carter III also resided at the plantation house. He initiated the emancipation of more than 500 of his enslaved people, the largest manumission of slaves by a single person before the American Civil War. In more recent times, the house was being rented out for wedding receptions and other special events, Mitchell said. It was scheduled to be rented again for the first time since the November fire in August for a family reunion, he said.

Now they will have to find another location. Mitchell said he is unsure if he will rebuild Nomini or let it go.

“We haven’t decided what direction we’re going to go in,” he said.

Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419